2013 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L NAV Road Test

The 2013 Honda CR-V is the blue-collar, lunch pail toting worker of the SUV segment.

What It Is
Honda's compact SUV is capable, versatile, and has ample space for people and cargo.
Best Thing
Everything performs exactly as intended. Fuel economy figures are respectable as well.
Worst Thing
There's nothing that stands alone to "wow" you.
Snap Judgment
The 2013 Honda CR-V won't bowl you over in amazement, but you can always count on it getting the job done and done well.

Recently, Honda has been having a problem with style. While the cars themselves are still reliable as ever, the Japanese automaker has fallen off the aesthetically pleasing design train. The 2013 Honda CR-V is a good example; styling cues aren't bold by any sense of the word, but despite that, Honda continues to build a compelling enough compact crossover that usually sells more than 200,000 units every year. Now in its fourth generation, the CR-V has been able to keep its place at the table even with the likes of the more attractive Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, and even the Mazda CX-5 stealing the spotlight.

During its week-long stay with us, the 2013 Honda CR-V performed admirably without demanding much more than fuel in return. This blue-collar work ethic is what makes it popular among the masses of soccer moms and smaller families. So how would Honda's popular crossover do on the congested city streets of Los Angeles and steep mountain roads surrounding the city? We had a week to find out exactly what the appeal of the CR-V was and suffice it to say, it deserves its popularity.

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What We Drove

Upon its arrival for a week-long stay with us, the 2013 Honda CR-V came with a bunch of standard features and a base price tag of $29,995. With an $830 destination and handling fee, the CR-V's price rose to $30,825. Standard features include a 2.4-liter engine rated at 185 horsepower and mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, a drive-by-wire throttle system, and a theft deterrent system. Other standard safety features include leather seats, steering wheel, and shift knob, a navigation system with voice recognition and a rear-view camera, a sound system that includes seven speakers and a subwoofer, Bluetooth audio, and audio controls on the steering wheel.

A USB port, dual zone climate control, heated front seats, 60/40 split fold-down rear seats, a retractable cargo cover, a 12-volt power outlet, and an exterior temperature gauge are also standard. Notable standard safety features include driver and front passenger dual stage and side airbags, side curtain airbags and a rollover sensor, anti-lock brakes, and two LATCH points in the rear bench.

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The Commute

On any daily commute, you're bound to spot multiple CR-Vs, and it's only amplified when you're actually driving one. At least, that what it felt like after spending time with our Honda CR-V test vehicle during the commute to Automotive.com's El Segundo HQ in Southern California. When we weren't busy counting other CR-Vs, we noticed some road noise was seeping into the cabin when traveling over a cement surface. Admittedly, the road noise wasn't more than a soft rumble but it was enough to break your train of thought. This is one of many examples where the CR-V didn't overwhelm us with one particular feature. While the road noise wasn't deafening, it was just enough to be annoying but yet, still not a deal breaker. The CR-V's blandness affords you to focus on important things like driving from point A to point B without any issues.

During the commute to our office, the CR-V continued to be comfortable with the seat warmers quickly heating the leather chairs on a chilly morning. The radio was a little finicky when trying to find a certain station, and required extra attention by a passenger or when at a stop light. Once we found a preferred station or got the Bluetooth audio up and running, the seven-speaker audio system and subwoofer provided clear sound. Bass wasn't overpowering but, again, it plays to its strengths since the majority of the demographic that will own a CR-V aren't looking to have their eardrums bleed on a constant basis.

The CR-V's 185 hp 2.4-liter engine puts more ponies to work without the Eco button engaged, obviously. If you need to get onto the freeway in a hurry, we recommend leaving the Eco button disengaged while you get up to a preferred speed. If you're not going anywhere in a hurry, leave the Eco button on, sit back, and watch your fuel figures consistently creep up and hoover around 27 mpg with mixed driving. During its stay with us, we saw fuel economy figures hover around 27 mpg with mixed driving conditions. With the Eco button on, power is sacrificed for fuel economy making it hard to pass anyone on the freeway. Without it, power swiftly kicks into gear and you're up and going without an issue.

The Grocery Run

You'll hear a lot about the CR-V not having any flashy attributes, and while that's true to form, it does have a TON of space. In fact, the CR-V is so deceptively big on the inside, one of our passengers (who happens to be blind) was convinced they were riding in something much bigger. During its weekend stay with us, the CR-V was able to carry four passengers; two adults up front, and one adult and an infant with child seat in the back with space to spare. There's enough space for one adult to spread out in the back seat even with a child seat taking up space.

