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Car reviews - Honda - CR-V - 5-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Roomy interior, refined/powerful engine, rugged styling
Room for improvement
Non-selectable 4WD, soft suspension, torque steer

18 Mar 2002

HONDA'S new-for-2002 CR-V is as close to the outgoing CR-V as you can get and still call it a new vehicle.

Styling changes are more a spruce-up than a full redesign but Honda claims the latest CR-V is new from the ground up with significant improvements to ride, handling and safety.

CR-V was Australia's top selling four-wheel drive in 2000 and Honda has sold more than one million units worldwide.

Honda's rival Toyota transformed the RAV4 in 2000 with a very angular style and in October 2001, Nissan launched the X-Trail with similar upright, sharp lines.

Both these vehicles are competitors to the CR-V and may have contributed to its new, more aggressive styling.

Honda has retained the overall shape of the old CR-V while introducing its own hint of angular styling to the bonnet, which dips down from the front quarter panels across the centre area, instead of rising up as before.

The quarter panels and doors have a sharper crease beneath the window area.

The front of the vehicle has been shortened and is more V-shaped. This new nose design has given the CR-V a tighter turning circle (10.4 metres) and Honda claims greater manoeuvrability due to increased driver visibility.

The headlight assembly is stylish, large and cat-like, incorporating the turn indicators and park lights as it moulds in with the bonnet, front bumper and quarter panel, thereby making it highly visible from a wider angle.

A generous amount of imitation chrome plating has been used on the bold grille, which is crowned with a large Honda badge.

CR-V's practical use of plastic in the flared wheel arches and along the door sills extends to the lower bumper/spoiler area, both up front and to the rear.

Despite an obvious strengthening of the design to create a more distinctive and rugged looking vehicle to compete in this hot market segment, the crisp, clean new CR-V remains slightly low-key compared to some of its rivals.

A new 2.4-Litre i-VTEC (intelligent-Valve Timing Electronic Control), four-cylinder, 16-valve engine replaces the previous 2.0-litre engine and provides greater power and torque while maintaining the CR-V's reputation for economy and low emissions.

The i-VTEC engine produces 118kW of power at 6000rpm and 220Nm of torque at 3600rpm, while returning 10.0L/100km in the city and 7.0L/100km on the highway, under normal driving conditions.

Two transmissions are offered on the CR-V Sport - four-speed automatic and five-speed manual.

The four-speed auto has an active lock-up button, or overdrive, on the transmission selector stalk to lock-up forth gear on the highway and improve fuel economy.

Honda has developed an exclusive Grade Logic Control for the auto, which constantly compares engine load and vehicle speed, computing the shift pattern required to meet the driving conditions and prevent the vehicle from hunting.

Improvements to the manual transmission (as tested) include revised synchronisers and a shorter shift to give the five-speed a sportier feel.

The gears are easy to find but correct engine speed is important to make a smooth shift and get the vehicle's bulk (1500kg) moving.

The CR-V Sport sits nicely on the open road with its wide front track of 1533mm giving it a sure-footed feel, but the ride is soft and less than sporty.

Being a high-sided wagon, it suffers from bodyroll on bends and tight corners when pushed - leading to vagueness through the steering.

Around town the soft suspension can be appreciated while the high driving position and large window area afford good visibility, making it is easy to manoeuvre and park.

An entirely new chassis is said to provide greater torsional rigidity, bending rigidity and reduced noise and vibration.

The CR-V features four-wheel independent suspension. Up front it is toe-control link MacPherson strut and to the rear, reactive link double wishbone.

Both are compact and do not intrude into the cabin, providing greater legroom for front seat passengers and greater luggage space in the cargo area.

When Honda launched the CR-V in Australia in 1996 it began a new direction in motoring of part-time or on-demand four-wheel drive vehicles.

The CR-V Intelligent RealTime 4WD system has remained unchanged, with its dual pump mechanism controlling a multi-plate clutch in the rear differential to provide drive to the rear wheels when the front wheels begin to lose traction.

It is this part-time four-wheel drive principle that allows the CR-V to exhibit a quieter ride, lighter handling and greater fuel economy than full-time four-wheel drives.

The down side to Honda's intelligent real-time 4WD system is the driver has no control over when it is active or inactive. Instead, you must wait for the mechanics of the vehicle to detect wheel slip before rear-wheel drive assistance can begin.

At the point where the vehicle begins to lose traction, you are forced to wait for the hydraulic pump to build up pressure and engage the rear differential before the drive train can be connected to the rear wheels.

This delay is only momentary and at times not noticeable, but once experienced is off-putting and makes you less inspired to trust the vehicle's traction on loose or slippery surfaces.

The CR-V is, at best, a front-wheel drive with part-time rear-wheel drive assistance and as such is not a go-anywhere vehicle. (It has no low-range - L4 - four-wheel drive.) So while it's no Range Rover, nor does it require the fuss of shifting a lever, turning a dial or even getting out of the vehicle to engage an axle hub.

Producing 9.25 per cent more power and 20.85 per cent more torque than the engine it replaces, the new i-VTEC engine moves the CR-V briskly along - with the only negative being torque steer or tugging on the steering when accelerating.

Torque steer on this vehicle can be subtle or sharp, depending on the traction available (most noticeable on gravel and wet bitumen) and is a significant drawback of this new higher torque engine.

The versatile seating options and adequate storage space make the CR-V an alternative to be considered next to a traditional four-cylinder wagon or people-mover, as it seats five passengers with walk-through ability and all the usual creature comforts.

The driver and front passenger get bucket seats as before (with optional armrests on the auto model only) but the rear bench seat, which was 50/50 split-fold, is now 60/40 split-fold, providing greater flexibility and use of the cargo area.

Adding to the versatility is the foldaway centre tray table in the front and dual-purpose picnic table in the back (it acts as the floor in the cargo area), which owners of CR-Vs have come to expect and new owners should enjoy.

The dash is now the place to find the automatic shift selector that was formerly mounted on the steering console. The handbrake lever has also become part of the dash as Honda moves the interior styling forward several years in one step.

Honda's designers also greatly improved the style and functionality of its "three-dial set" of ventilation and climate control dials on the new CR-V to make it a strong feature of the sporty interior.

The tailgate or rear door still hinges correctly from the right-hand side and gets a new self-raising tailgate window that opens separately, giving access to the cargo area.

The floor height of the cargo area has been lowered, making it easier to load and unload goods.

On the Australian model CR-V, the spare wheel is mounted on the rear door. Some other countries use the space under the cargo floor - so we gain valuable additional storage.

The CR-V Sport comes with added features over the base model CR-V such as 15-inch alloy wheels, electric glass sunroof, hard type spare wheel cover, dual airbags, ABS brakes and front fog lightss.

Overall, the CR-V Sport is a comfortable package with its soft interior, elevated driving position, good visibility and smooth, economical i-VTEC engine.

Provided the intention is not to go too far off-road, it should satisfy the needs of an adventurous family or deliver two people and plenty of luggage to most destinations in style and with ease.

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