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2009 Honda CR-V

Base MSRP: $21,095 to $28,795
Reviewed
April 2009
by ConsumerSearch
2009 Honda CR-V

Pros
  • Interior and seating are first-rate
  • Ample, flexible cargo bay
  • Good ride and handling
  • Excellent build quality
  • Optional voice command system works well
  • Three-way split rear backrest
Cons
  • Underpowered four-cylinder engine
  • Funky exterior styling
  • No third-row seat available
  • Second row folds and tumbles instead of folding flat
  • Higher-than-average road noise
  • Audio system lacks dedicated iPod hookup
  • More powerful rivals get similar fuel economy

Since its introduction as a 2007 model, the current generation of the Honda CR-V compact sport-utility has been well regarded by critics and shoppers alike, the latter of whom have made it a best seller despite odd styling that Car and Driver editors say includes a nose that "looks like Jimmy Durante's hanging off the front of a golf cart." The 2009 Honda CR-V carries over completely unchanged from 2008, save only for a few new paint colors. Reviewers applaud the small Honda SUV's quality and versatility, but they also point out shortcomings that become magnified as the rest of the offerings in the small SUV category continue to improve.

Car and Driver, in a nine-vehicle compact SUV comparison test, summarizes the Honda CR-V's overall fit and finish as "amazing."  Interior materials are described as being "expensively grained and stylishly matched" and the passenger cabin itself is said to be "airy" and "inviting." Edmunds.com editors agree, saying, "The driving position is close to ideal, the controls are idiot-proof and the spacious rear seat both reclines and slides fore and aft." Reviewers universally agree that the Honda CR-V's 73 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats stowed is excellent.

A rigid cargo shelf adds convenience by allowing two-tier loading as well. Cars.com's Joe Wiesenfelder points out that compared to the rest of the pack, the CR-V now shows its age in some respects. While other class leaders such as the Subaru Forester (*est. 19,995 to $28,195) and Toyota RAV4 (*est. $21,500 to $27,810) feature rear seats that fold flat into the floor, the CR-V's back seats are of the fold-and-tumble variety and must be secured with tethers. Wiesenfelder calls this "regressive" in the face of less complicated procedures for other small SUVs. Both the Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander (*est. $20,580 to $25,980) offer optional third-row rear seats as well -- the Honda CR-V does not. Regarding the interior presentation, Cars.com says the CR-V's materials are of an inconsistent quality and have been surpassed by newer arrivals (the Saturn Vue and VW Tiguan are cited as examples). Both CNET and About.com have good things to say about the optional voice-command system for navigation/audio/climate-control interfaces. CNET calls it "fantastically easy to use."

Honda offers the CR-V with either front- or all-wheel drive. A single type of engine is standard in all trim levels: a 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The five-speed auto is still better than what you'll find in rival small SUVs. The Subaru Forester, despite a full redesign, is still saddled with a four-speed, as are the four-cylinder Toyota RAV4 models. Reviewers are critical of the CR-V engine's power, however. Cars.com's Wiesenfelder says the Honda "is no rocket," but he feels acceleration is adequate. Edmunds.com calls the engine "ponderous" and says the CR-V delivers "doglike performance" on the track. Editors point out that the Toyota RAV4's optional V-6 offers more than 100 additional horsepower with surprisingly close Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings. Inside Line, Edmunds.com's enthusiast website, minces no words when it says that the CR-V's acceleration may as well be measured "with a calendar." About.com's Thom Blackett calls the five-speed automatic "indecisive." It shifts too early going uphill and is reluctant to downshift. He notes that a manual or sport mode (such as those offered on the Nissan Rogue or the Mitsubishi Outlander) would be helpful in this respect. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)

Fuel economy is comparable to other top compact SUVs. The Honda CR-V is rated at 20 mpg city, and either 26 mpg (all-wheel drive) or 27 mpg (two-wheel drive) on the highway. Expect 22 to 23 mpg in combined use, according to EPA estimates. As we noted earlier, however, some reviewers are quick to point out that the competing Toyota RAV4's optional V-6 engine delivers a whopping 269 horsepower with similar mileage estimates (19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined).

The CR-V has won many awards for its value and design over the years, and for 2009, it gets both a Best Resale designation at Kiplinger's magazine and a Best Buy designation at ConsumerGuide.com. The CR-V is also well-regarded by government and independent safety organizations. A full suite of airbags, traction control, and stability control ensure excellent performance in crash tests, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety names the 2009 Honda CR-V a Top Safety Pick. We found quality reviews and comparison tests of the Honda CR-V at Car and Driver, Truck Trend, Edmunds Inside Line, Edmunds.com, Cars.com, ConsumerReports.org and other online sources.

