By Tom Lankard of New Car Test Drive
The Honda CR-V is among the best of the compact SUVs and it’s hugely popular. For 2010, Honda CR-V boasts significant changes. The 2010 Honda CR-V has been re-styled, with a look that’s smoother and more confident. Inside are new fabrics, new controls, and more standard conveniences. Some of the changes are less obvious: The 2010 CR-V four-cylinder engine is 8 percent more powerful and 4 percent more fuel-efficient than previously. The CR-V two-wheel-drive models rate 21/28 mpg in the federal government’s EPA City/Highway cycles, with all-wheel-drive versions giving up just 1 mpg on the highway.
We’ve found the CR-V offers a smooth ride and responsive handling. The four-cylinder engine employs variable intake valve timing to optimize horsepower and torque for acceleration and cruising speeds, and it’s paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
The CR-V features one of the nicest cargo compartments in this class. The back seats fold perfectly flat and without the holes that can be hazardous to dogs. Built on a unit-body structure, the CR-V is considered a crossover. All have four doors and seat five.
The CR-V’s four-cylinder engine delivers competitive power, especially now that it’s been fortified with higher compression, larger intake valves, lower-friction piston rings, and fuel injectors that deliver a finer spray. These and other refinements have boosted peak horsepower from last year’s 166 at 5800 rpm to 180 at 6800. Peak torque remains virtually unchanged: the same 161 pounds-feet at a marginally higher 4400 rpm. But fuel economy is actually improved, if only slightly.
Sure, more power is available from V6 engines in other compact SUVs, such as that in the rocket-like Toyota RAV4, as well as from the turbocharged Mazda CX-7, but Honda CR-V performance is more than adequate. The V6s pay a price in fuel economy, but not as much as you might think: Against the 2WD CR-V’s EPA-estimated 21/28 mpg, the V6-powered 2WD RAV4 manages 19/27.
Honda’s five-speed automatic transmission is a good match for the CR-V four-cylinder engine. It’s not best in class but well above average in smoothness of shifts, in controlling hunting for the right gear when climbing grades, and in holding a lower gear when helpful on downgrades.
Honda’s Real Time 4WD is a car-style all-wheel-drive system, not a true off-highway truck-type four-wheel drive, as it incorporates no lockable transfer case or ultra-low, off-road gearing. We found it works seamlessly, invisibly allocating power to the tires slipping the least, although always favoring the front wheels by default. The optional Real Time 4WD is a great asset for driving in foul weather, snow and ice.
The Honda CR-V is probably the best vehicle in this class. Its interior is packaged the best, with seats that fold down to provide a completely flat cargo area. Small refinements for 2010 make the interior a bit more user-friendly, and styling revisions freshen its looks.