First introduced in 1997, the Honda CR-V is nearing the end of what has been a successful third generation of this compact utility vehicle. It was the first utility vehicle produced by Honda and has been an unqualified hit both for this auto maker and with its owners . . . just ask one.
Outstanding in terms of its reliability and excellent resale value retention, the CR-V has evolved over the years and the 2011 edition has also embraced a more stylish cross-over design trend.
Yet, it still retains excellent interior functionality and off-the-beaten track driving capability.
Last year, CR-V received a mid-life cycle refit, receiving more power out of its one and only engine without compromising fuel economy. Its 2.4-litre four-cylinder powerplant employs variable intake valve timing and can now produce 180 horsepower. That’s an eight per cent increase in power, plus a four per cent improvement in fuel economy was also achieved.
Engineering tweaks used to achieve the power boost included a higher compression ratio, larger intake valves, lower-friction piston rings, and fuel injectors that deliver a finer spray. The engine’s maximum torque is unchanged at 161 lb.-ft, but it’s achieved at a slightly higher 4400 rpm.
All 2011 models come with a five-speed automatic transmission and drive is sent to the front wheels or all four, via Honda’s Real Time 4WD. It’s a system that doesn’t involve any driver decisions and defaults to front-drive for best fuel economy.
Built on a rigid unit-body structure, the CR-V has no noteworthy changes for the 2011 model year, unless you count some new paint colour choices. Buyers also get to choose from three models: the basic LX; mid-range EX; the top-line EX-L, which comes with leather-upholstery and there’s a navigation package option.
The requisite two-box utility design configuration is almost unrecognizable in the 2011 CR-V. Long gone are the days when its spare wheel hung on the rear door. It sports a cleaner, more car-like design these days, with prominent fender flares that give it a solid and planted appearance on the road.
Tapered side windows add to the sporty fast-back look of CR-V and at the rear there are distinctive tall high-mounted taillights. The rear liftgate design is also unique in that this door spills over into bumper. The idea is that it provides a lower cargo entry way, which lines up with a perfectly flat cargo floor. That said, the liftgate does look like it`s more venerable to rear-ender damage.
The Inside: The big inside pull-handles on the doors, which look like engine connecting rods, fit-in with the decidedly practical personality of the CR-V’s interior. There`s no third-row seat to expand seating to seven or even eight people, like some competitors. Instead, the CR-V offers comfortable seating for five and lots of cargo room.
Head and leg room in the rear seat are generous; passengers can also slide their feet under the seat in front, and the split (60/40) seats have high backrests that recline. To increase cargo space the rear seatback first folds and then the entire seat tumbles forward against the back of the front seat.
Up front, there’s a second and smaller (upper) glove box with a multimedia USB connection inside. The transmission shift lever on a pedestal sticks out from the centre stack and there’s storage underneath. In fact, there are all kinds of storage nooks and pockets in the CR-V.
And my top-line EX-L trim came with a centre console between the front seats.
The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in the US has introduced tougher crash test program with a more stringent new 5-Star Safety Rating system that’s no longer comparable to 1990–2010 vehicles.
The 2011 Honda CR-V received four-star ratings (out of five) in front, side rollover and overall ratings. That’s as good, if not better, than any other small compact utility vehicle that the NHTSA has tested to date.
An electronic stability system, called Vehicle Stability Assist, is standard on all CR-Vs. It’s also coupled with four-wheel disc brakes (vented in front and solid in the rear), ABS, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.
It’s easy to understand why this size of utility vehicle has become so popular. It’s small enough to park with ease and use in an urban environment. The seat height makes it easier for many people to slide in or out and that extra height also gives occupants better all-around vision.
Driver vision in the CR-V is very good, the back window is large and the side mirrors are also an extra-large size. My test CR-V came with a backup camera, which comes with the optional navigation system package.
You sit tall in the driver’s seat in a more chair-like seating position, looking down at the instrument cluster, and a wide left-foot dead pedal is a welcome feature. In addition to the added comfort, it can be used to brace the left leg in an emergency braking situation.
Honda has, commendably and like some of its competitors, resisted chucking a V6 engine in to the CR-V to get more power. It’s a move that should pay off in the long run, if as predicted we are moving into a season of higher fuel costs.
A five-speed automatic transmission matches well with the four-cylinder engine. There`s an overdrive on/off button on the side of the shift lever that gives the driver limited control over shift functions, as manually down-shifting with the level is cumbersome.
The CR-V handled better than expected and is more stable while cornering than most in this class. The steering is on the light side, a little too much assist for my taste, but it is precise. Most impressive was low level of interior noise, even a highway speeds.
The Honda CR-V is a sturdy vehicle and a benchmark in the compact utility class . . . a “can’t go wrong” purchase.
2011 Honda CR-V
Trim levels: LX, EX & EX-L
Sticker Price: $26,290 to $35,590
Power (SHO): 2.4-litre I4, 180-hp
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Fuel consumption (fwd):
9.8/7.1 L/100 km (city/highway)
Fuel consumption (awd):
10.1/7.5 L/100 km (city/highway)
Basic Warranty: 3 yrs / 60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty: 5 yrs / 100,000 km
Rust Warranty: 5 yrs / unlimited km
Ford Escape: $24,499 - $34,549
Hyundai Tucson: $22,995 - $34,449
Kia Sportage: $21,995 - $35,995
Mazda CX-7: $26,495 - $36,690
Nissan Rouge: $23,198 - $33,098
Toyota RAV4: $24,345 - $34,390