I must admit, I liked the CR-V a lot more than I thought I would. It was kind of the ‘safe and bland’ option on our list of CUVs to test-drive, and, though I liked the interior when I sat in one before test-driving, I wasn’t expecting that much.
Essentially, it’s the old Accord drivetrain, with a 2.4 liter engine and five-speed automatic gearbox, in a CUV body. Some might consider that bad, as it’s obviously old technology. However, it’s proven pretty robust on the road, with few problems other than occasional VTEC actuator failures. With so many other manufacturers rushing out relatively unproven technology like direct injection engines and CVTs to improve fuel economy, there’s something to be said for sticking with what works. Rumour has it that the CR-V may switch to the new CVT-based Accord drivetrain in the 2015 model.
Style-wise, it’s nothing special, with a non-descript front end and a fat butt. Looking at it from the outside, I expected the visibility to be poor with the small rear windows, but it seemed good enough on the road. In addition, the side mirrors have convex outer sections which expand their field of view.
The interior is comfortable and feels bigger than the Rogue. While I’m not sure I’d use them, the armrests are long and attached to the seat, rather than part of the center console. At first, the gearstick seems peculiarly placed, high up at the front, but that opens up space between the seats for storage, and my girlfriend could put her purse there while driving. Small things, but enough of them do add up.
Driving felt rather like a big Civic, other than the analogue gauges instead of the digital speedometer. Having driven thousands of miles in a Civic, I now have a hard time adapting to traditional instruments, and wish everyone else would switch to a similar design. Having the speed, temperature and fuel always in view means I never have to look away from the road.
One thing I soon noticed, driving on a windy day, is that crosswinds cause the back to wiggle at highway speeds. However, that’s not something we run into often, and probably not much worse than the Civic.
The AWD system on the CR-V isn’t the best, as an electronic system which waits for the front wheels to slip before moving power to the rear. But it’s capable of limited off-road use and should be good enough to drive around town in bad weather. Unfortunately we didn’t have any snow or ice to test it on, and didn’t have time to take it down our standard gravel back-road to compare to others we drove.
Overall, there are good reasons it’s often been the best-selling CUV in North America. Bland, yeah. But it does what most people need, and does it reliably. Safety ratings aren’t quite as good as some of the competition, but they’re close, and must be a heck of a lot better than the twenty-year-old car it would be replacing.
The one deal-breaker in the end was the ride. I thought it was OK, but my girlfriend was feeling a bit car-sick by the end of our hour-long drive. Unfortunately, that’s the kind of thing you can’t easily fix, so it dropped to second place on our list as a result.