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New Car Review: 2004 Honda CR-V

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ENGINE: 2.4-liter DOHC four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 160 hp @ 6,000 rpm/162 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
WHEELBASE: 103.1 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 178.6 x 70.2 x 66.2 in.

Every time I drive a Honda CR-V, I'm impressed by the small sport utility's versatility, or is it utility?

There are storage compartments everywhere, in the dash, in the doors (including the rear door). There's a huge cubby in the center of the dash that held, at times, CD jewel cases, sunglasses, garbage, keys, etc. Between the front bucket seats there's a fold-up tray with cupholders that has a rough surface so it's capable of holding flat objects in (relatively) high-speed turns. There are also hooks at the back of that tray for the rear-seat passengers.

That table in the back over the spare tire. Honda makes use of the spare tire cover by turning it into a picnic table, so if you use the CR-V for a tailgate party, you have an extra table.

The second-row seat folds down, as with most utility vehicles, to increase carrying capacity. Not that increasing the capacity is necessary. Honda claims 33.5 cubic feet of storage with the seats upright, 72.0 with them folded. Those are impressive numbers, and a normal trip would have trouble filling up the rear compartment without resorting to folding the seats. Now when my wife and daughters go shopping on the other hand…

The exterior-mounted (and covered) spare tire adds to the useful interior luggage space. I remember in our full-size van of the 1908s and 90s, we had an interior spare that really took away from carrying space.

The CR-V's rear hatch opens like a door, which makes it easier to operate. You can also open just the window, which lifts like a hatch, if you have light items you want to throw into the rear.

For sound, there's an excellent AM/FM/CD cassette system with a dash-mounted 6 CD changer. I finally used the in-dash changer the way it's supposed to be used. I had a game to cover a good distance away from home. I popped in a couple of CDs and didn't have to worry about music the whole way. Satellite radio would have don't he same thing, of course, but it wasn't included on the CR-V.

Under the hood is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 160 hp. It drives all four wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. The combination was great. The horsepower was about right, and with the manual gearbox I was able to extract the most from the engine. We took the CR-V on Interstates and winding roads and had no problems with either. The shifter was easy to use and I didn't have trouble finding the right gear, which I do sometimes.

Our tester had a power moonroof that wasn't especially useful in mid-winter but I bet would be great in milder weather.

The Real Time 4-wheel drive system installed on the CR-V is great for off-roading and snow and mud. I wouldn't try it on trails, for example, and we fortunately didn't get a chance to try it in deep snow, but it's a good system that can give you the fun of off-roading, as long as you don't try to get real serious about it. I used the ABS brakes more often on surprise ice spots on the roads this time.

The front bucket seats were comfortable. They weren't power assisted, and took about as long to adjust to a comfortable position as power seats do.

I LOVED the hand brake, which is disguised to be part of the dash architecture. Still, every time I used it I looked for a more conventional hand brake.

Cruise control switches were locate don the steering wheel and were not lighted. I always prefer lighted steering wheel switches because it's difficult fumbling around in the dark. As it was, though, the two major switches were easy to remember for use.

My only major complaint with the CR-V was that it was noisy on the highway. This was a combination of wind and engine noise and was most noticeable on the Interstates.

The Honda CR-V came with a sticker price of $22,210, which resulted from a base price of $21,750 and a destination charge of $460. This is a great bargain for a vehicle that is so useful.

© 2004 The Auto Page Syndicate