It seems only a short time ago when Honda introduced its first Sport Utility Vehicle to American buyers. But it’s now been a decade, and the CR-V, its first offering, has been revamped several times — sometimes subtly, other times drastically.
Another model revision is set for 2007. But that’s not to discredit the current model. The 2006 CR-V (Compact Recreational Vehicle) model is spacious, thoughtfully designed and versatile as a family car for weekend projects, a youth sports team transporter, a sporty work vehicle and well-suited for recreational getaway weekends. In short, it’s an ideal, economical SUV.
My weekly driver model was the SE 4-door with all-wheel drive (Honda calls its system is Real Time 4-Wheel Drive.), It’s among five available CR-V configurations. With its five-speed automatic transmission and various upgrades, it’s also the most expensive CR-V with a base price of $25,450.
All CR-Vs include 2.4-liter, 16-valve, 4-cylinder, 156-horsepower engines. Some competitors, like the V6 Ford Escape, are quicker and stronger, but the CR-V advances just fine and it holds it own despite its smaller engine. The CR-V’s smaller engine, of course, helps the vehicle’s gas mileage averages.
More impressive is what’s impressive about every Honda. The CR-V’s interior and exterior are handsome and difficult to criticize.
When it was first introduced in the U.S. as a niche vehicle in 1997, the CR-V had a box-like look. The current generation has curve appeal and is nearly streamlined considering its category.
The CR-V has an attraction console, with automatic transmission gearing designations available in two locations. Radio, heat and air-conditioning controls are large and functional, but they’re positioned too low and hard to reach, even for a 6-foot, 185-pound driver.
The interior design also has several small keen individual features that combine to push the CR-V into a unique position in the compact sport utility class.
For storage options, the small, front seat tray table folds flush against the driver’s seat. And in the same travel convenience category, there’s a removable picnic table stored under the rear cargo area.
Another space-saving idea: When engaged, the hand brake rests flush against the front instrumentation panel. It’s so efficiently designed, it’s easy to forget to set the brake.
The CR-V is also equipped with a half-dozen small containers and storage areas tucked in here and there around the vehicle. It also has thick, sturdy map pockets behind the front seats. These features all further complement the notion of a utility vehicle.
The CR-V offers a steady, if somewhat noisy, ride. Cornering is satisfactory and unlike some SUVs there’s no sense of instability while cornering or negotiating sharply angled freeway ramps.
The CR-V’s best feature is its overall spaciousness. There’s plenty of leg and head room and seat sections fold efficiently for additional space. The rear cargo space is accessible via a easy-to-open pull door and a separate glass window that’s nicely contoured around the exterior spare tire cover.
Like all Hondas, the CV-R has a long list of standard features — six airbags to power windows/doors/locks and a multi-platform stereo to a waterproof rear storage well.
The SE model features leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shifting knob, heated front seats and heated power mirrors.
Safety Features — Driver and front passenger front, side and side curtain airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 22 mpg (city), 27 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.
Base Price — $25,450.