- Used Honda CR-V Models Comparison
The Honda CR-V was originally introduced as a compact sport utility vehicle (SUV).
Based loosely on the Honda Civic compact car, the CR-V offered something that sedans and conventional SUVs could not, including a car-like ride, higher stance, and more room, but without the accompanying sacrifice in fuel economy.
The origins of the moniker “CR-V,” seems to be mythical. Some may have heard it as standing for “Compact Recreational Vehicle,” while others have stated that it refers to “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle.”
Honda CR-V stands up to its name, in either case, and has become one of Honda’s most popular models.
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In relation to other SUV’s in the Honda lineup, the Honda CR-V compact SUV, or crossover SUV, is smaller than the Honda Pilot mid-size SUV, which has been in production since 2002, and young and growing families have consistently found Honda CR-V to deliver an exceptional value.
When asked what people like the most about the Honda CR-V, it mostly boils down to accessibility and affordability compared to the higher price tag of other compact crossovers in the segment, such as the Toyota RAV4 or Subaru Forester. They all offer a pretty good combination of features, fuel economy, and versatility, which has made the crossover segment one of the most popular in the world, but Honda CR-V just happens to be able to do it at an optimum price. Nevertheless, it doesn’t ask buyers to make many sacrifices, not even in reliability, as Honda consistently offers one of the most reliable used car values in the world.
First Generation (1995 – 2001)
Introduced in October 1995, Honda CR-V was based on the Honda Civic platform, but featured a higher stance, seating for five passengers, four-wheel independent suspension, and part-time automatic all-wheel drive (AWD).
On introduction, it was considered a luxury vehicle in Japan, because of its exterior dimensions.
Like most compact and crossover SUVs in the field, Honda CR-V is styled after larger full-size SUVs, but with an emphasis on urban utility and practicality, instead of on off-road capability and all-weather traction.
For the first part of the first-generation, the powertrain was limited to a single 2.0 ℓ four-cylinder engine option (B20B model DOHC 2.0L), generating 130ps (128 hp), mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The automatic part-time four-wheel drive (4WD) system had minimal capability, mostly because its activation was based on wheel spin. The wheel spin had a slight of a lag response, base on the comparison to full-time AWD and 4WD systems in larger SUVs. Nonetheless, in an urban setting, full-size SUVs had a disadvantage against the CR-V’s better manoeuvrability and fuel economy.
The combination of features offered, and at such an attractive price point, in the first-generation Honda CR-V was so compelling that it gained instant popularity with drivers. At the peak of demand, there was a three-month waiting list to get into the new crossover.
A couple of years into the first-generation, October 1997, Honda made some changes to the powertrain, serving to increase the model’s utility and popularity. Anti-lock braking (ABS) and airbags were now available, and the automatic transmission and AWD controllers were improved upon. Honda added a five-speed manual-transmission option, the 2.0 ℓ engine’s power output was tweaked to 145ps (143 hp), called “ActiveScape,” the automatic-transmission CR-Vs, still running at 130ps (128 hp), now referred to as “SmartScape. ” While one could walk from the front seats to the back seats in the automatic-transmission model, the placement of the manual transmission shift lever on the floor improved convenience.
Another small model refresh came along in December 1998, and the 2.0 ℓ four-cylinder engine’s power output was again upgraded, to 150ps (148 hp), for both ActiveScape and SmartScape models. Additionally, the spare tire was moved from the outside of the rear door to under the floor in the boot, the new model referred to as “Fullmark,” and the existing model referred to as “Performa.” An early electronic vehicle stability control system, “Vehicle Stability Assist,” was available, and crash safety was improved, as well, as part of the 1998 refresh. Finally, a front-wheel drive (FWD) Honda CR-V was introduced as part of the model update.
Second Generation (2001 – 2006)
Fully redesigned for its second generation, 2001 Honda CR-V (K20A DOHC i-VTEC 2.0L,158ps) was based on the seventh-generation Honda Civic, featuring a more spacious cabin and a slightly more aggressive body.
The cargo area expanded with the rear seats folded down, and the centre console featured more storage, after the automatic transmission shift lever and parking brake selector were moved to the instrument panel.
Access to the boot was improved by eliminating the need to open the rear glass hatch before opening the tailgate.
Bigger and heavier than the outgoing model, the new CR-V featured a more-powerful 2.0 ℓ four-cylinder engine, generating 158ps 156 hp. The implementation of i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift resulted in the new-generation CR-V being able to deliver more power, but at similar fuel economy.
A minor model refresh, in September 2004, the K24A DOGC i-VTEX 2.4L (160ps) included the implementation of a five-speed automatic transmission, in place of the previous four-speed. Safety options, originally only available on higher trim levels, became standard across the lineup, including traction control, electronic stability control, electronic brake force distribution, anti-lock brake system, side airbags, and side curtain airbags with rollover sensors. Aside from new safety equipment and visual improvements, Honda CR-V’s engine switched over to electronic throttle control, also known as drive-by-wire, and the AWD system was tweaked to engage earlier on poor road surfaces.
