The Honda CR-V is among the best of the compact SUVs and it's hugely popular.
For 2010, Honda CR-V boasts significant changes. The 2010 Honda CR-V has been re-styled, with a look that's smoother and more confident. Inside are new fabrics, new controls, and more standard conveniences.
Some of the changes are less obvious: The 2010 CR-V four-cylinder engine is 8 percent more powerful and 4 percent more fuel-efficient than previously. The CR-V two-wheel-drive models rate 21/28 mpg in the federal government's EPA City/Highway cycles, with all-wheel-drive versions giving up just 1 mpg on the highway.
We've found the CR-V offers a smooth ride and responsive handling. The four-cylinder engine employs variable intake valve timing to optimize horsepower and torque for acceleration and cruising speeds, and it's paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
The CR-V features one of the nicest cargo compartments in this class. The back seats fold perfectly flat and without the holes that can be hazardous to dogs. Built on a unit-body structure, the CR-V is considered a crossover. All have four doors and seat five.
Buyers choose from three models: the basic LX; mid-range EX; or leather-upholstered EX-L. Real Time 4WD is offered on all three models.
The Honda CR-V presents a new face for 2010. The individual changes are all subtle, but they add up visually. Starting from the top and working down, the cut-line between the hood and grille has been moved up to where it's level with the top of the grille opening, rather than reaching down around the opening as before. The upper grille itself has been simplified: The centered Honda H-logo remains, but it's now supported by a single, slim chrome blade, in place of last year's heavy-looking chrome double bar. The lower grille has surrendered its horizontal slats in favor of a black honeycomb texture. A piece of bright trim helps define its lower boundary on EX and EX-L models.
Below that, the dark-plastic ersatz skid plate remains, but it's been dialed back considerably, leaving room for an actual body-color bumper beneath the lower grille. The new bumper is very angular in contour which, if anything, further emphasizes the CR-V's trademark jut-jaw expression. (It also adds about an inch and half to the CR-V's overall length.) Fog lights (available as a dealer-installed accessory) are now tunneled into the body-color portion of the bumper, rather than into the pseudo-skid plate.
The same theme echoes around back, where Honda has similarly re-shaped the bumper so that the red reflectors now reside in a thin, body-colored lip above the retreating black cladding.
We like the new look of the 2010 CR-V, particularly the front, which strikes us as cleaner, more integrated, and more car-like. Funny how the same treatment seems to make the back of the CR-V fussier, albeit only a little. But more than any of the body changes we like the CR-V's new alloy wheels: With their five elegantly slim double spokes, they make the old seven-spoke wheels look downright dowdy by comparison.
If nothing else, the new front end does an even better job of pulling the CR-V's visual mass downwards, reducing its perceived height. Unchanged are the large, sharply angled headlight housings that crowd the upper grille and blend down into the lower air intake. Stout fender flares stretch out to wrap tightly around the tires, giving the new CR-V a sturdy, planted stance.
The side aspect, unchanged except for the new wheels, shows most clearly the CR-V's departure from the more common boxy, mini-SUV look. Starting from the gently rounded hood, the relatively fast windshield flows into a roofline that drops ever so slightly as it passes over the sharply tapered glasshouse, ending at the tailgate's top edge, which itself is pulled forward to a point almost directly above the rear wheel well. A strong character line runs from the top of the front wheel well back beneath the full-round door handles to bifurcate the side marker lens of the rear taillight. To us, it looks a little like the Mercedes-Benz R-Class in the overall outline.
Above the new rear bumper, the CR-V's hindquarters still present more of the classic SUV look, with a trapezoidal backlight bookended by the trademark CR-V high taillights and atop a fairly tall and relatively broad, high-relief tailgate panel. The oversize license plate recess will accommodate almost any country's registration telltale.
The interior of the Honda CR-V focuses on function, with a bit of style tossed in to make things interesting. Everything is in its place for the most part, and everything feels the way it should. Quality of materials and fit and finish overall live up to Honda's standards.
For 2010, seat fabrics are new, and there's more bright trim for a cheerier atmosphere without overdoing it. Conversely, models with ivory upholstery now come with a darker-colored (read: dirt hiding) carpet. We particularly like Honda's subtle re-take of the CR-V's big, upright interior door handles: The upper attachment point now looks like a miniature of the lower one, and in between is a rubberized grip. The center folding armrests are now wider, too.
For 2010, the audio panel features a dual-tone gray/black color scheme with blue backlighting; and the premium stereo gets a USB interface. The multi-information display now appears against a blue background as well, matching the radio. Display functions now include a compass on non-navigation models; with navigation, Bluetooth status is displayed.
Otherwise the dashboard and instrument cluster remain classic Honda, as in, friendly to eye and hand, with the only mildly discordant note the placement of the shift lever, sprouting from a pod suspended from the center of the dash. While neither as ergonomic as a floor-mounted lever nor as natural, in an archaic sort of way, as one mounted on the steering column, it is consistent with the emphasis on flexibility in the front seat area. In the LX and EX, the space between the front seats that might otherwise host a console and floor-mounted shift lever is dedicated to a unique, multi-use tray that when not needed folds down against the side of the passenger seat, opening a walk-through access to the rear seat. The EX-L gets a more traditional, fixed center console, with cup holders and storage space for up to 24 CDs. Some of this storage space is lost on EX-L models with navigation, where the console must house the CD changer as well. As if in compensation, a digital audio-card reader is still exclusive to the navigation model.
