There are many lists the 2011 Honda CR-V won't top. It's not the fastest compact SUV on the market. It's not the best looking, and at 21 mpg city and 28 highway, it doesn't offer the best fuel economy. And yet, the Honda CR-V may well be the most practical SUV out there for families. It has a roomy trunk, lots of interior storage, comfortable seats, and an reasonable opening MSRP of $21,895 (with $30,095 on the high end.) In 2010, the model was named the U.S. News "Best Compact Crossover for the Money," and it is a Kelley Blue Book "Best Resale Value" winner.
There are compromises, for instance the lack of a third row, and the fact that Bluetooth and USB integration is optional (and expensive.) This is not a luxury SUV, but a day-to-day, well-equipped worker. There are three trims -- LX, EX, and EX-L -- and all can be configured with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The performance and handling are more than competent, with good enough take-off from lights and precise steering for tight traffic maneuvers. Power delivery when passing is, however, disappointing. The suspension is firm, and the brakes responsive. The CR-V won't take you off road, but it is perfect for city driving, with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 180 hp and 161 lb. ft. of torque.
The model received a facelift in 2010 and is unchanged for 2011. It thankfully escapes the boxiness of many SUVs, and is a study in smooth curves with just enough sporty flavor to appear a cut above the average kid hauler. Overall the profile is rounded, with a snub nose that is fun rather than blunt. While there's lots of hard plastic in the cabin, the styling doesn't appear cheap and best of all, it will take the wear and tear of children. The second row does fold to increase hauling capacity, and leather heated seats are an option.
To get the expected "nice" stuff inside, like USB, a tilting telescopic wheel, navigation, Bluetooth, leather, sun roof, and a back-up camera, you'll have to go all the way up to the EX-L trim level. One thing parents rave about is the conversation mirror, a standard feature that gives them an eye on the back seat. Instruments are large, clear, and easily placed within reach of the driver. Both head and leg room are good, and there's 35.7 cubic feet of space when all seats are in use (72.9 with the second row folded.)
The federal government awarded the 2010 version five stars for overall safety, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CR-V "good" marks in front and side impact tests (but only marginal ratings for roof strength.) All the expected airbags are in place along with anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability assist with traction control, and brake assist.
Honda is one of those brands that generates tremendous customer loyalty. The CR-V, like the vast majority of models in the Honda stable, is a solid performer with good looks, a price tag that won't make you choke, and competent gas mileage. While this compact SUV won't appeal to everyone, it's a natural for families offering an attractive and fun option to get around town and to and from events.