If sport utilities were driven the way they were originally intended, you'd have a hard time convincing yourself that the 2001 Honda CR-V is the vehicle of choice. However, since most of the SUVs purchased these days spend all of their time on the road, the CR-V offers a great combination of a car-like ride and interior with truck-like visibility and ground clearance.
Built on the Civic platform, the CR-V successfully integrates familiar Honda components into a visually pleasing design. The 2.0-liter, DOHC inline four-cylinder engine makes 146 horsepower and 133 foot-pounds of torque. Honda's familiar four-speed automatic transmission -- with an overdrive on/off switch -- or a precise five-speed manual gearbox put that power to the wheels and a four-wheel, double-wishbone suspension gives this vehicle its nice ride.
The CR-V's Real Time four-wheel-drive system only applies power to the rear wheels when there is a loss of traction at the front. All 4WD models come with a five-speed manual transmission, while the four-speed automatic is optional. A front-wheel-drive model is offered, but it comes only with the automatic transmission. The result of using all of these car components is not surprising: The CR-V looks and feels like a car.
The CR-V's interior is instantly recognizable to anyone who has spent time in Honda's passenger cars. Functionality takes precedence over style in the CR-V's cabin, and the result is easy-to-read gauges, well-placed controls (except for dash-mounted electric window switches), and high quality, if somewhat uninspired, interior materials. Cargo capacity is an impressive 67.2 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded. The CR-V offers comfortable chairs for its occupants, each of which provides excellent visibility and the ability to recline when the trip grows long. The front passenger benefits from a left-side armrest and rear passengers will enjoy the door-mounted cupholders.
Available in either LX, EX or SE trim levels, the CR-V is surprisingly well equipped even in base LX form. Air conditioning with a filtration system is standard, as are power windows, power door locks, rear window wiper and defogger, AM/FM stereo with cassette, cruise control and a folding picnic table that doubles as a cargo area cover. Antilock brakes are available only on the EX and SE models, which also come with a CD player, remote entry system and alloy wheels. Checking the SE package adds a leather-trimmed interior, privacy glass, CD player, chrome grille accent and body-colored bumpers, side moldings and hard spare tire cover.
The CR-V is not meant to compete against hard-core recreational vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner. Instead, it is meant for the person who wants the look and feel of a sport utility without having to pay an exorbitant sticker price and huge gas bills. The CR-V will get people to work and back in all but the worst weather, and to their favorite picnic area, assuming it's not on the Rubicon Trail.