In 2005 I wanted to replace my Chrysler Concorde with something more fun to drive. The twisty roads on my daily commute had made driving a chore. I also wanted something with a hatchback, as I’d run into a several instances when hauling stuff (like a used treadmill or antiques) where I had to enlist the assistance of friends who had more versatile vehicles.
By this time, I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to have to consider a foreign car. I was thinking of a Subaru Outback, but my wife vetoed that due to a reputation for transmission problems. I checked out the Hyundai Tucson and Santa Fe (figuring on low prices and a long warranty), but I was surprised that they were charging Honda and Toyota prices, and I passed.
In the end I narrowed it down to three candidates.
The Chrysler PT Cruiser: My Chryslers has been good to me, and the PT Cruiser checked a few boxes including plenty of space and retro styling. A test drive didn’t impress me, though. The engine felt weak and the Daimler cost-cutting was visible everywhere. Maybe it was suffering in comparison to the Concorde, but it felt cheap.
The Mazda3: The car magazines were raving about the handling of this car, and they weren’t wrong. I think it was the first car I ever test drove that put a big smile on my face. It was fun. Zoom zoom, indeed. However, it was a little small and the leather seats were a dealer-installed option (or so they said), which weirded me out a little.
The Honda CR-V: The second generation “cute-ute” was introduced in 2002, and the 2005 refresh introduced a number of improvements, not the least of which was the top-level SE trim that brought the interior appointments almost to the level of the Concorde, albeit somewhat more utilitarian-looking. With the seats down, the cargo area was positively cavernous. Most importantly, despite the relatively high center of gravity, it handled better than the Concorde. The drive-by-wire steering responses were sharp and body lean in the curves was surprisingly minimal. It was no Mazda3, but it was absolutely an improvement.
In the end I felt like the CR-V was the best place to put my money. The spaciousness, handling, and the Honda reputation for quality won me over. I picked the SE-exclusive Pewter Pearl color, which rather reminded me of my old Gunmetal Grey Bonneville (Also an SE. Coincidence!!!????).
About the only issue I had with the dealer was an attempt to charge me for VIN-number etching on the window glass. I had declined the service, but apparently they were etching all of the cars as they came on the lot. “Not my problem.” I said.
Besides the interior appointments the SE trim also included body-colored bumpers, mirrors, and a hard external spare tire cover. (It was a common sight to see the CR-Vs on the road with the Honda logo on the tires askew by several degrees, and mine was no exception. It would slowly move over time no matter how many times I straightened it). I always thought that the SE was how the Honda designers intended the CR-V to look. The black bumpers on lower trims looked awkward by comparison.
All 2005 CR-Vs came with the same 160-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. It accelerated well enough, as long as I didn’t have too much in the cargo area. I could definitely feel the difference when I had a few hundred pounds of wood pellets or kitty litter in the back. This was my first 4-cylinder car, and keeping my foot on the gas to keep the CR-V moving forward on the highway was something of an adjustment. My 6-cylinder cars had only needed occasional light pressure on the gas pedal to stay at speed. I was not a fan of cruise control, as I found keeping my foot hovering in position near the pedals in case of emergency was more tiring than just keeping my foot in place.
I’m by no means a mechanical wizard, but I figure that I can change a headlight bulb when needed. The CR-V regularly got the best of me, however, requiring tiny, contortionist hands to do the job. Once I dropped a bulb somewhere in the engine compartment. Luckily, the dealer was able to retrieve it and didn’t charge for the service.
The CR-V was the right car at the right time. While we owned the CR-V we went through a lot of life changes. We began to breed and show Maine Coon cats as a hobby and suddenly the CR-V became exceedingly useful when traveling across the Northeast and Eastern Canada to cat shows. It easily fit a couple of cat carriers in the back seat, and our luggage and show setup in the cargo area. I changed jobs and we moved north and bought a big old farmhouse in New Hampshire, so the all-wheel-drive came in handy more often. (Or maybe not. The New Hampshire plows seem to have a better knack for keeping the roads clear than those further south in New England). The CR-V was always there for hauling garbage, furniture, whatever we threw at it.
I sometimes considered getting a beater truck for moving bigger items, but we didn’t have room for one in our two-car tandem garage/barn. Besides, it would probably cost more to repair and insure an old truck than it would be to rent one when I needed it. In the end, the CR-V did everything, even if it took a few more trips.
