Classic CARmentary: 1999 Honda CR-V EX AWD

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

I think one can successfully argue that the ur CR-V and Toyota RAV4 spawned roughly 75% of all new vehicles currently being sold in the U.S.  Walk into any showroom, and most of what you’ll see are sport-utility bodies sitting on transverse-engined, front-wheel drive platforms.  Many of those platforms are also shared either currently or formerly with traditional cars.  That includes Jeep and Land Rover, too.

My wife and I drove the CR-V to Manhattan, and I have to say I did appreciate how it soaked up the potholes and road imperfections.  The small size also made it easy to dart in, out, and around traffic.  Driving a five-speed manual in Manhattan – not as much fun.

The following review was written on May 9, 1999.

Although the CR-V is a response to the current SUV rage, Honda DID try this concept once before, over a decade ago. The 1984 Civic wagon was a “tall” station wagon that had plenty of head and cargo room as well as virtually the same “real time” all-wheel drive system used on the CR-V. It didn’t look like Mom’s Country Squire, nor did it look like anything else on the road. Honda kept it around through two generations, but the public really wasn’t interested and you don’t see many around outside the Pacific Northwest. The CR-V, now in its third season, wraps a rugged-looking SUV shell with neat C-pillar tail lamps around the platform of the latest Civic, and the resulting vehicle has been a hit from day one.

Fortunately, this time around it doesn’t have to share an engine with the Civic. The CR-V has its own 146-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. While up 20 horsepower from last year, it still has a hard time pulling around the 3,100+ pound vehicle, and acceleration is leisurely even with the five-speed manual. The lighter two-wheel drive LX would definitely feel quicker, but it is only available with the four-speed automatic that is optional in the LX AWD and EX. Thanks to its Civic platform, ride and handling are far more tolerable than the truck-like Suzuki Grand Vitara and Kia Sportage. However, they can go places off-road the CR-V can’t. Even if you could, would you?

The interior is typical, no-nonsense Honda, with easy-to-read gauges and a high level of fit and finish. The only real complaint is the steering-wheel, which, even in its lowest position, sits at a bus-like angle and feels like it came right out of the Odyssey minivan. Front and rear seat room is impressive for a compact SUV, with an abundance of storage bins and cupholders. Open up the split tailgate, fold down the split-rear seat, and there’s over 67 square feet of cargo volume. Lift up the carpet, take out the plastic cargo panel, and use it as a small picnic table thanks to its folding legs.

Good looks, versatility, Honda reliability, and a relatively low price. The hardest part is thinking of a reason NOT to buy one.

For more information contact 1-800-33-HONDA ext. 737


Type: Five-Door Sport-Utility Vehicle
Engine: 146-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-4
Transmission: Five-speed Manual
EPA Mileage: 22 city/25 highway
Tested Price: $20,865