Honda CR-V History
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Since its launch nearly 20 years ago, the Honda CR-V has dominated the small crossover utility segment alongside the Toyota RAV4. Today's competitors also include the Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Kia Sportage, VW Tiguan, Nissan Rogue and Hyundai Tucson.
Sitting on underpinnings adapted from Honda's Civic, the CR-V has always offered all-wheel drive as an option to the standard front-wheel-drive powertrain. A four-cylinder engine is standard, now paired with a five-speed transmission. The current fourth-generation model was all-new for 2012, and the 2013 version carries over with almost no changes.
For full details, including prices, options, and specifications, see our full review of the 2013 Honda CR-V. To face off against its direct competitors, see our comparisons of the Honda CR-V vs the Ford Escape and the Honda CR-V vs. the Nissan Rogue.
The fourth-generation CR-V was more evolutionary than previous generations, at least on the outside. Inside it feels a bit different, with upgraded materials and trims, along with an instrument panel that's in line with the latest Odyssey van, plus an even better rear-seat folding mechanism that allows you to fold the seats neatly forward with one arm--without the need for power systems.
The 2012 Honda CR-V (seen in this video walkaround from the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show) expanded its appeal to young parents, and upped the level of tech content. Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and Bluetooth streaming audio are at last standard across the entire model line, Pandora streaming is integrated with the system (if you have the right smartphone), and a new i-MID display can show personal pictures and is attached to a new Multi-Angle Rearview Camera system.
The engine is carried over, but the five-speed automatic gets taller ratios, as well as better EPA gas-mileage ratings. Overall, the driving experience is nothing to get excited about, and while it rides well and is reasonably responsive, the new electric power steering system here fails to give the crisp, confident-handling feel it had in the last generation. But the latest 2012 CR-V again achieved Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS and a five-star rating from the NHTSA.
During its three quite different prior generations, the CR-V evolved from a softer—but still very basic—alternative to truckier vehicles like the Suzuki Sidekick or Jeep Wrangler into more of a family-oriented people-mover.
The second-generation CR-V, sold from 2002 on, was a significant improvement in nearly every way—much more refined, responsive, and comfortable. These models all have a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, making about 160 hp, with most of them hooked up to a four- or five-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual was also offered).
Across most of the CR-V's existence, car-based handling makes it nimble and maneuverable, though quite softly sprung. At less than 180 inches long, the CR-V is more than a foot shorter than a typical mid-size sedan. Earlier generations have excellent outward visibility, though the more curved roofline of the latest model can impair rearward sightlines.
Safety has generally been a plus for the CR-V. In a mid-cycle refresh for 2005, Honda increased safety content, making side airbags and anti-lock brakes standard across the line, increasing that CR-V's IIHS side-impact results from a mediocre 'marginal' to the top 'good' result. The CR-V's results in federal government crash tests have been excellent.
For 2007, Honda completely redesigned the CR-V again, with this generation quite a bit more passenger-focused than the previous generation--giving it an interior feel that's more like that of a tall wagon or, gasp (to some), a minivan. The interior design became more advanced and well-appointed, but not everyone has warmed to the exterior, which remains essentially the same for 2010.
This time, the CR-V was only offered with an automatic transmission and a 166-hp, 2.4-liter four, in basic LX and more luxurious EX and EX-L trims. Some tech features, like a nav system, are offered, but sound-connectivity is a bit behind the curve and Bluetooth hands-free is only found at the top of the model line.
One odd attribute of the first- and second-generation CR-V models it the externally mounted spare wheel and tire. For the 2007 redesign, Honda did finally move it away from the rear hatch.