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2006 Honda CR-V reviews

February 23, 2006 10:03 AM EST | Honda , SUV's | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageWith ample power, room and refinement, the CR-V has almost all you need in a mini sport-utility, as long as you keep on the beaten path.

Pros
Highly versatile and roomy interior, stable handling, comfortable ride, good crash test scores, all major safety features come standard.

Cons
Not as big inside as some competitors, no V6 engine option.

What's New for 2006
There are no significant changes to the 2006 Honda CR-V, though stated engine power is slightly lower than last year due to Honda's implementation of a new SAE testing procedure.

Introduction:
When the original Honda CR-V debuted in 1997, it had one simple objective: Do everything better than the RAV4, Toyota's mini SUV that had arrived just a year earlier. They shared similar design philosophies (four-cylinder engines, carlike rides), and although the two vehicles battled for the same customers, they both enjoyed incredibly strong sales numbers. The mini-SUV segment has now grown to include over a dozen different models, each with its own idea of what constitutes the perfect blend of size, power and capability. Some use larger V6 engines, while others boast real off-road capability. The CR-V sticks with the philosophy of being a small carlike sport-ute first and foremost. There's still no V6 offered, and serious off-roading is out of the question, but in the all-important areas of drivability and practicality, the CR-V is hard to beat.

One of the major advantages most mini SUVs have over their larger midsize counterparts is superior handling. Since many mini-utes are built on small-car platforms, they're typically more agile than the average truck-based midsize SUV. The CR-V is no exception, as it uses the 2001-2005 Civic platform as its basis to deliver excellent ride and handling characteristics. Choosing a mini SUV is largely a matter of personal taste and lifestyle. Almost all of the currently available vehicles on the market are strong contenders worthy of consideration. Want to explore the local mountains as well as the mall? Check out the Jeep Liberty or Nissan Xterra. Do you want the room of a sport-ute, but still crave the performance of a sedan? Get a Subaru Forester. Need serious horsepower to pull a small trailer? The Ford Escape is the one you want. Then again, maybe none of those scenarios figures into your plans. All you're looking for is an alternative to a small car, and maybe some all-weather capability thrown in for good measure. Something that doesn't feel like it's about to get run over in traffic, but can still get decent gas mileage and be reliable long-term. For drivers like this, the CR-V is a tough act to beat.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The CR-V is offered as a four-door SUV that seats up to five. There are three trim levels: LX, EX and SE (Special Edition). On the LX, you'll find power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; a CD player; rear heater ducts; and a cargo area-mounted 12-volt accessory outlet. EX models add keyless entry, alloy wheels, a moonroof, steering wheel audio controls, an outside temperature gauge and privacy glass. The SE includes heated leather seats and mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and, on the outside, body-colored bumpers, side moldings, door handles and hard spare tire cover.

Powertrains and Performance:
Under the hood you'll find a 2.4-liter inline four with Honda's i-VTEC architecture. While its power output -- 156 horsepower and 160 pound-feet of torque -- can't equal the grunt of the V6s found in some competitors, acceleration is still more than adequate in almost all situations. All CR-Vs come standard with a five-speed automatic transmission, except for the EX, which can take either the automatic or a five-speed manual gearbox. LX models come in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, while EX and SE models are all-wheel drive only. Honda calls its all-wheel-drive system Real Time 4WD, but lacking a dual-range transfer case, it's AWD by definition. The system powers only the front wheels under normal conditions. If the front wheels begin to slip, power is immediately transferred to the rear wheels until traction is regained.

Safety:
All CR-Vs include four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, side airbags for front passengers and head curtain airbags for front and rear occupants as standard equipment. The CR-V earned a perfect five stars across the board from the NHTSA for its protection in frontal and side impacts. In addition, the IIHS awarded a "Good" rating, also the highest possible, for the Honda's performance in the 40-mph frontal-offset crash test. It also earned a "Good" rating in IIHS side-impact testing.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Besides having a multitude of storage areas and cubbies, the CR-V is quite generous in its allotment of interior room for passengers and cargo. The rear quarters are surprisingly comfy considering the vehicle's overall size. Each side of the 60/40-split bench seat can be moved forward or back 6.7 inches, and the seatbacks can be reclined up to 45 degrees. For maximum cargo room, both rear seats can be tumbled forward to clear up to 72 cubic feet of space.

Driving Impressions:
Around-town driving reveals a softly tuned setup that favors comfort over performance and is just about ideal for commuters. Four-wheel-drive CR-Vs are perfect for negotiating wet or snowy road conditions. However, when taken on terrain more rugged than a gravel road, the CR-V quickly gets wobbly in the knees. Though it has more ground clearance than the Honda Element, this isn't the mini SUV to get if you regularly venture into the wilderness.

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