With all of the seats in place, there is 37.2 cubic-feet of real estate available, which affords enough space for two adults to sit comfortably in the back seat with a little space left-over in between. If you need to squeeze every last cubic-inch of cargo space out of the CR-V, with every seat folded down, you'll get 70.9-cubic feet of space. That's a respectable number in the segment and more than enough for a coffee table or a block party's worth of groceries. For the sake of comparing, the 2013 Mazda CX-5 only offers 65.4-cubic feet of maximum cargo space while the 2013 Ford Escape offers 68.1-cubic inches of max cargo space.

Driving the CR-V through a crowded parking lot was easier than originally anticipated because, again, the overall size is deceptive. Steering is nicely balanced when crawling at slower speeds making it easy to snake through the lot while scanning for an open spot. Once you find a parking spot, turning in to it can be done quickly and with confidence thanks to the CR-V's relatively tight turning radius. On your return from shopping, the CR-V's cargo area can swallow up almost anything you can get at a department store or super market and a durable cargo shade can quickly cover up your new goods from prying eyes. The cargo shade is a standard feature and won't cost you anything extra to get it.

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The Weekend Fun

We put the 2013 Honda CR-V to work during its weekend stay with us traveling two hours outside of Los Angeles to an apple orchard tucked away at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains. Getting there would consist of loading up the SUV with a day's worth of goods and support for a toddler plus the various bags and water bottles that come along with three other adults. After piling everyone and thing in, we started our two hour journey down the concrete freeway that is California Interstate 10 east. Road noise was present throughout the entire ride to and from the orchard. Our CR-V's tires were fine on asphalt, but they sang like a canary on cement.

Despite the road noise, the CR-V is a comfortable ride when going on day trips. The leather seats provided ample support and heated up quickly when asked to. One gargantuan and painfully glaring misstep on Honda's part is the RV-inspired armrests for the front seats. This flimsy arm support flips down and will carry your arm along fine but it just feels like I should be traveling to Lake George, New York, while simultaneously setting my life savings on fire since I'm driving a camper. Some of us felt Honda would be better off not including the armrests up front and just letting your arm fend for itself.


The 2013 Honda CR-V doesn't do one particular thing better than any other option in the segment. However, it does do everything very well in general. For whatever reason, on the surface, the CR-V just doesn't attract the necessary attention it deserves. The CR-V is like that quiet guy who comes into work, does everything asked of him without asking questions, and then heads home with little fanfare. There are definitely flashier and more luxurious choices in the segment but none are like the CR-V, and we don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. The days where you could purchase a new SUV that's easy to drive, has a ton of space, and is still reliable for under $30,000 are slowly evaporating. This is where the CR-V comes into play.

Overall, while it didn't bowl us over in any specific direction, we still enjoyed our time with the CR-V and quickly adapted to daily life with it. Even without the all-wheel drive and navigation system, the CR-V is still a stout competitor. However, we highly recommend springing the extra cash on those features to really get all the value the CR-V quietly provides. The observed fuel economy (27.1 mpg) was respectable and while the Eco button takes the edge of the engine's acceleration, simply disengaging it gets the missing power to return. If you're in the market for a smaller SUV that won't grab a bunch of eyes but will always be ready for active duty, the 2013 Honda CR-V is hard to beat. If you're looking for more aggressive styling or something that's more fun to drive, the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 may be more what you're looking for. Just remember, though, you'll have to sacrifice certain things like cargo space for a fun ride or catchy exterior styling. That right there is the appeal of the CR-V, versatility and comfort without all of the extra added spunk.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $30,825
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 22 mpg
EPA Highway: 30 mpg
EPA Combined: 25 mpg
Estimated Combined Range: 382.5 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Above Average

Notebook Quotes

"Buyers shopping the compact crossover segment will find the 2013 Honda CR-V a good, if lackluster option. The CR-V has ample power, a simple and functional cabin, and offers abundant room. The competing Toyota RAV4 offers a strong counter-option, while the new Mazda CX-5 may be the most inspired of the bunch."-Matt Askari, Associate Editor
"The only glaring flaw I see with the CR-V is road noise. This may be a new Honda, but it sounds like the ones you've always known and loved. You can hear everything."-Jacob Brown, Associate Editor
"I think the new CR-V pretty much nails the compact crossover formula. It has a comfortable ride. It's roomy. There are plenty of features to keep you interested, lots of cargo space, and a good sized rear seat for adults and/or children. It's a budget family wagon, and in that role, it has advantages over the CX-5."-Keith Buglewicz, News Director

Bret Frohwein
Bret Frohwein

sounds like Honda get's ties Toyota in the worlds most boring vehicles..