2013 Honda CR-V LX AWD Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Following its fourth-generation redesign for the 2012 model year, the Honda CR-V carries over into 2013 almost entirely unchanged save for a slightly different shade of paint for white CR-Vs (Aspen White Pearl instead of Taffeta White) and a different interior colour (grey instead of beige) for CR-Vs painted Twilight Blue Metallic.

Which is okay with me, because the last CR-V I drove was a third-generation 2011 model, so my AWD-equipped 2013 CR-V LX test car was all-new to me. The lack of changes for 2013 should also prove perfectly okay with consumers, because unlike the Civic - which was also redesigned for 2012 and immediately updated for 2013 due to criticism of its lacklustre interior and too-tame styling revisions - when Honda redesigned the CR-V they pretty much got it right the first time.

The basic underpinnings of the fourth-generation CR-V are the same as the well-proven previous generation model: the 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic transmission carried over with a few tweaks to gain a bit more power (185 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque, versus 180 horsepower in the previous-generation iteration), and the wheelbase and width remained the same. What Honda clearly worked on was carefully improving the vehicle's packaging and family-friendly features, and it's this attention to detail that makes the CR-V a winner with the motoring public.

The bodywork of the fourth-generation CR-V was trimmed and streamlined for greater efficiency (it's about 2.5 centimetres shorter and lower), yet the interior space was actually improved - a neat trick that Honda accomplished by lowering the cargo floor and moving the windshield forward (a side benefit of this is that you can see more of the hood, so there's less "hidden" front end to contend with when maneuvering in tight quarters). The improved aerodynamics and weight savings allow slightly improved fuel economy compared to the third-gen model, with city/highway ratings of 9.0 / 6.4 L/100km in 2WD trim and 9.2 / 6.6 L/100km in 4WD trim.

To make the increased cabin space easier to use Honda designed clever folding rear seats that, with a single tug of a lever in the cargo compartment or a handy pull-tab by the rear door, automatically pop the seat squab up, flip the headrest downward and fold the seatback forward in one smooth motion to make a perfectly flat cargo floor. I've long complained about rear seats that require you to fold or remove the headrest (or move the front seat forward) before you can actually fold the seat flat, because it negates the convenience of having an actuating lever in the cargo compartment. Honda is the first manufacturer I'm aware of to tackle this annoyance in a comprehensive manner, and it makes all the difference when approaching the car with, for instance, a pair of skis on your shoulder or a couple of 2x4s in your arms that need loading in the back.

Up front, the fourth-generation CR-V has comfortably accommodating front seats and a redesigned dash the does away with the blocky sport-utilitarian look of the previous generation CR-V, opting for a more streamlined car-like appearance, with a sweeping curve across its lower portion and a standard built-in colour multi-information display above the centre stack. Like the new Accord I drove recently, the third-gen CR-V's two-dial instrument cluster has been replaced for the fourth generation with a compact three-dial cluster that groups the fuel and temperature gauges into a single semi-circular dial and includes glowing semi-circles around the speedometer that change from green to white depending on how economically (or not) you are driving.

My test vehicle was all-wheel drive equipped (a $2,150 upgrade compared to the 2WD LX) and nature cooperated to help me test this feature by dumping a foot of slippery wet snow on my hilly neighbourhood the day after I picked the CR-V up. The all-wheel drive system was changed for the fourth-generation CR-V and it is noticeably better on the road. It still uses a multiplate clutch to transfer power to the rear wheels, but the old dual-pump hydraulic control - which only delivered power to the rear wheels when the front wheels started spinning - has been replaced by an electronic controller. This not only saves a bunch of weight and complexity, but allows for much quicker delivery of power to the rear wheels. It also allows the system to adjust for conditions, and feed power to the rear wheels even before the front wheels start spinning, such as when launching on a hill. On the road, this gives the fourth-gen AWD CR-V a more confident feel in marginal conditions than the third generation version was able to muster.

In normal conditions the CR-V feels, well, entirely normal. The steering is accurate and well weighted and the CR-V accelerates, corners and stops in a competent and drama-free fashion, leaving nothing to either complain about or get particularly excited about.

Feature-wise, Honda has kitted the CR-V out nicely even in base LX trim, and has also trimmed prices slightly compared to what they were for the third-gen model. The LX starts at $27,630 including destination charges (or $29,780 for the AWD version) and comes with all the expected conveniences such as air conditioning, power locks and windows, remote entry, 160-watt four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with USB interface, heated front seats and easy-fold rear seats. It also includes several features normally associated with higher trim levels, including heated side mirrors, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, backup camera and SMS text messaging capability.

Stepping up, the EX is listed at $30,580 (including destination) with 2WD or $32,680 with AWD, and adds dual-zone automatic climate control, power moonroof, security system, automatic headlights, seatback pockets, variable intermittent wipers, retractable cargo cover, an upgraded 6-speaker audio system, fog lights and alloy wheels (the LX makes do with steel wheels).

The EX-L lists for $34,480 (destination in) and comes complete with AWD, adding to the EX equipment with leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded 360-watt seven-speaker audio system, XM satellite radio and woodgrain dash trim. Finally, at the top of the range, the Touring lists for $36,780 (destination in) and includes everything in the EX-L plus a navigation system, auto-dimming rearview mirror and roof rails.

What's distinctly missing from all these equipment lists is any sort of engine upgrade option. After all, for those wanting a bit more power, a slightly bigger (or turbocharged?) 4-cylinder might be a nice option even if there's no room under the hood for a V6. More to the point, the Europeans can get their CR-Vs with a choice of gas or diesel engine, and 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission - wouldn't that be a nice pair of alternatives to have on this side of the pond?

Still, the 2.4-litre 4-cylinder and automatic transmission that come standard here provide a nice middle-of-the-road solution with a good blend of performance and economy that satisfies the needs of most compact crossover buyers. With the CR-V's top-tier packaging, long list of standard features, available AWD and continuing record of reliability, this should ensure that it remains competitive against other compact crossovers such as the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-5.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, SUV, Honda, 2013, CR-V, CRV, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, Compact,

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