Several newcomers have entered the compact sport utility vehicle market since Honda launched its car-based CR-V as a 1997 model. To help combat that assault, Honda totally redesigned its compact SUV, which went on sale in November 2001. The 2002 CR-V has a cleaner, freshened appearance and gains both interior space and additional room behind the rear seats. A new 160-horsepower, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder i-VTEC engine replaces the previous 146-hp 2.0-liter, and torque output has grown by 22 percent.
Honda sought a major leap forward, says Chief Engineer Takahiro Hachigo, noting that customers had criticized three things about the initial CR-V: engine power, cabin space and cargo room. Interior space has grown by approximately 3.65 inches in front and an inch in the rear, for an 8-cubic-foot increase and the cargo area is about 3.8 inches longer than before. Headroom has grown by 2 inches, and front-seat cushions are bigger.
The first-generation CR-V became the most popular car-based model on the market. Honda sold 118,260 units in 2000, which was a slight drop from the 1999 sales figure, according to Automotive News. Rivals include the Toyota RAV4, the more recent Mazda Tribute and the Ford Escape, which currently is the segment sales leader. The latest CR-V will be produced both in Japan and, starting in 2002, England. About 70 percent of CR-Vs will have an automatic transmission and four-wheel drive.
Increased slightly in exterior dimensions, the 2002 CR-V is sleeker in shape than the previous version. It features a short, sharply raked nose and high-visibility rear lights. The CR-V measures 178.6 inches long overall, rides a 103.2-inch wheelbase and stands 66.2 inches tall.
Traditional SUV styling continues to conceal the CR-Vs passenger-car platform. Bending rigidity is 30 percent better than before, while torsional rigidity has improved by 50 percent. LX and EX models are offered, and the latter is equipped with a moonroof and privacy glass.
The CR-V continues to offer seating for five occupants: bucket seats up front and a three-place rear bench that folds flat. New reclining-sliding, 60/40-split fold and tumble rear seats also have been added. Interior width has grown by 3.6 inches, and interior volume now amounts to 106 cubic feet. Cargo volume is 72 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down and 33.5 cubic feet with the seats up. The automatic-transmission shift and parking-brake levers are now positioned below the instrument panel; prior models placed the gearshift on the steering column.
Under the Hood
A new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with i-VTEC intelligent valve control replaces the prior 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Developing 160 hp an increase of 14 hp the new engine produces 162 pounds-feet of torque, which is 29 pounds-feet more than before. Nitrous oxide emissions are down to one-eighth of the prior level, and the CR-V meets 2004 Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV2) standards.
The engine mates with either a five-speed manual or a new four-speed-automatic transmission with intelligent grade logic. Front-drive and four-wheel-drive models are available. Hondas Real Time 4WD system engages automatically to maintain traction.
All-disc brakes are new for 2002, and antilock brakes with Brake Assist are standard on the EX model. Side-impact airbags are standard on the EX and optional on the LX. A bumper beam has been added to all models to match the height of passenger car bumpers.
From the first moment, the new CR-V feels like a completely different vehicle quiet, smooth, refined and classy. Neatly stable, it stays easily on course and maneuvers crisply, which yields an enjoyable road experience. Although the ride is not wholly gentle, its smooth most of the time. Occupants can feel the bumps, but few are annoying.
Pleasantly peppy with a manual transmission, the CR-V isnt quite as vigorous with the automatic gearbox during steep, demanding upgrades. Downshifts under hard throttle are less abrupt than before, and engine blare when pushing hard on the throttle is reduced but not gone completely. The manual gearbox shifts easily and teams with a well-behaved clutch.
Firm but well-cushioned seats have a snug side bolstering. The protruding automatic-transmission lever is different a bit reminiscent of the lever used on Chrysler vehicles in the 1950s but it operates as easily as the previous steering-column shift. The parking-brake lever also protrudes from the instrument panel and matches the grab handle on the other side.