Remember when the Honda CR-V was a cute little runaround for teenaged girls? It seemed like every CR-V on the road was dressed up flowery stickers, a Britney Spears CD playing on the stereo. Well, the teenagers have grown up, Britney Spears is a divorced mother of two, and the 2007 Honda CR-V EX has arrived in my driveway. The 2007 Honda CR-V EX carries a base price of $22,850 ($23,445 as tested), a 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty, a 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and an EPA estimate of 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway. Hit me, baby, one more time.
If it wasn't for the chrome "CR-V" on the back tailgate, you'd never know that you were looking at the descendant of Honda's original cute-ute. CR-V first hit the market in 1997, originally based on the Civic platform. A redesign in 2001 increased the size and reduced the cute a bit. All new for 2007, CR-V is now a grown-up car for adults.
CR-V's lines are reminiscent of the BMW X5's, with a gently rising beltline and a sloping, arched roof. The overall impression is elegant and sophisticated, pure Crossover with a purpose. The front end is all Honda, with a chrome "H" in the middle of a strip of chrome above the grille. The assertive headlights follow the lines of the hood, wrapping around to the sides but still facing defiantly frontward. The hood is rather short and overhang is small in both front and rear, making parking an easy task. The back side windows are small and wind up triangular due to the exaggerated arc of the roof, though they are still big enough to afford good sight lines for the driver and visibility for rear seat passengers. The tailgate is simple, if a tad minivan-ish. CR-V's taillights run all the way up each back corner of the vehicle, a very good safety feature held over from the earlier generation. The tailgate-mounted spare tire is gone, hidden away under the cargo load floor.
The North American edition of CR-V is built in East Liberty, Ohio, the first CR-V built in the U.S.A. -- previous generations were imported from Japan. Fit and finish are nothing short of spectacular.
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In the Driver's Seat
CR-V's instrument panel is crisp and clean.Photo © Jason Fogelson
My test vehicle was equipped with the EX trim package, the middle level for CR-V. In Honda's alphabet soup, base models are LX, mid-level are EX and premium models are EX-L. Prices start at $20,600 for the front-wheel drive LX and go up to $28,000 for the four-wheel drive EX-L with Navigation. For mid-level trim, the EX still has a nice feel. The cloth seats are covered with a textured, corduroy-like material that's soft to the touch and quite attractive. Dash uppers are dark, and lowers are beige, adding to the sense of space in the cabin. The instrument panel is crisp and clean, with speedometer and tachometer nestled beneath an eyebrow above the steering wheel, flanking a rectangular info screen that houses an info center, the warning lights and the odometer. The center stack holds audio and climate controls, along with the gear shift lever in a very minivan-like position. The front cabin is dotted with subtle, cool features, like fold-down arm rests and multiple storage cubbies, including under the front seats. There's a fold-away tray between the front seats in place of a center console -- you can easily get from the front seat to the back to strap your kids in without getting out of the vehicle. The tray also houses a 12-volt power outlet and an auxiliary audio input -- very smart. Now there's someplace to plug in your iPod, and you don't have wires hanging all over your dash.
The second row of seats is very comfortable, with a flat bench that folds flat in a 60/40 split for more cargo space. The big rear passenger doors make for exceptionally easy entry and exit.
On the Road
All CR-V trim levels come with the same 2.4 liter in-line four-cylinder engine with double-overhead cams and 16 valves with Honda's VTEC variable valve timing. The engine cranks out 166 hp and 161 lb-ft of torque through its five-speed automatic transmission. My test vehicle was front-wheel drive. All three trim levels can be ordered with all-wheel drive as well. CR-V is classified as an Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV-2) by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). With MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear suspension, CR-V handles rough road conditions with ease. Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard, contributing to a very controlled ride around the corners. CR-V could definitely use some more power, in my opinion, but the 2.4 liter does okay thanks to a relatively low curb weight (3415 for my FWD test vehicle). Load up your CR-V with five adults, though, and you'll definitely notice reduced performance. It's a fair trade-off for the mileage -- 23 city/30 highway is excellent for a vehicle this size and with this capability.
Safety is a Honda strength, and CR-V comes standard with all the safety equipment you want to have when hauling precious cargo, like your family: Dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags, front side airbags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS), side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, for starters. The whole CR-V feels solid, dependable and well-constructed.
The 2007 Honda CR-V is an excellent vehicle and a great value -- possibly the best compact SUV on the market today.Photo © Jason Fogelson
It's always a big risk redesigning a successful model. Honda is a conservative car company, and yet they seem to be willing to rethink their vehicles every few years to adapt to changing tastes and technologies. CR-V has taken a huge leap with this new generation, and I am very impressed with the results.
The big competition in the compact SUV field is the Toyota RAV4, which itself underwent a big makeover for 2006. I'd be hard-pressed to decide between RAV4 and CR-V -- it would be a matter of taste and purpose. If you ever see yourself driving off-road, RAV4 may be slightly more capable than CR-V. CR-V is Pierce Brosnan to RAV4's Daniel Craig -- both very good in their roles, but very different at the same time.
Other manufacturers are not ceding the battle to Honda and Toyota. Nissan is bringing The Rogue to market for 2008. Hyundai's Santa Fe gets rave reviews from some quarters, as does Kia's Sportage. Mitsubishi's Outlander is all-new for 2007, and Suzuki's Grand Vitara is surprisingly capable. The Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute trio is also quite good, if a little more traditional mini-SUV in style. Don't hesitate to compare the Honda to the BMW X3 -- you may be surprised at how well the former cute-ute stands up.
Oops, I did it again. I'll add my voice to the chorus of rave reviews that have flowed at the release of the 2007 Honda CR-V. This is an excellent vehicle and a great value -- possibly the best compact SUV on the market today.