If the inconveniently right-hinged door wasn’t a clue, my CR-V was built in Japan. Maybe I was lucky, but outside of a dead battery it never let me down. It literally required nothing beyond normal maintenance and replacement of wear-and-tear items for ten years and 240,000 miles. I thought of replacing it on occasion, but there was no logical reason to do so. The CR-V just kept going and despite the New Hampshire winters the body was rust free. You wouldn’t know it was a ten-year-old car except for the styling and the now anachronistic external spare.
I kept thinking the other shoe would drop and some expensive repair would force my hand, but it never happened. I was starting to get used to the idea that I could take it to 300,000 miles, or more. Instead, while the CR-V was in for service the dealer asked if they could look over the car and make me an offer on trading it in. I figured it couldn’t hurt, so I let them go ahead. The offer they made was ridiculously high.
Now, this dealer didn’t negotiate on price, so I knew they had some profit built into that calculation, but their prices (including used cars) were fairly competitive from what I could see. With that knowledge in hand, I kept my eye on their inventory for something that might fit our needs and budget. Their offer was good for a while, and I wasn’t in any rush.
My wife, now disabled with fibromyalgia, was finding it difficult to get in and out of the CR-V. Something lower to the ground like a wagon would be much easier on her. I went shopping for a new (to us) box on wheels.
That’s the best looking 2005 CR-V I’ve ever seen. It’s in remarkable condition considering it’s age. I’m curious to know if the Japanese built version is better than the later Canadian, Mexican and Indiana built versions.
I figured he meant Japanese design when referring to the rear door-do the North American built ones swing that rear door the other way? I know that Nissan flipped the asymmetrical Cube body when building the NA version, which I thought was a very thoughtful change considering the (2, one of each early generation) CR-Vs that I had much interaction with didn’t.
Our GX460 has this same rear door setup. It doesn’t bother me much, as we don’t parallel park often. But I’m always surprised when vehicles designed and made for the US market get a pass on the same side hinges, namely the Jeep Wrangler (and soon, Ford Bronco), yet a Toyota or Honda product get harped on.
I’ve noticed that as well, but having had a RAV4 and now a Wrangler find that it makes sense to be right-hinged when open and parallel parked as the crown of the road could otherwise potentially cause it to slam shut on the user unless there was a way to keep it latched open (which I think the original Isuzu Trooper’s had in their retaining strap?)
Yes, dad’s ‘86 II two door had a lock, but it wasn’t a strap from what I recall. It was something like a 70/30 split tailgate from left to right, and the left side had I think a latch that held the 70 left side hold.
I daily drive an Element, which has the same guts as the CR-V. It’s an extremely versatile vehicle, and I plan to keep it as long as I possibly can, which should be a long time, since it’s only got 155k and resides in rust-free CA. Hondas may be a little boring, but they are the most reliable vehicles, right alongside Toyota.
10 years and 240k miles is ideal. By then, most people are scared or bored of a car, so it says a lot that you traded it only with some prodding. Glad you got to enjoy your ride for a lengthy period of time. To date, the longest we’ve kept any car in the household is about 5 years, my wife’s ’08 Civic. But we’re happy with the two Hondas that should keep rolling for years to come.
I swear resale value of Elements is actually climbing. Try searching one down with the dog package. It’ll have a higher price than about anything else you’ll find, and it’ll have a ton of miles on it.
The ones with all the bells and whistles are hot commodities. I have that silly factory tent that attaches to the back of mine.
I’m sure I could turn around and sell it for what I paid three years ago right now, but no reason to do that; Honda doesn’t make anything nearly as cool today.
I wrote it up for Curbside Classics a couple of summers ago:
Maine Coon cats? Those are beautiful; you’ve got a great and adorable hobby there. I shudder to imagine the yowling on long road trips, though. Glad you had such good luck with the Honda.
It really varies. Some cry for a bit but most just sleep. Inevitably someone poops or pees or gets carsick. Both of our cars have kits of baggies, spare towels, garbage bags and the like so we’re prepared to pull over and clean up before things get too smelly.
I’m not much of a cat person, but I love Maine Coons. When I was growing up, friends of my parents had several of them, and I’ve loved Maine Coons ever since.
Back about 1,000 years ago (well, not quite, but before the CUV trend), I knew a group of people who bred and showed dogs, and I followed them around to dog shows quite a bit. Back then, the dog show folks mostly drove conversion vans, with some (smaller breeds) opting for full-size wagons, or minivans. I imagine that these days, dog show parking lots are full of CUVs and SUVs instead… probably more space-efficient and more affordable too.
