Finally a sensible car choice?! That’s what most people would say if I mentioned that I was interested in the humble Honda as opposed to the hulking luxury vehicles I am otherwise talking about. Indeed it would seem that a huge number of people globally agree with me that the CR-V is a choice worth considering, with the 3rd generation usurping the infamous Ford Explorer as the USA’s top selling Sport Utility.
The CR-V’s route to the top has not been out of the blue though, as for nearly 20 years it has offered a practical, reliable and relatively affordable option to those who are looking for a capable small SUV. The relatively boxy first generation was replaced by a similar looking second generation in 2002, and it is here that the car gained a more widespread following; I was actually considering a 2005-7 model as an early front runner in my car choices, especially as they can be found for even half the price of some of the other cars I have been talking about here (and with significantly lower mileages too). However the excellent diesel model was only introduced in late 2005, and its popularity means that prices are still high compared to direct rivals, and potentially more premium ones.
The third generation model though was the one that really cemented the CR-V’s success, and is the model I have eventually decided on considering, mainly because early models are not hugely more expensive than the second generation cars, and they are much more modern cars. Outside though, I am not a massive fan of the Honda…it does look less staid than the previous generations but the curved D-pillar does not sit well with the rest of the design, and the horrendous underbite of the front grille spoils the aesthetics of the car completely for me. The looks is where the arguments for the CR-V start to unravel for me, as the only models I would consider are the EX top spec cars, which come with 19 inch wheels capable of balancing the looks of the rest of the car.
Inside is where the car really starts to come into its own though…plastics might be abit scratchy but all models are well equipped and controls fall easy to hand. My Mum owns a Honda Jazz and one of the appeals of the bigger Honda is the fact that the controls are very similar, more so that she can use the car occasionally but abit of familiarity for me would not hurt. EX models come with everything I could want in a car…leather/heated/power seats, navigation, tinted windows, panoramic sunroof, climate control and those all important wheels. Unlike the Jazz, the CR-V only comes with an aux-in cable opposed to a full iPhone jack; this is still better than nothing though as most of the cars here lack even that. Practicality is also great with the large split level boot and fold flat seats.
On the road the CR-V is nothing special…not as fun as even a RAV4 let alone an X3 or XC60, but nevertheless the diesel engine is gutsy and provides decent acceleration and fuel economy (circa 42 mpg). I find that the Jazz rides quite harshly on its larger alloys, and I have read reviews that the EX CR-V also lacks the cushier ride of lesser models, but I doubt very much that it is as poor as something like the X5. This leads me neatly onto the other downsides of the car; firstly is it’s image. YES this is something that is different for everyone, and from somebody whose choices have included a Volvo and Hyundai maybe I should not stress too much over how I would look driving the Honda. But the brand not only lacks a premium image, it in fact has one more aligned to the elderly and I see more snowy-haired drivers in the CR-V than anyone else, even young mothers. In the US this isn’t so much a problem, but it is still very much a ‘chick car’ compared to some of my other options. But the main issue for me to overcome is the car’s price…initially I saw £7k as the entry point for mid-spec ES models, and as such a jump to £8k for EX models was not too big considering the toys which were included. But on closer inspection it appears that nothing shy of £10k will buy a reasonable EX, and it will take £8k to get into a clean ES. This is not too bad compared considering what is on offer, but I am still mightily tempted by what I could get for that money in terms of luxury models.
Anyone looking for a reliable and cost efficient compact SUV would do well to take a test drive of the CR-V, but whilst I’m not saying I won’t, I will still take a couple of the more premium choices on a drive first.