Positioned beneath the six-cylinder Pilot in the Honda pecking order, the CR-V offers only one engine, a 2.4-literL/160-horse inline-four bolted to a smooth and responsive five-speed automatic transmission, which replaces last year's four-speed box. An eager, even relatively torquey powerplant, the I-4 challenges the RAV4 engine for best fuel economy in the segment. The CR-V's tow capacity, however, is a meager 1,500 pounds.
Behind the Wheel
Beyond the features and styling, drivability is what really makes the CR-V a class-leading vehicle. Unlike the video-game-like feel of the electric steering of the Chevrolet Equinox and Saturn Vue, the Honda's steering is communicative and feels neither numb nor overly sensitive. Handling is secure and capable, although the more stiffly sprung RAV4 feels nimbler. The payoff here is the CR-V has a relatively smooth ride for a compact vehicle. And while it may not be the quickest or most muscular vehicle in the class, its four-cylinder is quiet and smooth, unlike the gritty V-6 found in the Ford Escape-we don't mind sacrificing a little grunt for a little serenity, especially in this segment. The CR-V's rectangular shape makes visibility through the rear and side windows refreshingly easy, and the easy-to-read controls and the driver seat are all expertly positioned. While the RAV4 may be a bit cuter and sportier, the Honda's smoothness, space, and comfort are hard to ignore.
Target drivers of this type of vehicle tend to be young, active, and intelligent, but the CR-V can appeal to many different ages and lifestyles. Those seeking off-road or towing performance should head for a Nissan Xterra or Jeep Liberty, but the CR-V is perfectly suited to anyone else looking for a roomy, economical, and unpretentious transportation. Gas mileage is not quite as high as that of a few small sedans, but it's on par with most mid-size cars-impressive for a vehicle with this much cargo space. The CR-V sits at the carlike end of the sport-ute spectrum, with available all-wheel-drive, easy visibility, comfort, and gobs of safety features.
A 2005 IntelliChoice Best Overall Value of the Year, the roomy and comfortable Honda CR-V eliminates the compromises from small-SUV ownership.