One of my coworkers just got a 2003 CR-V with a manual for free (!) from a relative. I believe it has over 230,000 miles, and he’s really happy with it so far – it’s in nice shape for its age and mileage.
I’m a cat guy, too…you should show us some pictures! 🙂
Here is our boy, Buster. He is quite the love muffin.
In 1976 I decided that I wanted to get a cat for the first time in my adult life. I’d never heard of Maine Coons, and I didn’t really have a strong preference as to breed. I was working at the head office of a big company in San Francisco—1500 people in the building.
One day a 3×5 card went up on a bulletin board—someone was giving away 14-week-old kittens, a male and a female. I contacted the guy and said I’d prefer the male. I gathered it was a nice kitten, and I didn’t really ask questions beyond that.
We arranged for the guy and his wife to bring the kitten over on a Saturday. I was living in the Haight-Ashbury, so I named him Ashbury. I’d say he was to all intents and purposes a Maine Coon, even if he didn’t come with a pedigree. He lived to be 18, and I got very attached to him. Maine Coons are generally affectionate, contrary to the stereotype of the aloof cat.
Photo taken 1979.
I share the same affection for cats, although Pebbles is more of a ’76 Sedan de Ville cat than a CRV sized cat!
He’s beautiful. We’ve always had a cat, but never any special breed.
Here’s Milo, now 17, demanding attention.
Milo has more than a passing resemblance to Julius, my outdoor kitty. He’s a feral who was hanging around. It was cold, we fed him, and he adopted us. The upside is he poops elsewhere.
Inside kitty is one we got from the animal shelter years ago.
When we were shopping in the mid-summer of 2006 we looked hard at one of these. IIRC we had already put money down on a Fit Sport at a different dealer but were on a long waiting list that would not result in a car until November.
I knew that the new 07 model was about to drop so the dealer was being pretty reasonable with these CR-Vs. But this was the summer of $4/gal gas and we had chosen the Fit to be really good at one job (economical runabout) and passable at all the others. The CR-V was bigger but not really big enough to be a main car for our family of 5, and it was a fair amount beyond the cost of a Fit, especially to get one comparably equipped to the Fit we had ordered. We decided that it was not worth the extra cost to go to a car that would be passable at everything and not great for any one thing.
Fast forward almost 15 years – did we make the right decision? I’m not sure. A CR-V would be really great for our current needs.
I seriously considered a CRV in 2005, but went with a 2006 Mazda3 which became too small too quickly. Then a lightly used 2008 Outback, which became unreliable too quickly. I wish I had gone with the CRV, I’d probably still have it around.
It sounds like I made the right choice!
My 2005 CRV EX with 213,000 mi., in excellent shape and always garaged, WAS my favorite car! I bought it new in the Fall of 2004.
On Aug. 28th of this year I had the first accident of my life. I hit a 1600 lb black cow on a dark CO mountain rd on a dark black-topped road. I was going around sharp curves, traveling 40-45 mph-not speeding. I did not see the cow standing in the middle of the lane as it’s black body blended into the black topped road. Bad news for night drivers as CO has an “open range” law allowing ranchers to graze their cattle in our national forests for a very nominal fee.
The state patrol said they had never seen a car come through this “common occurrence” the way my CRV did. The left air bag deployed, engine was totally destroyed, vertically cracked windshield in about 7 places but still in tact but the rest of car was untouched..
The..last words from the officer, “”If you were one of my family members I’d advise you to buy another CRV.”
There is a new 2020 CRV EX parked in my garage. If I ever manage to get up to speed on all of the new technology and get used to the feeling I am driving a larger car I hope the 2020 will live up to the Honda legacy.
Its plus so far is all the new safety features. The gas mileage is even better, it has very comfortable seats, and more space for hauling.
My mom bought a new CR/V in 2010. It was her first Honda after a long string of Mopars, and the last car she bought. She was quite happy with it, and it was always well-maintained. When she passed away in 2017, my sister and her husband bought it from the estate and they continue to get great service from it. The body and paint are in great shape (we live in Ontario) and it’s been very reliable for them, with regular long trips hauling stuff back and forth from the cottage, including their big dog.
My older sister, who lives in Anchorage, always bought new cars every 3-5 years with manuals. She bought one of these, and is still driving it today, because Honda stopped offering them with manuals. I’ve suggested to her that automatics aren’t all that bad, especially modern ones, but she’s a bit stubborn. I wonder for how much longer she’ll have it. She keeps it well maintained and it has been a superb car.
