The Extra Mile: 2014 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L
Entry Price: $23,120
Price as Tested: $31,450
This week, we drive the 2014 Honda CR-V, delivered with All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) in top class EX-L Navigation trim. Notable, however, is Honda's low entry price of just $23,120 for an LX front-drive, which happens to be a popular seller for those who don't need 4x4 traction.
Built since 1995 in Japan, the CR-V came to North America back in 1997 as an outgrowth of its compact Civic, its most popular car at the time. Four generations later, the 2014 CR-V is a very grown up, top line small SUV that still rates as a "top buy" from numerous car magazines and consumer publications.
Through the years, two important numbers have stayed the same, specifically CR-V's wheelbase of 103-inches and its length of 178-inches. Additionally, an unusually high and highly respected "reliability history" from Consumer Reports magazine finds the Honda CR-V one of just three "perfectly rated" vehicles that have 100-percent positive "red dots" from 2007 through the 2012 model year. The two other vehicles with "Valedictorian" type grades for the six year duration are, not surprisingly, the Honda Fit and luxury grade Lexus RX. Test Drive also bestows a "Salutatorian" nod to the Toyota Highlander V6, which had just one "black dot" blemish during the same six-year period for a radio/audio problem in 2009. These owner inspired "grades" are most impressive as they come from the consumers themselves.
Another major plus when it comes to Honda CR-V is price, or better put, its "non-inflation" history. For comparisons, the last time we drove a top line CR-V AWD EX-L with Navi was March of 2010. Most noticeable is the fact that our 2010 model came in at a bottom line of $30,455, just $995 less than today's more detailed and improved tester. Back in 2010, delivery fees were less, and standard safety features like rear multi-view safety camera did not exist. Nor did the huge improvement in fuel mileage and horsepower the similar 2.4-liter four cylinder i-VTEC engine offered. Specifically, in 2010, 180-horses awaited the owner, along with very good 21 city and 27 highway AWD EPA numbers. Come 2014, that same 2.4-liter four now delivers 185 horses while AWD EPA numbers rise to 22 city and 30 highway.
Transmission you ask? Still the same sturdy AWD five speed automatic with grade control logic and automatic 4WD, proving Honda engineers know how to improve an already good product and keep the price, if translated into today's real dollar value to lower than before.
Take a bow, Honda.
Outside, CR-V's exterior is aesthetically pleasing, although an update might be in order. The cabin, meanwhile, is inviting and more bountiful than the entry LX. With room for five, CR-V's cargo capacity is also significant as a "dual-deck" cargo shelf provides additional storage options that can hold up to 20 pounds on an "upper level." This shelf quickly disappears into a holder much like window blinds recoil, allowing for quick revamp for taller items. The 60/40 split rear seats with fold down ability allow for even more cargo arrangements, ending with over 70 cu. ft. available with all seats down. Overall, all gauges, radio controls, comfortable seats, huge console compartment and leather trim deliver a pleasant experience.
Safety, meanwhile, is still a staple of all Honda vehicles sold. CR-V rates very high in crash testing, with solid "5-Star" government crash scores. All CR-Vs come with Honda's dual-stage, dual-threshold air bag system, and other safety items like four wheel ABS brakes, traction controls, brake assist and much more. Your Honda dealer will gladly explain everything when you visit.
Standard features are many, as the EX-L dishes up a 328-watt AM/FM/CD/Satellite audio system with seven speakers including a subwoofer as standard fare. You'll also appreciate easy to use navigation, rear safety camera, Bluetooth, USB, 17-inch alloys, dual zone air, all the powers, cruise, power moonroof, heated front seats, heated side mirrors and roof rails.
Important numbers include a 103.1-inch wheelbase, 6.7 inch ground clearance, 15.3 gallon fuel tank, 3,545-pound curb weight, and 37.2 cu. ft. of cargo space expandable to 70.9 with seats down.
Honda sold a record number of CR-V's in 2013, with 303,904 delivered according to Honda sales information. Thus, when you add all the praise from consumer surveys and our own driving impressions, the latter an overall comfortable ride, good handler and easy to park, the 2014 CR-V receives an overall Test Drive "Best Buy."
Likes: Honda's "inflation fighter" pricing, outstanding reliability/satisfaction, safety, fuel mileage.
Dislikes: No bigger engine or turbo available, towing only 1,500 lbs.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated automotive columnist).