Honda CR-V leads while others follow
Honda employs a number of bright people. In 1996, it launched the compact CR-V sport-ute — arguably 10 full years before the crossover craze hit. Back then people were crazy for full-size, gas-guzzling SUVs (like the Canyonero, oh Simpsons faithful).
Problem was, when big SUVs were found to be prone to tipping over during hard manoeuvres and when gas prices began to creep upward, people started to look elsewhere.
They looked to Honda and Toyota; for the CR-V and RAV4, respectively.
Whoever dreamed up the compact crossover deserves a big fat salary, because nearly every manufacturer since has joined the fray. And as the RAV4 is a bit bigger with the current generation, the CR-V is really one of the last true soft-roaders.
Starting with the $27,790 base model LX-2WD, the CR-V comes equipped with a 5-speed automatic transmission, ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), vehicle stability assist, air conditioning, ambient lighting, remote keyless entry, MP3 auxiliary jack, 60/40-split rears seats, and cruise control.
Moving further upmarket, the CR-V tops out at the EX-L: all-wheel-drive, alloy wheels, navigation system, premium stereo and leather seats are just some of the perks that come with it.
A price north of 37,000 makes it one of the most expensive four-cylinder vehicles on sale in Canada. That comment may sound like a rub, but Honda’s engines, durability, build quality, and residuals more than justify the price.
The bread-and-butter CR-V is the mid-range EX, ringing in at a reasonable $32,690. It comes equipped with all-wheel-drive, alloy wheels, alarm system, dressed-up front grille, power sunroof, trip computer, upgraded six-speaker stereo, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
But the vehicle’s party trick is its talented cargo area. A split-level hard cargo cover allows you to hide a Future Shop purchase below groceries, with thieves none the wiser. (Until now … sorry, CR-V owners!) That’s in addition to easy-to-use 60/40-split folding and tumbling rear seats.
Up front, dual glove boxes help to control the inevitable clutter from our digital lives, with enough room for cameras, camcorders, e-book readers, a small lava lamp, USB-powered tobacco pipe … you name it. EX-L models feature a centre console, perfect for storing CDs and miscellany — but should really be an option on lesser models.
Outside, the CR-V keeps its lineage intact by featuring grey plastic bumper guards and rocker guards. They won’t help much while off-roading in the Rockies, but do a commendable job of protecting the body from parking lot shrapnel and driver mistakes alike.
The RAV4 has moved more upmarket in recent years, adding a V6 engine and bigger body. Other competitors from Mazda, Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan haven’t yet been able to capture the essence of a small soft-roader.
To think Honda thought of nearly everything 10 years ago. How much are they paying Nostradamus?
2008 Honda CR-V