Saturday, May 30, 2009

Best Frugal Cars: Honda CRV

see also: Toyota Rav4 – My favorite “Performance” Frugal SUV
Honda CRV : My Second Favorite Frugal SUV

The Honda CRV is another great choice for a frugal SUV. Many car reviews place the CRV and Rav4 neck-to-neck as I've done here. While I personally chose the Rav4 I think the CRV is still a great car and a excellent choice depending on your needs. In terms of handling and ride, it is more comparable to the Rav4 Base or Limited models with less aggressive yet excellent "car-like" handling and a cushy smooth ride. Its 4-cylinder 2.4-liter engine has 5-speeds versus the 4-speed in the 4cyl Rav4 engine which is nice. However, the CRV's 166-hp engine has less horsepower and torque than the Rav4's 179-hp engine and we could feel the difference in our test drives. The CRV just didn't seem to have the same power and pick up as the Rav4 and we could feel a more substantial drag in the CRV even when going up small hills. In terms of mileage the Rav4 actually gets better mileage 22 city/28 highway for the 4cyl 2WD compared with the CRV's 20 city/27 highway for the 4cyl 2WD .

In terms of looks, the CRV has a curvy and streamlined appearance. All in all, I really like the CRV's exterior which I think looks like a less expensive version of many Lexus SUV's. I especially like the back end which opens upward and doesn't have the spare tire like the Rav4. The only thing that I really don't like is the thick black underside of the bumper which comes up in the front and back. I think this looks cheap and clashes with the rest of the streamlined look of the CRV.

The interior of the CRV was beautiful for the most part but had some major drawbacks for us in comparison to the Rav4. The dash was nice and I loved the steering wheel which I found very comfortable to hold. The front seats where also very supportive and comfy. Another plus was the cargo space which has a slide out shelf which splits the cargo area into two spaces for more organized storage.

There were several drawbacks to the CRV interior for our needs. The most major drawback for us was the lack of a sufficient arm rest for the front seats. This was a big issue for my hubby who drives with one hand and rests his right arm on the center armrest. The Rav4 has a permanent center console with storage and a comfortable armrest. In comparison, the CRV has a fold-up console with drink holders and a very small fold-down armrest which is not comfortable for long journeys. If you don't use the center armrest when driving, this may not be a big deal for you and the positive point to this design is that you can fold up the center console for pass through (say if you have a long item in back or want to reach the front seats from the back.) A second negative we found were the back seats which we felt were overly firm and bench like in the non-leather models. Lastly, it may seem like a small complaint but I hated the interior door handles. I liked most of the CRV's interior and though it looked classy but thought the door handles looked too modern - like something out of Star Trek - and were made of cheap looking plastic. Check them out in the picture - they look even worse in person and I feel clash with the rest of the interior.

That said, many of the drawbacks we found to the CRV were based on matters of personal opinion and our needs. The CRV is an excellent SUV for many people especially if you want a smoother ride, good handling, and more streamlined appearance. With a starting price of only $21,500 it is an excellent frugal car choice.

Photo Credits: Honda website

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