2003 CR-V New Car Test Drive
The Honda CR-V is roomy and convenient and easy to drive. You can put lots of stuff in it and the back seats are roomy and comfortable. It rides nice and smoothing, without the jouncy harshness of most SUVs. It's surprisingly maneuverable in tight quarters and handles well on winding roads.
The CR-V has grown up. Literally: Last year, a new model was launched that was larger, roomier, and more powerful than the first-generation model, and the new CR-V reclaimed its leading position in the compact sport-utility race.
Along with the Toyota RAV4, the CR-V was one of the original cute-utes: Not quite a sport-utility, but more than a car, offering an upright seating position, all-wheel drive and decent cargo space. Since it was built on a car platform (the Honda Civic), its highway-friendly ride and handling made it drive more like a car. This combination attracted buyers who needed a minivan, but wanted something smaller and more maneuverable, and something that didn't look like a minivan. That was in mid-1997.
Since then the field has become crowded with competitors, including the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, and Hyundai Santa Fe. The Chevrolet Tracker and Suzuki Vitara offered more truck-like engineering for better off-road capability. Land Rover introduced its luxurious and highly capable Freelander, while Jeep launched its highly capable and slightly larger Liberty.
With the 2002 model, however, the CR-V got back in the hunt. It still isn't any good off-road, but it's quite competent on the highways and byways where most of these vehicles are driven most of the time. The Honda bests many of its immediate competitors in both qualitative and quantitative measures, while trailing in a few minor areas.
For 2003, Honda has added coat hooks in the rear compartment and enlarged the front storage console to better accommodate cassettes and CDs. Otherwise the CR-V remains unchanged.
The CR-V is offered in two trim levels, with a choice of two or four-wheel drive. Options are extremely limited; as Honda firmly believes that the fewer the options, the less a car costs to build. It's available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
The base LX is well equipped for $19,360. It comes standard with air conditioning with micron filtration, AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, cruise control, an adjustable steering column, power mirrors, power windows, power four-wheel-disc brakes, front and rear power outlets, and a removable folding picnic table. Also standard is an automatic transmission, which is an $800 option on other models.
A five-speed manual transmission is available on the four-wheel-drive LX ($19,760). With the automatic, the 4WD LX costs $20,560.
Side-impact air bags add $250. Aluminum wheels are available as a dealer-installed accessory.
EX comes with four-wheel drive only, and adds a premium stereo, anti-lock brakes, privacy glass, remote keyless entry, aluminum wheels, and a power moonroof. It lists for $22,060 with the five-speed manual, $22,860 with the automatic.
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