- Smooth and refined powertrain
- One of the safest vehicles of its size and type
- Attractive yet simple instrument panel and controls
- Transmission reluctant to downshift
- Styling is ungainly to some eyes
- Rear pillar obscures rearward vision
The 2008 Honda CR-V doesn't have hip style or performance on tap, but it has the security, utility, and frugality that many sensible moms want.
The Honda CR-V is a compact crossover utility vehicle that fits into Honda's lineup below the mid-size Pilot; unlike the Pilot, the smaller CR-V has only two rows of seating. Completely redesigned for 2007, the new generation features lower (by 1.3 inches) step-in height and is actually shorter overall than the '06 model it replaces, but has a roomier interior.
The exterior styling of the 2008 Honda CR-V, with its mix of arcs and creases, looks a little odd from some angles, but inside, the CR-V's styling is more universally attractive, with an instrument panel that's upright, if a bit trucklike, and nice contrasting materials and brightwork. The shifter is located at the bottom of the dash, in the center, instead of on the steering column or between the front seats. The backseat area folds down to a completely flat loading floor and a cargo area that's quite expansive, thanks to the tall body. The hatch opens upward, rather than to the side.
Despite offering only a four-cylinder engine while some of the competition provide V-6 options, the 2008 Honda CR-V coaxes adequate performance from its 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and feels quite refined with the smooth-shifting five-speed automatic, although we find it reluctant to downshift for steep grades. Fuel efficiency is admirable; EPA highway estimates range up to 27 mpg. An improved all-wheel-drive system is available, and it works with the stability control system to send power to the wheels where it's needed most. Handling feels stable but not very sporty; the emphasis is clearly comfort and quiet.
The top-of-the-line EX-L adds many desirable features such as dual-zone climate control, a power driver's seat, and a premium audio system; a navigation system and backup camera are optional.
Safety features are a priority for frugal and pragmatic shoppers who might consider the Honda CR-V; it includes electronic stability control, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags as standard, along with anti-lock brakes. Those shoppers will be even more thrilled to hear that the 2008 Honda CR-V gets 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.