Side view of 2008 Honda CR-V 2WD 5dr RedEnlarge Photo
How much less is more in the 2009 Honda CR-V? For starters, its 2.4-liter variable-valve timed four-cylinder is a model of smoothness and nets the 2WD CR-V 20 mpg city and a remarkable 27 mpg on the highway. Apart from an Escape Hybrid, this rates as stellar mileage in the thirsty land of SUVs. And while the CR-V can't boast a third row, if five passengers is your max load, they will find a comfortable, well-designed interior with premium materials and great ergonomics. In addition, the cargo area is quite expansive thanks to a tall profile, and when the fold-flat rear seats are stowed, cargo room is even more impressive.
Despite its comparatively diminutive dimensions, a CR-V driver will give up nothing in the realm of safety. It includes electronic stability control, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags as standard, along with anti-lock brakes. Not to mentiongets five-star ratings for frontal and side impact in the federal government's crash tests, as well as straight "good" ratings--the best--from the IIHS, which made the CR-V one of its 2008 Top Safety Picks.
Alas, less is also, sometimes, less. A 9.2-second dash to 60 mph for the 2WD model, while not horrible, is a bit leisurely by today's standards, and especially with a full load and cargo aboard, the CR-V's four cylinders simply can't provide the kind of torque necessary to motivate this vehicle with a sense of urgency or verve. Nor does the CR-V corner like an FX35, or even a Toyota RAV4 for that matter, eschewing roll stiffness and sport for quiet, smooth composure if a bit more isolation than enthusiasts might yearn for.
Maybe the least appealing part of the CR-V is its styling. The arcs and creases on the tall body, introduced in 2007, hit some eyes as a bit frumpy and utilitarian in a world where SUVs are beginning to look downright mean and ready to brawl. The tiered nose doesn't help matters.
But with sales and gas prices up, Honda isn't going to mess with a good thing. So it didn't take any bold steps with the CR-V for 2009...and instead introduced three new colors: Crystal Black Pearl, Alabaster Silver Metallic, and Urban Titanium Metallic. If you're at the top in this mercurial industry, keep riding the wave.