Honda CR-V improved its standard offerings, including power windows and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/Cass audio system. Other trim levels included side airbags, anti-lock brakes, 6-disc CD changer, a power moonroof, and alloy wheels. Interestingly, this was about the same time that demands from America, Europe, and Asia, started to have a major influence on even the Japan-only CR-V lineup, mostly because demand for SUVs was subsiding in Japan. Availability of the Honda CR-V, previously sold at both Honda Primo and Honda Verno stores, may also have had an influence on Japanese sales and popularity, when sales were switched exclusively to the Honda Verno stores.
Third Generation (2006 – 2011)
The third-generation Honda CR-V was completely redesigned, featuring a more rugged, yet aerodynamic, profile, as well as a lower and wider body, styled after the luxury SUVs from Europe.
One highly noticeable feature of the new generation CR-V was the switch to a rear liftgate instead of the swinging tailgate, made possible by moving the spare tire, on all models, to an under-floor boot compartment.
Aside from making kerbside loading more convenient, it also helped to reduce the length of the car and move the centre of gravity lower, thereby improving manoeuvrability and stability while driving.
Combined with a more rigid body and sound-deadening body structure, the new CR-V delivered a far more comfortable ride than previous generations.
Because the new generation was larger, Japanese customers expected more, and Honda CR-V was happy to deliver, including such premium items as chrome trim and painted bumpers and rocker panels. Inside, the new CR-V was further refined, a simple but quality feel, and even available luxurious leather upholstery and power-adjustable heated front seats. Standard features on the larger CR-V included dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and engine immobilizer. The folding table between the front seats on the automatic-transmission models was replaced by a larger centre console, eliminating the walk-through convenience of the previous two generations. The standard features list became so great that it overshadowed even some of Honda’s most luxurious sedans, including such items as standard automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers, automatic headlights, and keyless entry and ignition, to name a few.
Japan’s third-generation Honda CR-V was powered by the same 2.4 ℓ four-cylinder engine, carried over from the export models, which were introduced in 2004, generating 170ps (168) hp. The five-speed automatic transmission was carried over and updated, which was also introduced in 2004, and was found to shift much better and deliver better fuel economy than the available five-speed manual transmission, the latter eventually being dropped from the lineup. Front-wheel drive was standard, with Honda RealTime AWD available as an option across the lineup, being upgraded again, with bigger clutches and a one-way cam system, for even more responsiveness and better traction control.
Fourth Generation (2011 – present)
The redesigned fourth-generation Honda CR-V received a number of updates, particularly in ride quality, safety features, and modern styling.
Under the bonnet the JC08 model is an updated version of the existing 2.4 ℓ four-cylinder engine that’s been powering the CR-V for that last decade, even more powerful and more efficient, generating 190ps (187 hp). The standard five-speed automatic is just as efficient as ever, the standard FWD powertrain capable of delivering up to 13.2km/L (31 mpg), with those choosing the AWD option sacrificing a mere 1 mpg, up to 12.8km/L (30 mpg) highway. The introduction of the fourth-generation CR-V also marked the return of the smaller 2.0 ℓ four-cylinder engine, this time mated to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT), via torque converter, which delivers ultra-smooth acceleration and exceptional fuel economy, up to 14.5km/L (34 mpg), though only available in front-wheel drive.
There was a small update in October 2012, with the standardization of side airbags and side curtain airbags across the lineup. Higher trim levels, such as the Leather Package, include standard power-adjustable driver seat and heated front seats, as well as the Honda Internavi infotainment and satellite navigation system.
BE FORWARD Ratings
The BeForward Car Expert recommends Honda CR-V
Our car experts give Honda CR-V an average of 8.3 out of 10 overall, particularly the last two generations. While the first- and second-generation Honda CR-V were based on the similarly-sized Honda Civic platform, the third- and fourth-generation Honda CR-V have grown into their own platforms and offer a significantly better ride than previously. Similarly, the first- and second-generation Honda CR-V were somewhat underpowered, especially in comparison to other crossovers on the market, but that was also improved in later generations.
Style & Design - 9.0
Our car experts praise how much comfort and convenience the Honda CR-V offers, as it is easy to drive, features comfortable seating for four or five passengers, and modest cargo space. Controls are well-placed for ease of use and are fairly intuitive, though some users find fault with the lack of standard features in the first two generations, we well as some of the hard plastics used on the interior. Externally, the Honda CR-V sports a urbanely rugged look that is easy on the eyes.
Under the Hood - 7.5
While Honda CR-V, at least in her first two generations, had progressively improved in its power, later generations were available with superior powertrain options. The Honda CR-V does not disappoint with its car-like ride quality and handling, and fairly capable full-time all-wheel drive system. Similarly, Honda reliability is unmatched in the business. Of course, perhaps this is the perfect combination that growing families are looking for, decent versatility, just enough power to get the job done, but at an excellent price point, superb reliability history, and exceptional fuel economy.