Where To Buy

Our Sources

1. Cars.com

With so many new and/or extensively redesigned models arriving in the compact SUV segment, Cars.com's Joe Wiesenfelder revisited the Honda CR-V to see how it stacks up. As the CR-V has aged, some of its features, like fold-and-tumble rear seats, seem to lag behind simpler solutions offered by newer competitors.

Review: 2009 Honda CR-V, Joe Wiesenfelder, Dec. 30, 2008

2. Edmunds.com

Edmunds.com praises the CR-V's interior, which is versatile and has ample cargo space. Editors like the way the CR-V rides and handles, but are not impressed with the engine, which has performance described as "doglike." The CR-V is also noisier than competitors but is well-built and gets good fuel economy, editors say.

Review: 2009 Honda CR-V Review, Editors of Edmunds.com

3. Edmunds Inside Line

Inside Line's Jason Kavanagh compares the Honda CR-V to the new VW Tiguan and another traditional rival, the Toyota RAV4. The CR-V ties the Tiguan for second place, as neither can match the all-around versatility offered by Toyota's compact SUV.

Review: 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan vs. 2008 Honda CR-V vs. 2008 Toyota RAV4, Jason Kavanagh, Sept. 14, 2008

4. About.com

Thom Blackett test drives the 2009 Honda CR-V, and says that "if what you seek is a well-rounded crossover, one considered a great value, the CR-V just might fit the bill." Still, he points out some shortcomings like an "indecisive" transmission and low tow capacity. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)

Review: 2009 Honda CR-V, Thom Blackett

5. Car and Driver

Car and Driver tests nine compact SUVs on gravel and dirt roads. The Honda CR-V comes in second, earning praise for its "airy and vast" interior, comfortable seats and predictable handling.

Review: 2008 Toyota RAV4 vs. Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and Five More Compact SUVs, John Phillips, Feb. 2008

6. Truck Trend

Truck Trend editors compare five small SUVs outfitted for maximum fuel economy. The Honda CR-V places third, with reviewers lauding its handsome interior and excellent build quality.

Review: Crossover Comparison: 2008 Honda CR-V vs. 2008 Nissan Rogue vs. 2008 Saturn VUE vs. 2009 Subaru Forester vs. 2008 Toyota RAV4, Kim Reynolds

7. ConsumerGuide.com

Editors at ConsumerGuide.com describe the CR-V as "just right," awarding it a Best Buy title for 2009. They praise the CR-V's interior room, well-controlled suspension and car-like maneuverability. Engine power is described as merely adequate, though, and it's noisy on acceleration.

Review: 2009 Honda CR-V, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com

8. CNET

CNET editors focus on the technology aspects of cars. Reviewer Antuan Goodwin tests a 2009 Honda CR-V with the optional voice-control system. He found that it worked well, but was disappointed with the lack of Bluetooth connectivity and complained that the auxiliary input for the audio system was hidden in the center console.

Review: 2009 Honda CR-V EX-L 4WD, Antuan Goodwin and Wayne Cunningham, Oct. 15, 2008

9. Kiplinger.com

Kiplinger's annual auto issue factors in issues such as service costs, fuel efficiency, resale value and insurance costs. Among compact SUVs, the 2009 Honda CR-V earns the award for Best Resale Value. Editors Mark Solheim and Jessica L. Anderson note that the CR-V's road manners are smooth and carlike.

Review: Best Cars for 2009, Mark Solheim and Jessica L. Anderson, March 2009

10. New Car Test Drive

NewCarTestDrive.com reviewer Tom Lankard says the CR-V is probably the best compact SUV. Although Lankard likes the CR-V's fuel economy, he points out that the all-wheel-drive Honda CR-Vs with a four-cylinder engine got the same mileage as the competing all-wheel-drive Toyota RAV4 with its powerful optional V-6. While this review is of the '08 model, it carries over unchanged for 2009.

Review: 2008 Honda CR-V, Tom Lankard

11. ConsumerReports.org

ConsumerReports.org evaluates almost every car on the market, including the Honda CR-V. These reviews also include predicted reliability ratings, based on past-model-year reader-survey data. ConsumerReports.org reviews normally rate higher, but editors last reviewed the CR-V in 2007, and thus their analysis is a bit dated. Note that mechanically, the Honda CR-V is fundamentally unchanged from the 2007 model.

Review: Honda CR-V, Editors of ConsumerReports.org

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