The front seats seem a little short on thigh support. But to the limited extent the CR-V lends itself to sporty driving, the seatback side bolsters do an adequate job of keeping occupants' upper bodies in place. Not so the seat-bottom bolsters, shaped more for ease of entry and exit than for restraining posteriors. There is, however, a welcome dead pedal against which drivers may brace a left leg as necessary and appropriate.
The rear seat is more moderately contoured, the better to allow it to fold and pivot forward against the backs of the front seats. The seat bottom splits 60/40, with the shorter piece on the left side; the seat backs, however, divide 40/20/40, into three sections, meaning you can fold the right or left side, the center section or any combination of the three. It's a nice touch.
Most drivers will find the standard height-adjustable adjustable seat and two-way adjustable steering give them the best of all worlds: a comfortable posture without compromising outward visibility. A low cowl keeps the edges of the hood in view. Rearward vision, however, sets no new standard and suffers from the stylishly shaped C-pillars.
The rearview video camera that comes with the optional navigation system helps and is an added safety feature because it can help the driver spot children behind the vehicle.
Audio and climate controls on the LX and EX border on retro in their simplicity and arrangement. Large, rotary knobs control the functions that vary by degrees. Buttons are used for on/off or simple selections. However, when in Park, the shift lever obstructs buttons for air conditioning functions and mirror heaters. And by operational necessity, the optional navigation system layers audio and map display controls.
Comparing cargo space, the new CR-V ranks in the top half, regardless of the competitor's seating capacity. It also features one of the nicest cargo compartments, flat and without the holes that can be hazardous to big dogs.
However, the CR-V does not offer a third-row seat, as does the Toyota RAV4 and other competitors, which expand seating to seven or even eight people. The CR-V settles for seating for five.
Incidental storage is routine. All four doors have fixed map pockets with molded-in beverage can separators. Both the foldable tray and fixed center console boast two cup holders. The centerpiece below the shift pod holds a couple of bins. And (something that's becoming increasingly popular) a bi-level glove box fills the middle and lower sections of the passenger-side dash.
Driving the Honda CR-V is pleasant. The CR-V's four-cylinder engine delivers competitive power, especially now that it's been fortified with higher compression, larger intake valves, lower-friction piston rings, and fuel injectors that deliver a finer spray. These and other refinements have boosted peak horsepower from last year's 166 at 5800 rpm to 180 at 6800. Peak torque remains virtually unchanged: the same 161 pounds-feet at a marginally higher 4400 rpm. But fuel economy is actually improved, if only slightly.
Sure, more power is available from V6 engines in other compact SUVs, such as that in the rocket-like Toyota RAV4, as well as from the turbocharged Mazda CX-7, but Honda CR-V performance is more than adequate. The V6s pay a price in fuel economy, but not as much as you might think: Against the 2WD CR-V's EPA-estimated 21/28 mpg, the V6-powered 2WD RAV4 manages 19/27.
Honda's five-speed automatic transmission is a good match for the CR-V four-cylinder engine. It's not best in class but well above average in smoothness of shifts, in controlling hunting for the right gear when climbing grades, and in holding a lower gear when helpful on downgrades.
Honda's Real Time 4WD is a car-style all-wheel-drive system, not a true off-highway truck-type four-wheel drive, as it incorporates no lockable transfer case or ultra-low, off-road gearing. We found it works seamlessly, invisibly allocating power to the tires slipping the least, although always favoring the front wheels by default. The optional Real Time 4WD is a great asset for driving in foul weather, snow and ice.
The Vehicle Stability Assist also helps drivers maintain control in emergency maneuvers or in bad weather. VSA, which comes standard, includes traction control. Coupled with four-wheel disc brakes (vented in front and solid in the rear), ABS, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, the standard CR-V is prepared well for rain.
The CR-V handles well, with relatively little body lean in cornering. There's also relatively little head toss over rough and uneven pavement, helping to keep your passengers comfortable. Traversing aged railroad crossings at mildly elevated speeds produced no threatening sounds or gyrations. We found the steering a bit over-assisted for our taste. It seems like it could be backed off a notch or two, closer to that of the RAV4, which might improve directional stability and lessen the need for minor corrections in corners and long sweepers. The power assist makes steering into tight parking spots, however.
We found noise levels minimal. The EX-L version did the best job of insulating occupants from outside irritants. Sounds from under the hood, although low key, left no doubt the engine is a fairly big four-cylinder. Moderate wind whistle leaked into the cabin from the outside mirrors and around the A-pillars. Tire noise correlated with pavement type and conditions.
The Honda CR-V is probably the best vehicle in this class. Its interior is packaged the best, with seats that fold down to provide a completely flat cargo area. Small refinements for 2010 make the interior a bit more user-friendly, and styling revisions freshen its looks.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Vancouver, British Columbia, after his test drive of the CR-V. John F. Katz supplied commentary on the 2010 facelift.