I have a 2006 in the driveway with a manual. In 2010 we needed to upgrade a 2-door auto Jeep Cherokee to a 4-door baby hauler, and my wife specified “no minivans, manual transmission.” I set up a CarMax alert for a manual CR-V and when this one popped into my inbox with 40K on the clock, we hustled out there and grabbed it.
It’s an EX but apart from the exterior cladding and leather seats, it’s the most premium vehicle I’ve ever owned—the difference in base trim compared to my 2009 Accord EX is staggering (they decontented everything after the global recession, I guess).
It’s at 140K now, and the front control arms need some attention. The only major things I’ve had to do to it are replace the hood—the clear coat began flaking about 6 years ago and looked terrible, so I replaced it with once sourced from a junkyard—and polish the headlamps. Other than that it’s been a solid, reliable member of our family. If I could buy another manual in this model year, I would.
Off topic, but what about a trailer instead of a seldom used beater truck for the occasional times you need a cargo hauler? After many years of Chevy van ownership, I gave up on the concept. Trucks aren’t as nice to drive as cars and their kin. I’d rather direct the expense and trouble of the van towards putting another classic on the road, one that’s more enjoyable to drive.
A well designed trailer is a versatile joy to use and often can do things a regular pick up truck cannot do.
There’s about a zillion of these still on the roads around here as well, people seem to love them (all CR-V’s for that matter).
You didn’t mention the bonus feature camping table that all of these shipped with! Under the rear carpet, the cargo floor that you lift up to get to the spare tire actually does double duty as a table with fold down legs and a very rigid top. It looks and acts just like a small card table, perfect for tailgating or whatever. For some reason they were all dark green, no matter the color of interior or exterior of the CR-V. I found one in the junkyard a while back and now it’s set up in the garage (over)loaded with stuff….
This was my first 4-cylinder car, and keeping my foot on the gas to keep the CR-V moving forward on the highway was something of an adjustment. My 6-cylinder cars had only needed occasional light pressure on the gas pedal to stay at speed.
This is of course a common experience when folks transition from a larger six or eight cylinder engine to a four. Having owned and driven a lot of low-power fours (including two 40 hp VWs), I’ve just always been familiar or comfortable with using a heavier foot (maybe it’s because I wear a size 13). My xB is still like that, and even Stephanie’s TSX with the four, although it has 200 hp, still requires the spurs put to it to make it scoot. Also, the throttle programming/linkage makes some cars feel like they need more or less throttle.
I was not a fan of cruise control, as I found keeping my foot hovering in position near the pedals in case of emergency was more tiring than just keeping my foot in place.
Interesting. I am an inveterate or even compulsive CC user. Instantly, the minute I get on any highway or even road. I find the opposite to be the case: having to monitor my speed with my eyes and then constantly adjust my throttle position with my foot is tiring. And very inefficient.
I much prefer to “tell” the car what speed I want to go at, and have it maintain that, and not have to keep that feedback loop active all the time. Even on the curvy or mountainous 2 lane highways here. I just bump the speed up and down as necessary.
There’s no need to hover the foot. It’s all about muscle memory. If you place your right foot in a comfortable position, just practice moving it to the brake pedal a few times, and make a mental note of it. Then it takes no longer than moving it from the gas pedal to the brake pedal.
I can’t even imagine a longer trip anymore without CC. It’s punishing. I’d probably like Autopilot too. I wouldn’t mind the monitoring, because I like to stay engaged, but the physical act of moving the feet (or hands) seems a bit archaic to me.
I agree with frequent cruise control use. My province, Ontario has many flat, straight highways with unusually low speed limits and unforgiving police enforcement. It feels natural to drive faster than the posted limit, so a conscious effort must be made to manually hold one’s speed down to whatever we can get away with. It’s distracting and tiring.
Obviously cruise control allows one to focus on safe driving, and not ticket avoidance.
Haha – those headlight bulbs!
We’ve had our ’06 since new and my fingers are all scarred from bulb replacements.
I keep track of maintenance and I started logging what brand bulb I bought and which country it was made in to see if there was a pattern.
Haven’t lost a bulb in the past year or two.
My wife does not like the swing-out door with its heavy spare tire.
The upper door hinge snapped this summer… the replacement part was $130 and it’s a massive casting.
I could never find a good way to get lithium grease into the hinge.
When this car expires, I’m thinking of another CR-V to replace it.
One concern is that the new hybrid doesn’t have room for a spare tire.
It’s funny that it bothers me… the spare on our 14-year-old CR-V has never been used.
