Many newcomers have entered the compact sport utility vehicle market since Honda launched its car-based CR-V as a 1997 model. Substantial revisions for 2005 included new exterior and interior styling. A new Special Edition featured heated leather front seats and body-colored bumpers. All versions got side-impact and side curtain-type airbags, as well as Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist electronic stability system.
A five-speed-automatic transmission is available on all models, but the EX can be equipped with a five-speed manual instead. Honda claimed that a modified all-wheel-drive system yielded better acceleration and hill climbing.
Under new testing standards established by the Society of Automotive Engineers for 2006 models, the CR-V's engine is rated at 156 horsepower. Two new colors are available, but nothing else has changed.
LX versions can be equipped with front- or all-wheel drive. The upscale EX and SE come only with all-wheel drive. The 2006 CR-V earned five-star ratings in both frontal and side-impact crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The 2005 CR-V also earned impressive frontal and side-impact crash-test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Semi-traditional SUV styling continues to conceal the CR-V's passenger-car platform. Styling features include a short, sharply raked nose and high-visibility rear lights. An aerodynamic front bumper, a restyled grille, updated side sills and cylindrical-shaped headlights were new for 2005.
EX and SE versions are equipped with a moonroof and privacy glass. All models ride on 16-inch wheels.
Each CR-V seats up to five occupants in front bucket seats and a three-place rear bench. The reclining and sliding rear bench seat is split 60/40, and it folds and tumbles. Cargo volume is 72 cubic feet with the rear seat folded and 33.5 cubic feet with the backseat up. All models have remote keyless entry and a retractable grab rail.
Under the Hood
The CR-V's 2.4-liter four-cylinder develops 156 hp and 156 pounds-feet of torque. Those figures are down slightly from 2005 because of new SAE testing standards, though actual performance is the same. The EX comes standard with a five-speed-manual transmission; a five-speed automatic is available. All other models come only with the automatic. Front- and all-wheel-drive models are available.
All-disc antilock brakes, Vehicle Stability Assist, and side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are standard. A bumper beam was designed to match the height of passenger-car bumpers. The CR-V earned five-star ratings in government crash tests for both frontal and side impacts.
Honda's CR-V is quiet, smooth, refined and classy. This SUV is neatly stable, stays easily on course, maneuvers crisply and yields an enjoyable driving experience. The ride isn't wholly gentle, but it's smooth most of the time. Occupants feel the bumps, but few are annoying.
Though the CR-V is pleasantly peppy when equipped with a manual gearbox, it isn't quite as vigorous with an automatic transmission on steep upgrades. Engine blare at full throttle may be noticeable. The manual gearbox shifts easily and teams with a well-behaved clutch.
Firm but well-cushioned seats have snug side bolstering. Protruding from below the dashboard, the automatic-transmission lever operates as easily as a column shifter.
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