In a rather serendipitous turn of events I had the good fortune of testing a slew of similarly sized and priced SUVs before I spent my week with a 2010 Honda CR-V AWD in top of the line EX-L trim. I spent time with a VW Tiguan, 2011 Kia Sorento, Jeep Liberty, Nissan Rogue and the Mitsubishi Outlander at various times during this past year.
As such this review will not only be a test of the 2010 Honda CR-V as a unique automotive entity but it will also force this hugely successful compact SUV to compete with some of its toughest rivals. The current shape CR-V is one of the oldest designs in its segment so it is easy to wonder whether it still has the stuff to remain competitive.
Unfortunately I still have to wait a couple of weeks to test the new Hyundai Tucson and the Mazda CX-7 so I can’t compare the CR-V to those fresh faced youngsters quite yet. I am also still waiting to schedule a Chevy Equinox and Toyota RAV-4 but I hope to have my compact SUV/crossover buyer’s guide ready for you by the end of the year. Yes, just in time to have to do it all again with the 2011 models.
In case you are wondering, the 2011 Honda CR-V will be mostly carryover from 2010 so the results of this review will still apply if you plan on waiting until the new year to buy an SUV. 2010 saw a host of fresh revisions to the CR-V which included a substantial power increase, the addition of Bluetooth and USB/iPod connectivity to EX-L models and a host of small styling changes.
Still, with the compact SUV marketplace so overrun with new models it would be very easy to count out the 2010 Honda CR-V as a has-been in the genre. So in the spirit of discovery let me give you an in-depth look at the current face of an SUV that helped create a whole new genre of family vehicles.
I have to be honest here, when the current shape Honda CR-V was launched a few years back I was not a fan of the way it looked. But as is usually the case with my first impressions about styling, the looks of the CR-V grew on me. Over time I really started to look at the softer, more organic lines of the CR-V as a soothing antidote the overbearing machismo inherent to so many SUV designs.
Overall, however, I do feel like the 2010 CR-V looks far better in EX-L trim what with its body color door handles and side mirrors. This one small change really makes the CR-V look like a much more expensive SUV and I think they should be standard.
But, some people like the “workaday” look of lesser CR-V models so I suppose that is a matter of personal preference. One other aspect of the 2010 CR-V EX-L that really helps accentuate the exterior design motif is the use of stylish, multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels. The 17-inch steel wheels used on LX are functional but define the term “industrial chic.”
Interior Design, Space and Utility
Although the interior of the 2010 Honda CR-V is a much older design than pretty much all of the competition it still shines head and shoulders above the rest. As you would expect my EX-L tester came equipped with sumptuous leather trim and the plastics used around the interior appear purpose built to withstand the after-effects of nuclear winter. Or even worse, it appears capable of withstanding the after effects of three rowdy kids riding in the back seat.
The 2010 Honda CR-V’s dashboard is a vision of understated simplicity with oversized controls for the dual zone climate control, easy to read gauges and a much improved navigation/audio/USB/back-up camera interface screen. The front captain’s chairs have perfectly placed armrests and proved very comfortable on long drives. The rear seat also has plenty of legroom while the backrests recline so back seat passengers can take a nap.
Honda’s approach to the rear cargo area differs a bit from the competition but in doing so they (perhaps unwittingly) made the CR-V much more useful. The rear bench doesn’t fold completely flat but you can tip the whole bench forward flush behind the front seats. This layout proved to be a perfect way to make an impromptu barrier so canines riding in the cargo area wouldn’t try to jump into my lap. Don’t worry Honda, I got the CR-V’s interior cleaned and might I say it looked just like new afterwards.
The rear seats do, of course, come out entirely and this leaves a vast 72.9 cubic foot cargo hold. With the back seats in place there is 35.7 cubic feet and the CR-V also comes with a very sturdy (yet easy to remove) cargo cover. Most SUV cargo covers in this price range are flimsy, cheap feeling and break easily. As you would expect that is not the case in the CR-V.
My EX-L tester also came equipped with both a 6-disc CD changer (how very 1990’s) located in the center console and a very cleverly located USB/iPod port in the upper glove box. iPod information is then very easy to access via the center screen which brings me to my next point.
Honda unfortunately doesn’t offer this USB port on any model lower than the CR-V EX-L instead opting for the far less user friendly Aux-input jack setup for MP3 players. My personal belief is that Aux-input jacks are not safe as they require you look down at your MP3 player to select a song, album or playlist. That is just as dangerous as texting while driving and I hope Honda soon makes USB ports standard across their model range.
Do understand that most automakers, even BMW and Mercedes, do not offer USB ports as standard so this is not just directed at Honda. It is heartening to know, however, that Honda is making USB ports standard on certain 2011 Civic and Accord models as well as the all new 2011 CR-Z and Odyssey. USB ports are already standard with the 2010 Fit Sport, Honda Element EX (with navigation), Insight EX, Pilot EX-L (with navigation), Crosstour EX-L and even the space age FCX Clarity hydrogen powered vehicle.
