By KBB.com Editors
When the Honda CR-V first appeared in 1997, the SUV landscape had a far different look than it does today. Then, the market offered very few compact four-wheel-drive wagon/SUV crosses, and the new Honda was the head of a very small class. These days, rising gas prices have chased many drivers out of their large SUVs and, in the hopes of downsizing, into smaller, more fuel-efficient transportation. As a result, the roads are now becoming thick with crossover utility vehicles, but the third-generation CR-V continues to prove a resilient competitor.You'll Like This Car If... You May Not Like This Car If...
There's little pizzazz in practical. If you chafe in sensible shoes, a compact crossover may not be the right fit for you. If only Honda hadn't dropped the available manual transmission, there might be some sporty salvation.What's New for 2009
No major changes for 2009.Driving It Driving Impressions
On the road, the 2009 Honda CR-V has a well-integrated feel. The four-cylinder engine is right-sized for daily driving duties and the automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The only interruption to the quiet inside the cabin is some noise from the engine in high-demand situations, such as when the transmission kicks down to a lower gear for passing. Beyond that, there's not much road noise and little wind noise, even when the moonroof (standard on EX and EX-L) is open. The CR-V has a cushioned ride that belies its size and handling is stable and predictable. Visibility is good in all directions, even to the rear. The four-wheel-drive system is automatic, requiring no input from the driver, and shifts up to 70 percent of available torque from front to rear wheels as needed for improved traction.Favorite Features
Refined Ride Quality
A compact car with a big-car ride, the CR-V has a composed feel, easily rolling over rough roads without ruffling the passengers.
Sensible Size, Flexible Floor Plan
Right-sized, real-world dimensions and a highly adaptable interior are two reasons why the CR-V is Honda's biggest seller worldwide.
The 2009 Honda CR-V's defining feature is a highly flexible floor plan. Split rear seats fold easily and tumble forward. Doing so increases cargo capacity from a generous minimum of 35.7 cubic feet to a maximum of 72.9 cubic feet. Lift-over height in back is low. Second-row seats also recline slightly and the headrests have been designed for a visibility-enhancing low profile when not in use. Rear-seat travel is adjustable fore and aft, front seats have enough travel to accommodate taller folks and all trim levels benefit from fold-down, inside armrests. Rear-seat legroom has been reduced by about an inch compared to the previous generation, but six-footers can still fit front and rear simultaneously, though it's a tad tighter in back now. The CR-V's dual-dial dash is an easy read, controls and switchgear are all within arm's reach and simple to operate and inside storage areas abound.Exterior
The first two generations of the CR-V made their marks by combining exceptional utility with enviable reliability. They were high function, but low fashion. This time around, Honda aims to lay claim to that portion of the new buyers flocking to this segment who are style-conscious. Toward that end, the 2009 Honda CR-V's still-practical package is wrapped in a decidedly fashion-forward design. The side view is dramatically different than most boxy SUVs, with an elliptically-shaped greenhouse. Up front are slash-cut headlamps and a laid-back windshield, while around back is a large rear hatch with no hatch-mounted spare tire to complicate entrance. Ground clearance is a generous 7.3 inches.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2009 Honda CR-V is offered in three trim levels: LX, EX, and EX-L. Standard across the board is a tire-pressure-monitoring system, 17-inch wheels, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, an MP3/auxiliary audio input jack, speed-sensitive volume control and a "conversation mirror" on the back of the sun visor. LX and EX models have a retractable center tray table between the front seats, while EX-L versions have a fixed, floor-mounted console. Two covered storage containers are included–-the larger of which is big enough to hold 24 CDs. EX and EX-L models gain a folding, removable, dual-level shelf in the cargo bay for added storage options, while the EX-L has an eight-way power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and an upgraded audio system, with 270 watts of power, a six-disc, center console CD changer, seven speakers (including subwoofer) and a digital audio-card reader.Notable Optional Equipment
Honda's Real Time four-wheel-drive system is available on all trim levels. A GPS navigation system with a large, six-and-a-half-inch screen, voice recognition and rearview camera function is offered on EX-L models.Under the Hood
The 2009 Honda CR-V has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 166 horsepower and delivers its 161 pound-feet of torque across a wider power band than previously. The four-cylinder engine is linked exclusively to a five-speed automatic transmission. The loss of an available five-speed manual transmission – formerly standard equipment on previous generation CR-Vs – may be lamented by mileage maximizers, but Honda says that the demand for stick-shift CR-Vs among buyers was just too low.
2.4-liter in-line 4
166 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
161 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 (2WD), 20/26 (4WD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price for a two-wheel-drive CR-V LX starts around $22,000, while the 4WD EX trim starts around $25,000. A fully-loaded EX-L with leather and navigation tops out close to $30,000. A look at the Fair Purchase Price shows the typical transaction price others are paying for the CR-V in your area, so be sure to check it out before you buy. Among the models cross-shopped with the CR-V are the Saturn VUE, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester and the Jeep Compass. All compare favorably with the CR-V on features per dollar, but lack the track record for reliability that the Honda enjoys. The CR-V retains the best five-year resale values in the segment.