New Car/Review

1997 HONDA CR-V

by Tom Hagin

Honda

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,400
Price As Tested                                    $ 22,256
Engine Type                  DOHC 4V 2.0 Liter I4 w/PGM-FI*
Engine Size                                 122 cid/1972 cc
Horsepower                                   126 @ 5400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               133 @ 4300 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  103.2"/68.9"/177.6"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3178 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  15.3 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/70R15
Brakes (F/R)                            Disc(ABS)/drum(ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                       None
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            22/25/23
0-60 MPH                                       11.3 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       19 seconds @ 74.5 mph
Top speed                                            95 mph
     * Programmed fuel injection

Years ago, Honda made a Civic wagon that was really more of a "mini" minivan, and it looked very different from the Civic sedan. Later, Honda added a 4X4 version, and the vehicle quickly became the darling of cash-strapped ski bums looking for economical ways to reach the slopes. Unfortunately, it was discontinued after disappointing sales.

Honda has decided to make another one, but this time it's the CR-V, another of those tiny SUVs geared toward recreation-minded young buyers.

OUTSIDE - While the CR-V is easy to distinguish as a compact SUV, it portrays a larger appearance than that of its direct competition. Its nose features an Accord-like grille squeezed between a pair of large rectangular headlamps like those used on the current Civic compact. A set of taillights are mounted high in the rear roof pillars, where they can be easily spotted in traffic. Honda claims that their high position also makes them less likely to be obscured by road grime. Four large, conventional doors provide exceptionally good access to the interior, while the spare tire is mounted to a two-piece tailgate with separate glass and a swing-out door that hinges from the left corner. CR-V uses plastic covers that extend from the front bumper, up and over the fender wells and along the bottom of the doors, then into the rear bumper area. A thick rub strip runs just below belt-level across the doors. Standard CR-V models use steel wheels, while a set of alloy wheels are optional.

INSIDE - The CR-V's interior is utilitarian is design, which explains the durable cloth upholstery and the vinyl coverings on the door panels, steering wheel and dashboard. The heater and radio controls are located high in the dash, in an easy spot to reach, while a tall seating position and low cowl give a clear view of the road ahead. Honda really did its homework when designing CR-V's interior because sensible things like lots of grab handles and four different storage cubbies, as well as dash-mounted power window controls and a set of swing-up cupholders between the front seats make for hassle-free driving. And without a center console, those up front can move to the back without exiting the vehicle. The rear compartment can swallow over 23 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded, and a handy picnic table stows under the rear floor area.

ON THE ROAD - The CR-V is powered by a new 2.0 liter four cylinder engine that produces 126 horsepower and 133 lb-ft of torque. It has the same outer dimensions as the Civic's 1.6 liter powerplant, but it uses a one-piece cylinder liner to give a larger displacement and added power. Like most small engines in compact cars, it doesn't provide much low-end torque, but once the rpms reach above 4000, it does an admirable job of moving the 3200-pound SUV to a hustle. A four-speed automatic transmission is the sole gearbox available, and features Honda's Grade Logic computerized system, which senses whether the car is going uphill or down, then changes gears accordingly. Sending power to all four wheels is what Honda calls Real Time all-wheel-drive, a system of two hydraulic pumps that engage the rear axle when necessary. This part-time system is more fuel efficient than others, but less effective off road. Otherwise, the CR-V uses front-wheel-drive most of the time.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - CR-V is based on the Civic platform, and thus uses unit body construction, four-wheel independent suspension and a long wheelbase. The suspension is tuned on the soft side, so the ride is supple and smooth at highway speeds. Only when the pavement begins to undulate wildly, for instance over rough backroads, the CR-V bucks and rolls. But even with the extra weight of 4WD, CR-V feels light and agile, giving an acceptable run through our impromptu slalom course. And when the road became slippery, the 4WD system kicked in discretely and imperceptibly. And with over eight inches of ground clearance, it can traverse roads with tall snow berms easily. It could use a set of gripper tires, however. Braking is handled by front disc and rear drum brakes, while an anti-lock braking system (ABS) is optionally available.

SAFETY - Dual airbags and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - The ABS package ($1000) adds alloy wheels.

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