Pricing, Features and Fuel Economy
Base 2010 Honda CR-V LX models with front wheel drive start at just $21,695 going all the way up to my top of the line EX-L model which also had navigation and a back-up camera. When equipped with all-wheel drive the 2010 Honda CR-V EX-L still stickers at a highly reasonable $29,745. Considering that price gives you every possible goodie you could ever want, it is easy to see how the 2010 CR-V still makes for a sound buy even in its most luxurious form.
My EX-L test model came with dual zone climate control, leather seats, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, Bluetooth, navigation, a back-up camera, heated front seats, a 10-way power driver’s seat, XM satellite radio, a 7-speaker AM/FM/6-disc CD audio system with a subwoofer, the aforementioned USB/iPod integration, cruise control, a power moonroof, floormats and even a sunglass holder that doubles as a tiny “conversation mirror” so you can keep an eye on back seat passengers. That’s indispensible if you have kids.
The 2010 Honda CR-V is also very fuel efficient, as you would expect. EPA economy ratings are 21 city/27 highway and I averaged an excellent 24 miles per gallon during testing. The CR-V has a decent sized 15.3 gallon fuel tank and runs on regular unleaded.
While you might think the standard 2.4 liter 180 horsepower/161 lb. feet of torque four cylinder would struggle a bit motivating the 2010 Honda CR-V you would be forgetting one thing. Honda makes the best four cylinders in the industry and this unit is no exception. It offers up plenty of passing power thanks to an automatic that holds revs when you need it to and otherwise works imperceptibly. Also, the engine makes a terrific noise during aggressive driving maneuvers.
Don’t think, however, that this makes the Honda CR-V anything less than a well mannered vehicle at cruising speeds. Wind, road and engine noise are well muted so the 2010 Honda CR-V really marks itself out as a terrific road trip SUV.
But what really sets this SUV apart from the pack is the way it steers, rides and handles. The steering, for one, is hands down the sportiest and most direct unit I have ever tested in any SUV. The ride absorbs even the worst bumps and body roll is surprisingly minimal considering the CR-V’s upright stance. Overall it adds up to an SUV that actually becomes more fun the harder you drive it.
And that, dear readers, is what makes this the best SUV I have ever driven.
2011 Kia Sorento EX-V6
Pros: Third row of seats, very powerful V6 engine, classy interior design, my 2nd favorite SUV
Cons: Not as much fun to drive as CR-V, weak 4-cylinder engine, pricier than CR-V
Pros: Great off-road
Cons: Not great to drive anywhere else, slow, twitchy handling, interior quality lags
Mitsubishi Outlander V6
Pros: Terrific steering feel, great V6 engine noise
Cons: Expensive, third row seat is a joke, interior trim not as nice as CR-V
Pros: It’s cheap, looks like a mini-Murano
Cons: It feels cheap, CVT automatic makes droning noise and blunts acceleration, poor rear visibility.
Pros: Solidly built and luxurious interior, 2.0 liter turbo from VW GTI, nicely weighted steering
Cons: 6-speed automatic blunts acceleration, small cargo area, awkwardly tall passenger compartment
How Kid and Dog Friendly Is It?
As the interior of the 2010 Honda CR-V is sturdily built, spacious and roomy there is no doubt it makes for a great family car. An added bonus is the fact that the rear cargo area has a very low liftover height so loading in baby strollers or 80 lb. bags of kibble is no sweat.
From the canine perspective the 2010 Honda CR-V really can’t be beat. As I firmly believe that all dogs should be wearing safety harnesses whenever they ride in a vehicle, it was refreshing to see the CR-V offered up so many clever ways to buckle in my dog. (If you want to learn more about this issue check out the website BeSmartRideSafe.com.)
I figured out that my dog Daisy Mae could either ride in the back seat buckled into one of the receptors or that she could ride in the cargo area with her harness attached to one of the metal D-buckles attached to the floor. These metal buckles are usually used for attaching child seats. Also, the CR-V’s low ride height made it very easy for 8-year old Daisy Mae to get in and out. To my eyes this makes the 2010 Honda CR-V the dog friendliest vehicle I have ever tested.
If you are in the market for a five passenger family vehicle the 2010 Honda CR-V is truly an excellent choice. Rarely do I test vehicles that are this excellent in so many different ways. It is well built, fuel efficient, affordable, brilliantly packaged, perfect for families, comfortable and surprisingly fun to drive. Come on, what more do you want?
Vehicle Tested: 2010 Honda CR-V 4WD EX-L
Price as Tested: $29,745
Options on Tester: In-Dash Navigation with Back-Up Camera
Engine: 2.4 liter VTEC 4-cylinder
Power: 180 horsepower/161 lb. feet of torque
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
0-60: 9.1 seconds (Truck Trend)
Fuel Economy Rating: 21 city/27 highway
Economy as Tested: 24 miles per gallon
Fuel Tank Size: 15.3 gallons
Runs on: Regular Unleaded
Cargo Volume (Behind Second Row): 35.7 cubic feet
(With Rear Bench Removed): 72.9 cubic feet
Maintenance Cost over 5 Years: $3,106 (estimate by Edmunds.com)
Crash Test Ratings (IIHS): Front Impact-(Good)
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 mile bumper to bumper
5 years/60,000 mile powertrain
Vehicle Assembled in: East Liberty, Ohio
North American Parts Content: 65%