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2009 Honda CR-V ReviewThe Good
The '09 Honda CR-V offers superior passenger and cargo capacity combined with smooth and easy handling and class-leading fuel economy.
The lack of V6 and third-row options in the '09 CR-V might turn away those wanting more power or larger family-sized accommodations.
The CarGurus View
You can trust Honda to deliver an SUV that won't make you cry every time you visit a gas station. Great fuel economy will appeal to drivers who want SUV cargo versatility without breaking the budget, and the '09 CR-V's spacious cabin should also please small families not wanting to sacrifice personal comfort.
At a Glance
The best-selling SUV in the country, the Honda CR-V chooses not to mess at all with its successful formula. Virtually unchanged since last year, the '09 CR-V adds three new exterior color choices.
This compact SUV seats five in two rows and comes available in either front-wheel or automatic all-wheel drive. Its small size hides a spacious interior comfortable for adults as well as children, and a large cargo bay adds versatility and functionality to this affordable family car.
Geared toward small families rather than weekend adventurers, the '09 CR-V also offers Honda's reputation for reliability, safety, and good resale value. The SUV exhibits satisfyingly easy car-like maneuverability, appealing to parents making frequent trips to the grocery store. The CR-V returns in three trim choices – base LX, EX, and EX-L. All ride on 17-inch wheels and come standard with power features, a CD player, and cruise control. Moving up the line adds more convenience features and more leather. The CR-V consistently earns high marks from both professional bodies and long-time owners for safety, performance, and affordability.
Powering the 2009 CR-V, a 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine puts out 166 hp and 161 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 RPM. Paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, the engine features variable valve timing to help reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. Front-wheel-drive models get 20/27 mpg, while all-wheel-drive numbers dip slightly to 20/26, both numbers offering better fuel economy than any SUV other than the Ford Escape Hybrid. The powertrain can tow only 1,500 pounds.
The inline four provides adequate power for quick commuter driving, but can feel labored during highway passing, especially when the SUV gets loaded down with passengers and/or cargo. Acceleration causes some intrusive engine noise, but around town the engine operates smoothly, as does the seamless-shifting automatic.
Ride & Handling
Test drives of both the new '09 and identical '08 CR-V reveal tight steering and crisp maneuverability around town. Built on the Accord platform, the CR-V handles like a compact car, with minimal body lean. However, its car-like unibody platform and Macpherson strut front and multilink rear suspension can translate into a somewhat floaty feel on the highway. Test drives also point out that its turning radius is not as tight as that of Toyota's RAV4.
A smooth engine and transmission parallel the smooth suspension, which offers good bump absorption. Highway wind and road noise can intrude into the cabin, however, and the four-cylinder engine audibly struggles when accelerating. Owners of the 2008 model seem to agree. Though they have few complaints, the primary ones also mention its noisy ride and lack of power. The four-wheel ABS brakes are responsive and reliable, and the AWD system provides confident road grip. This system is not meant for off-road performance, but does competently tackle wet and snowy roads.
Cabin & Comfort
Looks can be deceiving, and the compact '09 CR-V hides a roomy cabin that both critics and owners find comfortable and well laid out. Special mention goes to the high-quality materials that give the interior a premium look and feel. Ergonomics also receive praise from professional reviewers, who find the gauges large and legible and the controls easy to reach. Driver comfort gets a boost from standard tilt and telescopic steering, supportive seats, and a long track to adjust fore-and-aft seat movement.
The cargo area starts at an impressive 35.7 cubic feet and expands to 73 with the rear seats folded flat. The boxy height of the bay accommodates taller objects, and a cargo shelf comes with EX and EX-L trims. This allows for more storage versatility, although some owners of the 2008 model say it gets in the way when loading larger objects. The rear liftgate is lightweight and easy to use.
Rear seats flip up and split-fold flat 60/40. A convenient reclining feature adds further comfort for back-seat passengers, who already enjoy nearly 39 inches of head and legroom. Front-row passengers up that number to 41 inches. Rear seats also slide fore and aft to accommodate longer legs and ease entry and exit. In addition to the cargo area, the cabin offers underseat storage, door pockets, and a two-tiered glove box. EX and LX trims come with a flip-up tray between the front seats, while the EX-L replaces that with a center storage console.
Base LX trims start out with full power features (windows, locks, and mirrors), a trip computer, cruise control, remote entry, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD/MP3 player and MP3 input jack. The midrange but well-equipped EX adds wheel-mounted controls for the audio system, a six-speaker sound system with 6-CD changer, interior alloy trim, and a sunroof. It also dresses up the exterior with extra chrome trimmings. For more comfortable surroundings as you pick up your kids from after-school sports, the EX-L comes with leather upholstery (hence, the L), an 8-way power driver's seat, heated seats and mirrors, dual-zone climate control, and a seven-speaker sound system. An optional voice-activated navigation system is available only for the EX-L. It incorporates the audio controls, and many critics find it complicated and distracting.
Honda's reputation for safety carries over to the 2009 CR-V, which should match the crash test scores from 2008. Named as one of the Top Safety Picks of 2008 by the IIHS, the CR-V earned five stars in front and side impact tests and four stars in rollovers.
All trims come equipped with electronic stability control and traction control, along with four-wheel disc and ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution. Dual front-side and side curtain airbags for both rows feature rollover sensors. Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering is designed to distribute collision force over a wider area, thereby lessening the impact on passengers. The high-end EX-L trim can also be equipped with a rearview camera, as part of the navigation package, to help with any blind-spot issues while in reverse.
What Owners Think
Early owner reviews of the '09 Honda CR-V focus on its terrific fuel economy, with one owner claiming highway numbers around 30 mpg. Drivers also like the CR-V's accommodating interior and practical roominess. These mirror reviews of the '08 model, which praise a flexible versatility that doesn't sacrifice personal comfort. 2008 owners also appreciate Honda's reputation for reliability and durability. Negatives include engine noise on the highway and slightly anemic passing power. One 2009 owner finds the optional navigation system overly complicated.
CarGurus owners have yet to comment on the '09 CR-V, but their 2008 reviews provide good insight. Drivers like the confident and easy handling of this SUV, paired with its strong safety profile and high build quality. Their primary complaints mention the lack of power during highway driving, with one driver expressing a desire for more premium leather upholstery in the EX-L.
by Ann Jackman
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