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2006 Honda CR-V Test Drive and Review

Introduction to the 2006 Honda CR-V

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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2006 Honda CR-V

2006 Honda CR-V

© Honda Motors
This is the last year for the current model of this extremely popular compact SUV. Although an all-new CR-V will be introduced in 2007, the '06 still holds up surprisingly well against what is becoming stiff competition in this segment. Handling is distinctly car-like, which is not surprising since the CR-V is built on the last Civic platform. Fuel economy from the inline 4-cylinder i-VTEC aluminum engine is very acceptable. Base price 2WD LX is $20,395. Basic warranty is 3/36,000.

First Glance at the Honda CR-V

The CR-V's boxy lines are beginning to look a little dated alongside some of its younger competitors. The other day when I parked it alongside Mazda's sleek new 2007 CX-7 Crossover, the CR-V looked positively ancient. Which is, I guess, nothing to be ashamed of since the current model is now six years old. But if you're one of those folks who's simply not comfortable in anything but the latest thing, best wait for the '07. I haven't seen it yet – nobody has because Honda is famously secretive about its new models – but I suspect it'll be another winner.

The first CR-V appeared in 1995. The second version appeared in 2001. In 2004, its front and rear facades were freshened. Since then, it has remained virtually unchanged except for a nip here and a tuck there. As usual, Honda got this one right the first time.

In Canada, the CR-V has been the best selling SUV of any size for several years running. With good reason too. It's big enough on the inside for four football linemen, yet small enough to navigate crowded city streets and maneuver into tight parking spots. And even though it's getting a bit long in the tooth, it's still a heck of vehicle, one that won’t give you even a moment's grief.

In the CR-V Driver's Seat

2006 Honda CR-V

2006 Honda CR-V

© Honda Motors
As in virtually any Honda since the company started building cars in the early '60s, ergonomics in the CR-V are nearly flawless. Simply reach out and whatever control you are looking for seems to fall to hand. Relocating the handbrake to the dash, which occurred in 2004, was exceptionally well thought out. It's easy to engage there yet it is still out of the way.

The CR-V holds five adults with lots of room behind the rear seats for cargo. If more cargo room is needed, both rear seats easily fold up and tuck out of the way tight against the front seats. If you have to carry two passengers and a lot of cargo, one of the 60/40 split rear seats can be folded up for the cargo and the extra passenger can sit normally on the remaining rear seat.

I tested the 4WD EX model with the 5-speed manual transmission. My CR-V had very comfortable cloth covered seats with full adjustment including height. Seat controls were manually operated on my tester, but the driver’s seat had power assist for the fore and aft movement. Everything is easy to operate.

All models of the CR-V come with 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Traction control and electronic stability control are also standard.

On the Road in the Honda CR-V

The 3,750 lb CR-V is available in either a 2WD or RealTime 4WD configuration. In either guise, it's a treat to drive both in the city and on the open highway. It's quiet and economical in the city and, its compact body makes it easy to park in tight spaces. Actually, it would be even easier if Honda didn’t insist on tacking the spare tire onto the rear door where it seems to be just the right height to do minor but nonetheless seriously expensive damage to any Mercedes Megabuck that happens to be parked behind it.

At highway speeds, the CR-V is quiet and smooth riding. The rack and pinion steering tracks true so the CR-V is not put off by small road imperfections. In other words, it's not dancing around on the ruts cut into the asphalt by overweight trucks and you're not making constant steering corrections.

The CR-V also comes with either a 5-speed auto or a 5-speed manual. My test car was equipped with a 5-speed manual and a light, very smooth clutch. Even though most of my driving can best be characterized as stop-and-go city type, I didn't mind shifting the gears myself. And, regardless of what the EPA says, in my experience a manual tranny always gets better fuel economy than an automatic. Sometimes dramatically better.

Journey's End

2006 Honda CR-V

2006 Honda CR-V

© Honda Motors
The CR-V is an exceptional family-style vehicle - a tall, roomy, convenient wagon with a very tight turning circle and a 4WD system that could be useful in some situations. However, don’t even think about taking this thing off road. The RealTime 4WD system starts off in two-wheel (front) drive mode but switches to 4WD as soon as slip is detected. Unfortunately, by the time slip is detected it's too late and you're stuck. At least you are if the snow (or sand) is more than a few inches deep.

To preclude burrowing, the system ought to start off in 4WD and then switch to 2WD if no slip is detected. Which is exactly the opposite of what actually happens with the RealTime 4WD system.

On the other hand, this system will most certainly handle a few inches of snow on your local mall's parking lot – at least it will if you keep good tread on your tires. Hey, if you want real 4WD off-road capability you can't have the good ride and easy handling of a CR-V. At least you can't yet. But let's wait and see what happens when the all-new '07 CR-V comes out.

Disclosure: A review vehicle was provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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