- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

The second generation of the Honda CR-V sport utility vehicle has taken a big step forward. The 2002 model rides more like a car than a truck.

Don't misunderstand: I'm not saying the old model drove like a truck, for the previous model was also built on a car platform. The new model, however, handles very much like a car due to a restructuring of the platform. The 2002 CR-V now has a lower center of gravity plus a wider tread, resulting in better stability. These are two features other SUVs lack because they sit higher and most are built on a truck platform.

In making the improvements, the Honda engineers have included a Toe-Control Link MacPherson strut, which they say is far superior to the traditional MacPherson-strut setup. They also improved the rear suspension and added gas-filled shocks. All this contributes to a smoother, more comfortable ride, which is definitely superior to the previous CR-V. And that already had a better ride than other SUVs.

The 2002 model also has an improved anti-lock braking system that operates even when the four-wheel-drive system is engaged. But the main mechanical improvement is the engine. This i-VTEC engine continuously adjusts the camshaft to provide better horsepower and torque under all types of driving conditions, while improving the fuel economy and low exhaust emissions.

Although it is not a dynamite high-horsepower engine, because the torque range is broad, I never felt like it was lacking for power. The towing capacity has increased 500 pounds to 1,500 pounds.

The interior is a bit bigger and more attractive. Although the exterior dimensions are not large, the interior is larger than other SUVs in its class such as the RAV4, Escape and Santa Fe. The front seats are large compared to the others. Even the 60/40 rear seats are comfortable, and they readily fold to produce maximum stowage.

The rear door is hinged on the passenger side, which allows the driver to gain access to the stowage area without having to walk around an open door. This is just one of many thoughtful treatments on the 2002 model.

The new CR-V now has a moon roof. There is walk-through capability between the two front seats and better legroom for rear-seat passengers. The rear seat now has a map light, plus additional lighting in the cargo area. There are numerous cup holders that not only accommodate large drinks but coffee mugs, as well. And this model is loaded with storage bins: 21 in various sizes.

When I sat behind the wheel, I noticed the new design of the instrument panel. It now has large gauges that are easy to read. The odometer, with larger numbers, has been relocated to an area on the instrument panel where it can be readily seen. The odometer on the 2001 model was "hidden" behind the speedometer indicator and couldn't be seen when driving at highway speed.

The thick, easy-to-grip steering wheel has a nice feel to it, and, when I got under way, what was distinctly noticeable was the quiet interior and the ease in handling, which is better than some cars because visibility is excellent and parking was a piece of cake.

The CR-V comes in two models, LX and EX. The LX base price is not yet firm but estimated to be $19,350, and the EX $20,950. The LX comes with a respectable AM/FM radio, cassette and CD player. The EX has a six-disc CD player along with six speakers.

If you're trying to decide between a car or an SUV, this CR-V should make the decision easy to make.

MOTOR MATTERS


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