Honda’s CR-V provides SUV-like convenience with car-like handling in a compact size. The 2006 model has few changes.
The midlevel EX 4WD trim features a rugged DOHC 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes use of Honda’s i-VTEC valve control system to produce 156 hp and 160 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic sends power to the AWD system. A five-speed manual, exclusive to the EX trim level, is also an option.
The Honda “Real Time AWD” system normally powers only the front wheels. When traction there slips, power immediately transfers to the rear for four-wheel drive until front-wheel traction stabilizes. One reviewer reported that the system coped easily with 5 inches of fresh snow.
Test drivers praise the harmony between the engine and automatic transmission. The engine’s torque band peaks around 3,600 rpm. It maintains a fairly level power plateau, which the five-speed automatic uses to great advantage, giving the CR-V a sporty driving sense. The EPA estimates 22/27 mpg. Reviewers testing an automatic 4WD averaged 19.7-19.8 mpg.
The CR-V rides on the Honda Civic’s double-wishbone, four-wheel independent suspension with front and rear stabilizers. Honda tuned the CR-V for a firm but comfortable ride, making it an ideal daily driver. It remains car-like in the twisties, but does lean due to its height more than a Civic sedan, yet a lot less than a full-size SUV. Steering is good in the turns, though a bit lifeless on center. Four-wheel ABS disc brakes provide stable, uneventful stops.
Overall, reviewers feel Honda has made good use of the CR-V’s basic box-shaped cabin with an almost perfect ergonomic layout up front, spacious rear seating, and generous cargo capacity. The 60/40 split rear seats recline for more comfortable seating and fold forward, opening rear cargo space from a generous 33.5 cubic feet to an expansive 72 cubic feet – enough for two bicycles. No less than 21 storage nooks are spread throughout the cabin, and the spare-tire bin cover doubles as a folding picnic table.
Besides 4WD and the choice between five-speed manual and automatic transmissions, the EX trim adds steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a premium stereo/CD, aluminum wheels, rear privacy glass, an outside temperature gauge, and a power moonroof.
The CR-V’s generous list of standard all-trim-level safety features should be emulated by other automakers: four-wheel ABS disc brakes, front and side airbags for front passengers with head curtain airbags for front and rear occupants, and Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control.
The CR-V earned a perfect score for its frontal and side impact protection from the NHTSA and the highest possible rating from the IIHS in its 40-mph frontal-offset crash test and side-impact testing. These tests rate a vehicle relative to its class (in the CR-V’s case, this would be compact SUVs) and not across all categories.
Unless you're looking for more power - Toyota's RAV-4, for example, packs a V6 option - the Honda CR-V as a compact SUV seems to have it all: performance, ride, space, comfort, and reliability.