WOMAN ON WHEELS:
1999 Honda CR-V 5DR 4WD EX
By Laura Heilig
The Car Chick
Honda has designed a sporty-looking automobile in the CR-V. Labeled as a 'Special Purpose' vehicle, it gives the driver the look and feel of an SUV while handling much like a sedan or larger car. The CR-V resembles every other car in this class, but it does not seem as stunted as most appear, due in part to its slightly larger length and width (177.6 in. long, 68.9 in. wide) and to its higher ground clearance (8.1 in.)
Our EX model was Milano Red with a gray interior, a very nice choice for this model. In fact, the CR-V caught the eye of most of the teachers at my school, a feat usually accomplished only by Porsches or other sports cars.
When I first gazed into the driver's seat of the CR-V, I was impressed with how large it seemed. Unfortunately, it was just an illusion. While I had plenty of head room, the width and length of the leg area just fit me, making me question how comfortable this area would be for a larger person. I also could not position the tilt steering wheel so that I felt completely in control. It was at a much different angle than most cars I drive. But, I was pleased with how accessible all the controls were from the driver's seat, which sometimes is a problem in a bigger vehicle.
Rear seat passengers need not worry about their legs, as the 50/50 split reclining seats were very spacious. In fact, three people could easily fit with leg room to spare. The rear storage space was also great, providing 67.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seatbacks folded down, 29.6 cubic feet normally. This area is increased slightly due to the fact that the spare tire is mounted on the cargo door. The door itself is hinged on the side, and space must be given to allow it to swing open, because it is big!
As with most autos built today, the CR-V comes with many safety features: driver and passenger airbags, side impact door beams, and front and rear crumple zones. Of the three model choices: the 2WD LX, the 4WD LX, and the 4WD EX, anti-lock brakes are standard only on the EX, but available as options on the others. The CR-V's keyless remote system adds to your personal safety as well, but after hearing the ear-piercing beep it makes when you lock the vehicle, it may be one to leave off of your option list. I have never heard a beep as loud or annoying on any other car I have driven!
A majority of the features on the CR-V are standard on all three models. The only differences with the EX model are the alloy wheels, ABS, and CD player, plus some exterior styling features. All models are equipped with power windows, locks, and steering, cruise control, and air conditioning with a micron air filtration system.
Storage possibilities are strewn throughout the entire cabin area. Honda has designed a unique pull-out container located beneath the passengers seat and a retractable tray table between the two front seats. This table is strong, easy to fold, and contains two functional drink holders. Each front seat has back pockets, and each front door also has pockets. The door slots need to be redesigned without the hole in the side so that small items cannot fall out of them. The rear doors are not equipped with pockets, but they do have very nice fold-down adjustable cup holders and grab handles for those off-road excursions when it's just not safe to hold a hot cup of coffee.
No discussion of the CR-V would be complete without mentioning its most impressive, yet well-hidden accessory: the picnic table. When this vehicle was introduced last year, Honda played up this feature as one of its major selling points. Needless to say, I still had forgotten about the table when it came time to drive this vehicle. So concealed is this table that my memory was only refreshed by reading over the sticker information while taking notes for this article the last day I drove it. Immediately I ran to the rear hatch, threw it open, and lifted the carpet to investigate. Yep, there's a table. What makes this feature so neat is that it is so well-hidden, so convenient, and so practical. I just can't wait until the designers are able to find a place for matching fold-out chairs!
This Honda is no different than any of the other ones I have driven- it is a pleasure to drive! The CR-V is a little bit more fun, though, because of its four-wheel drive capabilities. Each model is equipped with a 2.0 liter, four-cylinder engine, four-wheel double wishbone suspension, multiport fuel injection, and power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. What this means is that the CR-V provides you with a smooth ride whether you are on the highway or in the back hills. I really loved how stable this Honda was on Pennsylvania's horrible bumpy roads, which I liken to any off-road course out there.
The five-speed manual transmission converted smoothly, and the actual shifter was small and cozy in my hand. I felt like this car had power and was ready to go. Overall, I did a little better than the 22 city/25 highway gas mileage, which is always a good thing, since my commute is evenly split between the turnpike and stop-and-go city streets.
It was interesting to see how the CR-V compared with some of the other special purpose vehicles. The base model, the LX FWD, starts out at $18,550, while the high-end EX begins at $20,450. On the lower end, CR-V is one of the more expensive models, but finishes in the middle in what I call the 'luxury cushy' vehicles (the ones with so many bells and whistles on them, nobody even knows what all their functions are.) Looking at the CR-V models and what they offer, the extra $1900 is well-spent on the EX model for its CD player, ABS, and added exterior features. I would buy this car over the Kia Sportage and the Suzuki Grand Vitara for the driving experience, but the driver seat and steering wheel would have to be changed to sway me from purchasing a Subaru Forester or a Jeep Cherokee first.