Monday, June 11, 2012

Honda CR-V Upgrades a Proven Formula

Photo: Victor Llana (
When I saw photos of the new fourth-generation CR-V before it arrived last fall, it looked an awful lot like the old one. Compared to the mini-Explorer styling of the first two versions, the third-generation CR-V that ran from 2006 to 2011 was a softer, more crossover-looking vehicle. And that's what it was, really--a Honda Civic with lots of carrying space.

Some folks may even remember the old Civic Wagons, which are a cult collectible now and have their own community (I'd love to find one with low miles and no dents at a reasonable price).

In any case, the new CRV seemed similar to the old one, but when you put the two next to each other, you can see the evolution of the styling. The size is almost identical, but thanks to some clever shaping, the coeefficient of drag is 18 percent less--it runs more smoothly through the air. The new car is more powerful, too, with 185 horsepower coming from the 2.4-liter four-cylinder. A five-speed automatic is standard--so no shifting for yourself anymore.

The EPA gives the car 22 City, 30 Highway (25 mpg average). I  got just 21.5 mpg--I must have been lead footing it. The EPA Green Vehicle Scores are 6 for both Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution.

You can order a CR-V with all-wheel-drive--a nod to its possible (but unlikely) use offroad--and it'll tack on $1,300. It also steals one mile per gallon.

The rear seats fold down more easily now--you can pull a lever in the rear compartment and drop them. That's handy. I wish the sunvisors were longer--there's no sliding piece or movable pad to block half the sun when it's to the side.

The interior feels like it should--smooth and nicely finished. There has been some complaining about the Civic's cheap materials but this car doesn't feel that way. And it shouldn't. My top-of-the-line EX-L with all-wheel drive, navigation system and leather topped $30,000. That sounds like the price of a luxury car--and as nice as it is, the CR-V is not one of those. That's Acura's job with the RDX.

You can pick up the LX model with two-wheel drive and no extras for $23,325--which sounds a little more like it.

Old School 1987 Honda Civic Wagon
My friend Willie, a sophisticated man who can likely afford whatever he wants, just picked up a '12 CR-V in classy black and loves the car. So maybe $30K isn't unreasonable. The CR-V is more pleasant with each generation. So now--will there be a smaller crossover below the CR-V? Maybe that's where the Fit comes in.

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