The fact that Honda's CR-V remains a top buy among compact crossover consumers this late in the model's life suggests the automaker has done something right. Since the third-generation CR-V SUV arrived on the market in the 2007 model year, a number of competitors have upped their game. This popular segment includes entries like the Hyundai Tucson, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4. There may be more attractive SUVs available or other crossovers with more powerful engines, but some say it's the CR-V that provides the best balance of features for the money.
Honda's 2011 CR-V is offered with front- and four-wheel drive with just one engine and transmission. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, improved for the 2010 model year, has 180 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 161 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm.
New for the 2011 model year is the SE trim. This special edition model starts with the base LX trim and bundles a number of popular options including 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, a 160-watt sound system with six speakers and a 6-disc CD changer, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. That's the major recent change on the CR-V, which was refreshed with touched-up styling, a slight power bump, and increased standard content in the 2010 model year.
Pricing for the 2011 CR-V ranges from $22,500 to roughly $30,000 for a loaded, four-wheel drive model. For that price you get a moonroof, leather seats, a navigation system, backup camera, and heated seats, although those looking for luxury touches like HID headlights and a panoramic sunroof will have to shop elsewhere.
When you're ready for a compact crossover that actually drives well and is more than a bunch of attractive features bundled together, the CR-V shows its strength. In a four-vehicle test of 2010 model year vehicles, Motor Trend placed the refreshed CR-V first for many reasons. The 180-horsepower engine, for example, was deemed sufficiently powerful even though the CR-V wasn't the fastest in the test. Acceleration from 0-60 mph was clocked at 9.2 seconds for a four-wheel-drive model. Editors also liked the nicely weighted steering and well-mannered ride.
"This isn't just the smart decision when looking at crossovers, it appeals to the emotions too," said one editor. "Both sides of the brain would be very happy with the CR-V."
Despite the five-speed automatic that shifted with a slight harshness and an outdated CD player (that uses a cartridge), the editors were impressed by the high quality interior. Then there's the reclining rear seats and a dual deck cargo shelf, and it's easy to see why so many people purchase CR-Vs. Don't forget about the 35.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. Fold down those rear seats and you have 72.9 cubic feet to fill with stuff.
Fuel economy on the CR-V is decent but doesn't lead the class. Front-wheel-drive models are rated 21/28 mpg city/highway while four-wheel-drive CR-Vs are rated 21/27 mpg. As for safety, the 2011 Honda CR-V earns four stars out of five overall in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's more difficult crash tests starting in the 2011 model year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the CR-V a "good" rating in the front and side crash tests, but only "marginal" in the rollover tests. This means that, unlike the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, and Volkswagen Tiguan, the CR-V is not a Top Safety Pick.
A completely redesigned CR-V is on the way for the 2012 model year. In the meantime, crossover buyers who stop by a local Honda dealership won't have to settle by considering a 2011 CR-V. The SUV offers an attractive mix of bold styling, interior refinement, cargo capacity, and acceptable fuel economy.