2004 CR-V New Car Test Drive
The Honda CR-V is roomy, convenient and easy to drive. You can put lots of stuff in it and the back seats are quite comfortable. It rides smoothly, without the jouncy harshness of many SUVs. The CR-V is surprisingly maneuverable in tight quarters and handles well on winding roads. It's also stable in stiff crosswinds at freeway speeds.
In short, the CR-V has grown up. Literally. This recently redesigned SUV is bigger, roomier and more powerful than the first-generation CR-V, and it has reclaimed its spot among the best small sport-utilities offered by any manufacturer.
Like Toyota's RAV4, the CR-V was one of the first so-called 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), CR-V's 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.
Since the CR-V was introduced in 1997, the field has grown crowded with competitors such as the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute and Hyundai Santa Fe. Jeep offers its slightly larger Liberty, which offers off-road capability. A thorough re-do for 2002 put the CR-V squarely back in the game. It still isn't much good off-road, but it's better than competent on the highways and byways where most SUVs are driven most of the time. This Honda beats most of its immediate competitors in both qualitative and quantitative measures, and trails the competition in only a few. Changes for 2004 are limited to a new of power-lock switch on the front passenger door, and new color matching inside.
If you're looking for a reasonably priced, all-purpose vehicle with a sense of adventure and fine foul-weather capability, the CR-V is hard to beat.
The CR-V is offered in two trim levels, with a choice of two or four-wheel drive. Honda has long believed that the fewer the options, the less a car costs to build, so options on its small SUV are few.
The base LX ($19,000) is the only CR-V with just front-wheel drive. It comes well equipped. Standard equipment includes 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. An automatic transmission is also standard with this front-drive model.
LX 4WD comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission ($19,400), but is also available with an automatic ($20,200). Side-impact air bags ($250) are optional. Aluminum wheels are available as a dealer-installed accessory. It's unfortunate that Honda offers ABS only as part of the high-trim CR-V EX package. A buyer shouldn't be forced to buy things he or she may not want in order to get this important system. Honda says in the future it will be including more safety features as standard equipment.
The EX comes only with four-wheel drive, and adds a premium stereo with CD changer, anti-lock brakes, rear privacy glass, remote keyless entry, aluminum wheels, and a power moonroof. EX 4WD comes with a choice of five-speed manual ($21,750) or automatic ($22,550).
Compared to 2003 models, these prices (MSRP) reflect a modest increase of $100 for the LX and $150 for the EX.