Consumer Reports Says Honda CR-V Beats Competition


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2007 Honda CR-V
SEE ALSO : HONDA BUYERS GUIDE.COM

YONKERS, NY — The sleekly redesigned Honda CR-V outscored four other car-based small SUVs in tests for the February 2007 issue of Consumer Reports. But the CR-V still fell short of the top-rated vehicle in the class, the previously-tested Toyota RAV4.

The Honda CR-V achieved a “Very Good” overall performance score in tests against the Honda Element, Chevrolet Equinox, Jeep Compass and Saturn Vue Green Line. The Vue Green Line is General Motors’ first mass market hybrid.

The Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Subaru Forester have consistently dominated the top of Consumer Reports ratings for small SUVs. Each is a well-rounded vehicle that delivers good performance, road proficiency, interior flexibility, and good fuel economy.

In testing for the July 2006 issue, the RAV4 took the top spot in the small SUV category, beating out the previous generation CR-V. Though the new CR-V just tested is very good overall, it didn’t perform well enough to regain its standing as the top-rated small sport utility.

None of the other SUVs in this group scored close to the top-rated RAV4, CR-V and Forester. The Honda Element finished mid-pack with a “Good” overall score, followed by the Equinox, Compass, and Vue Green Line in that order.

Full tests and ratings of the SUVs appear in the February issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale January 9. The issue also includes ratings of portable Global Positioning Systems (GPS) navigators, and Auto Test Extra reports on the Chevrolet Avalanche and Ford Explorer Sport Trac. All of this material is also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org.

Among the vehicles in this test group, Consumer Reports recommends only the CR-V and Element. CR does not have reliability information yet on either the Compass or the Vue Green Line. Previous versions of the Equinox have had only fair reliability. Consumer Reports only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Car Reliability Survey of its own subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

The CR-V has shed its boxy styling for sleeker, carlike looks. The driving position is much improved, the controls are more straightforward, and interior flexibility is improved. But cargo room and rear visibility suffers because of the new styling. The CR-V EX ($24,645 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested) is powered by a 166-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that provides adequate acceleration. The five-speed automatic transmission is very smooth and responsive. The brakes provide short, straight stops on both wet and dry pavement. Cargo volume is less than in the previous CR-V due to the sloping roofline. But the rear seats tumble forward in two split sections and slide fore and aft.

The Element, which is based on the previous generation CR-V, is an offbeat utility vehicle with plenty of interior space. But it seats only four, the low payload capacity limits its utility, and large roof pillars compromise visibility. The Element EX ($23,705 MSRP as tested) is equipped with the same 166-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission found in the CR-V. The drivetrain delivers adequate acceleration and smooth and responsive shifts. The Element’s rear seats fold against the sides of the cabin to create a large open cargo floor.

The updated Equinox is spacious with a roomy rear seat and easy access. Ride has been improved and the interior has been quieted. But handling remains clumsy even with electronic stability control and the body leans a lot in turns. The Equinox LT ($27,740 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 185-hp, 3.4-liter V6 that is only slightly faster than some four-cylinder small SUVs. Fuel economy was the lowest of the group of CR’s tests, at 18 mpg overall. The new five-speed transmission shifts smoothly and quickly. Stopping distances are long. The Equinox’s front passenger seat and rear seats fold flat for long cargo.

The Compass, Jeep’s first car-based SUV, shares a platform with the Dodge Caliber. CR found the Caliber unimpressive in its September 2006 test, and the Compass follows suit. Pronounced engine and road noise, lack of agility, and poor interior fit and finish plague it. The Compass Sport ($21,660 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 172-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder that delivers average performance. Its optional Continuously Variable Transmission is excellent overall. Braking distances were fairly long. Cargo space is modest, but the front passenger seat folds for extra-long cargo.

The Saturn Vue is available only with a front-wheel drive and is a very mild hybrid, meaning that it can’t propel itself solely on electric power. It uses a larger alternator that can produce a small amount of power as well as charge the system. The 170-hp, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine is not particularly responsive, and delivers tepid acceleration, even with the hybrid’s electric assist. The Green Line comes only with a four-speed automatic transmission, which is not as responsive or versatile as those in most small SUVs. Stopping distances were long, especially on wet pavement. Interior space is moderate.

Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Website; the magazine’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe to Consumer Reports, call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

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