I’m not sure how safe a 14-year-old tire is anyway.
My most reliable car ever was built in the Honda factory in Swindon, England. (I’m in the U.S.)
The Swindon factory is soon to be closed. It is not worth Honda’s afford producing cars in the UK if they don’t have free access to the EU market.
The price of every imported car in the UK will increase 10% on January 1, 2021.
While Brexit enters into the equation, Honda has been importing cars to the US from Swindon on and and off for twenty years. Given they acquired the plant to supply the European market, it’s clear Honda’s tiny share of the common market is another major factor in the decision.
“The price of every imported car in the UK will increase 10% on January 1, 2021.”
Not exactly, the tariff would apply to the customs price of the car not the retail sales price. It’s generally figured that if the 10% tariff were completely passed on to the consumer then prices would rise around 6.3% of the final sales price as opposed to 10%.
Swindon only produces the Civic Hatchback currently. Anyone purchasing a CR-V, HR-V, or Jazz (Fit) in the UK for example is already paying the tariff since those are produced in Japan for UK consumption and since Japan is not a part of the EU, the tariff applies (but would have been eliminated due to the recent Japan-EU trade agreement). Same with the NSX which is US produced. The Honda E presumably is tariffed as well (and has been). That’s their entire lineup over there in the UK, it is nowhere near as large as over here and doesn’t include the Civic sedan and coupe or the Accord or any of the Odyssey platformed vehicles.
Some manufacturers are talking tough, saying they will pass on any tariff, but it only takes one to decide to look at their margins vs market share and decide to eat some or all of it and the others will likely follow suit. Never mind that whatever is still built in the UK won’t have any tariff attached to it internally but will have plenty of tariffed competition arriving from across the channel.
Overall it will likely end up being a much bigger deal to the affected workers at any factories that close down rather than on any actual consumer purchasing a vehicle. After all, if you need a car you need a car. If the price has increased on some you’ll either suck it up, pick a less equipped model, or look more closely at the competition, some of which may still be locally produced depending on the segment you’re shopping in.
CR-Vs of this generation are still a common sight here in Central Virginia, and it’s not unusual to see the earlier (1st) generation models. The easiest way for me to tell them apart is that the taillights on the first generation are solely in the D-pillars (do not extend below the beltline).
Agree about efficient plowing of snow in New Hampshire. We were up there a couple of Christmases ago; there was a big snow on Christmas Eve, but on Christmas morning, we had little trouble getting around in our Camry with all-season tires.
“The drive-by-wire steering responses”
I’m curious, what did you mean by this?
We have almost 275k on a 2002 CR-V, it was bought totaled after a single car accident, and I repaired it 5 1/2 years ago (was into it about $1300 at the time). We’ve since put 70k miles on it with what I consider to be normal issues for a car of the age/miles/rust belt. And its never left either of us stranded. CV joints, brakes, muffler replacement, AC Compressor replacement (common issue) and an EVAP cannister are what I can remember. The rear brakes seen to always need help due to rust issues.
But, its been a workhorse, and great at towing. We’ve been using it like a truck since we got it. I don’t know how much weight its pulled, bit pretty sure its been more then the 1,400lbs its rated for. It seems like we are constantly hooking up the trailer for various things.
We’re planning on replacing it in the next 6 months or so with something bigger, and as I know its on the downhill curve of its service life. Life if the rust belt takes a toll.
In 2002, I was looking to replace my 93 Honda Prelude. It had over 300K miles and rust was getting it in the rear quarters and as the result of a repair after an accident. I was going to be traveling around the country for work and needed something that had space and could also tow a small trailer. I was just between the model years where the new 2002 CR-V was not fully out and the 2001’s were mostly gone. The 02 also had a towing capacity of only 1,500 lbs. I saw the brand new Ford Escape and liked the size. It could tow 5,000 lbs and the interior was very nice. The front seats were big, while the CR-V seat seemed a bit small. I ended up buying the Escape. It was also just after 9/11 and Buy American was a big deal. ABSOLUTELY THE WORST AUTOMOTIVE BUYING DECISION I EVER MADE. It cost me $25K and it had racked up $19K in warranty repairs before it was even 3 years old. With the expiration of the warranty in sight, I crawled back the the Honda Dealer with my tail between my legs. I traded the Escape and they gave me what I owed on it. I ended up with no residual. But it was the best I could do. Every time I see one of these 02-07 CRV’s, I know I made the wrong decision. They were and still are great cars. You can’t beat the Honda reliability.