All new for 2007, the third-generation Honda CR-V works to address some of the perceived shortcomings identified on the previous models while ignoring others in an effort to maintain its identity.
The spare tire now sits under the vehicle instead being mounted on the rear tailgate. This simple change allows the tailgate to lift up rather than swing out, eliminating the frustration of trying to find adequate space to open the back in a confined parking lot or city street parking space.
Inside, drivers are greeted by a clean and functional dash. The lower profile design provides an airy feel when behind the wheel, as well as an outstanding view of the road ahead. Between the seats is a folding console that’s great for laying out the essentials such as cell phone and MP3 player. Honda provides an auxiliary jack for audio devices like the aforementioned MP3 player or satellite radio. The snag is one too few power outlets – choose between charging your cell phone or powering the player.
The CR-V’s 2.4L in-line four (with V-TEC naturally) produces a healthy166 HP. In real world driving this gives the CR-V adequate power. The good news is the five-speed automatic transmission makes the best of it – the shifts are crisp and timely. Even as many manufacturers are moving up to V6 engines, this combination still represents the best blend of power and fuel economy. An average of 10 L/100 km highway and 14 L/100 km around town is good for a sports-ute.
The tastefully cloth seating is best described as firm. About town some will complain (too hard being my wife’s assessment). On a long drive, the additional support is appreciated.
The backseat, while capable of accommodating three adults, proved to be a regular annoyance for my kids. The seatbelt latches are almost impossible for the youngest to fasten by herself as the latches kept pulling back into the seat while she was trying to buckle up in her car-seat. This feature does add functionality by keeping the buckles out of the way when folding the seatback down, but was a pain nonetheless.
The reworked styling is more muscular than before. Most notable is the solid stance delivered by the decidedly bottom heavy look (the previous model looked almost top-heavy). The sculpted front valance then integrates the front bumper and fenders to give a streamlined look. The police officer who stopped me in a spot check program was a vocal admirer of the more aggressive styling.
Honda’s full-time, all-wheel drive has not changed, which is not a bad thing given the performance in inclement weather of the previous CR-V. The system drives the front wheels under most conditions. When slippage occurs, up to 50% of the power is shuttled rearward. While reasonably quick in operation, it does not match the more proactive system used by others. New for 2007 is a front-drive model which while less expensive yields little in terms of any fuel economy gain and forgoes the all-wheel drive advantages many expect with a CUV/SUV.
On road, the AWD system and suspension combine to give the CR-V a light and nimble car-like feel for the most part. However, as with the seats, some complained about the firm nature over badly rutted roads. For me, the upside is less body roll and more stability when pushed through corners and on-ramps.
Ground clearance is a strong point, yet our kids ages 4 and 7, are able to enter and exit the vehicle easily, even without the optional step bars. On that note, it is possible to load the CR-V to the nines if that’s your bag – all the way to a leather-lined interior and exterior body trim pieces.
This vehicle makes no pretense that it was born to do anything other than urban or light rural battle. Most CR-V owners will tell you that any serious off-roading is a fanciful notion – anything more than a cottage driveway is likely to leave the driver mired in the weeds, so to speak.
Overall Honda has addressed most of the concerns expressed by CR-V buyers. It’s better looking, has plenty of power and delivers the car-like handling that’s rapidly becoming the norm in this segment. True, there’s still no V6 option or seven-passenger layout, but if that’s on your list of priorities, Honda will gladly sell you one of their Pilot SUV’s instead.