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. Presenting a cleaner, freshened appearance, the 2002 CR-V gained interior space and additional room behind the rear seats. A 160-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC engine replaced the previous 2.0-liter.
Honda sought a major leap forward, said Chief Engineer Takahiro Hachigo, noting that customers had criticized three things about the initial CR-V: engine power, cabin space and cargo room. The CR-Vs interior space grew by approximately 3.5 inches in front and an inch in the rear to result in an 8-cubic-foot increase. The cargo area in the new model is about 3.8 inches longer than that in the previous iteration. Headroom increased by 2 inches, and the front seat cushions are larger. Because of the CR-Vs recent debut, only minor modifications are likely for the 2003 model year, but Honda has not yet released details. LX and EX versions equipped with either front-wheel drive (FWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD) were on sale in 2002.
In its first generation, the CR-V became the most popular car-based SUV model on the market. According to Automotive News, Honda sold 118,260 units in 2000 and precisely 53 more in 2001. Early figures for the current model suggest comparable sales. Rivals to the CR-V include the Toyota RAV4, the more recent Mazda Tribute and the Ford Escape, which has been the segments sales leader. The latest CR-V is produced in Japan and England. The Japanese automaker says that 80 percent of CR-Vs come with an automatic transmission and 20 percent are equipped with a manual shift.
Hondas smallest SUV has earned impressive five-star ratings for both front and side-impact crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But in mid-2002, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the CR-V a Poor rating after one example sustained considerable damage in 5-mph crash tests. The total damage after four tests created $8,607 in damage, vs. $3,354 in damages for the earlier CR-V that had been crash-tested.
Traditional SUV styling continues to conceal the CR-Vs passenger-car platform. The current CR-V has increased slightly in exterior dimensions, and it is sleeker in shape than the first-generation version. Styling features include a short, sharply raked nose and high-visibility rear lights. The CR-V rides a 103.2-inch wheelbase, measures 178.6 inches long overall and stands 66.2 inches tall.
Bending rigidity is 30 percent better in the updated CR-V than in the prior model, while torsional rigidity improved by 50 percent. The EX version is equipped with a moonroof and privacy glass.
The CR-V still offers seats for five occupants: bucket seats up front and a three-place rear bench that folds flat. The reclining-sliding rear bench seat is split 60/40, and it folds and tumbles. The CR-Vs interior volume amounts to 106 cubic feet. Cargo volume is 72 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down and 33.5 cubic feet with the backseat up. The automatic-transmission shift and parking-brake levers are positioned below the instrument panel rather than on the floor or steering column.
Under the Hood
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with i-VTEC intelligent valve control develops 160 hp and 162 pounds-feet of torque. The automaker says nitrous oxide emissions are down to one-eighth of the prior level, and the CR-V meets 2004 Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV II) standards.
The engine mates with either a five-speed-manual gearbox or a four-speed-automatic transmission with intelligent grade logic control. FWD and 4WD models are available. Hondas Real Time 4WD system engages automatically to maintain traction.
All-disc 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 on all models was designed to match the height of passenger-car bumpers.
From the first moment, the latest CR-V feels like a completely different vehicle than its predecessor quiet, smooth, refined and classy. The SUV is neatly stable, and it stays easily on course and maneuvers crisply, which yields an enjoyable road experience. The ride is not wholly gentle, but its smooth most of the time. Occupants can feel the bumps, but few are annoying.
The CR-V is pleasantly peppy when equipped with a manual transmission, but it 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, and it is a bit reminiscent of the lever used on Chrysler vehicles in the 1950s. It operates as easily as the previous steering-column shift. In another departure from convention, the parking-brake lever also protrudes from the instrument panel and matches the grab handle on the other side.