Like many vehicles, and most of the entire Honda lineup actually, the 2009 CR-V resides in that warm space of automotive design somewhere between cute and unoffensive. While it many not be much of an attention grabber, there are plenty of reasons why the CR-V is one of the top-selling small SUVs.
Without sacrificing too much from either column, the CR-V attempts to combine the sporty ride and handling of a small sedan and the utility of a small SUV. For urbanites, the CR-V’s small size (it is only about half an inch longer than a Civic sedan) and car-like handling make it a reasonable option for those who occasionally need to haul people and cargo. Despite only having 166 horsepower the 2.4 liter iVTEC feels adequate, however, fuel efficiency is not as on target. EPA estimates are 20 mpg in city and 26 mpg in highway driving, but other independent tests put combined mileage at around 17 mpg. Under normal conditions, the CR-V’s all-wheel-drive system sends 100 percent of power to the front wheels. If the front wheels lose traction, causing them to spin faster than the rear wheels, the system’s hydraulic pumps act on a center differential, sending power to the rear wheels. The greater the difference between front and rear wheel spin, the more power is sent to the rear.
Although the CR-V’s interior is a landscape of plastic it doesn’t feel or look cheap. The top of the line EX-L comes with a voice-command system that actually lives up to the hype and can control all non-driving essential functions such as climate control and the audio and navigation systems. A rear camera also helps facilitate parking, which for the small-feeling CR-V is not an issue. Even without an optional third rear seat, the CR-V interior offers plenty of space and is enhanced by rear seats that fold completely flat.
Compared with other small crossovers like the VW Tiguan and Mazda CX-7, the CR-V is actually a better buy. Pricing starts at a base $21,095 for the LX and then steps up to $23,345 for the EX, which adds 17-inch alloy wheels, the power moonroof, steering wheel audio controls, and rear privacy glass. The EX-L for $25,895, adds a leather-trimmed steering wheel and heated seats, power adjustment to the driver’s seat, and upgrades to the 270-watt audio system. The 4WD EX-L with Nav model as tested tops the line at $27,095; this trim is our recommendation, as the cabin tech is what really makes this vehicle shine above its competitors. Buyers in areas that don’t get much rain or snow can save $1,200 and gain one highway mpg by choosing the 2WD model.