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Compact Honda CR-V rewards driver

Most of the small SUVs started out as funky little machines, often with rather quirky styling. Today, most of them have smoothed out and taken corporate design cues that make them look more like their full-size siblings.

  • Car queue in the bad traffic road. Selective focus.

The sport-cutes have all grown up.

Most of the small SUVs started out as funky little machines, often with rather quirky styling. Today, most of them have smoothed out and taken corporate design cues that make them look more like their full-size siblings.

For Honda, it means that the CR-V – which the company says stands for “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle” – loses its rear-mounted spare tire, and its more angular 2006 body gets curvier for 2007.

Most redesigned small SUVs also tend to bulk up, often to the point that they outgrow the compact footprint that made them so practical in the first place.

The new CR-V’s dimensions change, but it isn’t all steroids: the body length remains the same, but overall length is shorter due to relocation of the spare tire. The wheelbase decreases slightly, while the body, front and rear tracks widen, and the ground clearance drops.

This wider, lower stance gives the Honda an exceptionally balanced feel that’s possibly the most confident of all the small SUVs.

While it’s still not a low-slung sports car, it doesn’t feel top-heavy.

It hugs curves and stops confidently, with good pedal feel; of all the compact SUVs, this one’s my favourite to drive.

Like the previous CR-V, all 2007 models use a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, but an increase of 10 hp brings it to 166, while torque stays virtually the same at 161 lb.-ft. The five-speed manual of 2006 is gone, with all now using a five-speed automatic.

All 2006 models were all-wheel-drive, using a “Real Time” system that runs exclusively in front-wheel until it detects slippage and sends power to the rear.

The base ’07 LX model can be had in front-wheel only, which at $27,700 drops the price $2,000 under my LX-AWD tester, but retains all the other standard LX features.

These include heated mirrors, a/c, cruise control, keyless entry, 17-inch steel wheels and CD with auxiliary jack, along with ABS, six airbags and stability control.

At the far end of the scale, the CR-V also comes in a new EX-L Navi model, which adds a premium stereo, navigation system and rear-view camera for a hefty $37,400.

The new styling gives the CR-V a more slippery look; as before, the taillights reach to the top of the liftgate, and I misplaced it in parking lots when I glanced quickly and mistook the lights for a Volvo.

Inside, the shifter is positioned in the centre stack, freeing up floor space. There are two gloveboxes and an open cubby adjacent to the stereo’s auxiliary jack, giving you a place to stash the iPod. The stereo buttons are a bit too small, but the heater controls are big and simple – and all controls are backlit.

Oddly, while most window lock-outs still allow the driver to control all four panes of glass, the CR-V’s freezes everything, with no driver override. Be sure to lock them back up if you open one and have a youngster within button distance.

The EX-L models have a centre console, but LX and EX versions have a nifty little cupholder-equipped tray between the front seats that can be folded flat, so that larger items can go directly on the floor.

The second-row seats are “stadium” style, set high for good passenger visibility. Legroom is fine, but the seats are rock-hard, and there’s no centre armrest.

When they’re upright, the cargo area measures 99 cm long; the rear seats then fold and tumble forward, increasing the flat floor to 142 cm.

In a world where “bigger” is usually associated with “better,” it’s nice to see the CR-V sticking with its very manageable footprint; not everyone needs or wants a larger vehicle.

It’s not the least expensive compact SUV out there, but it’s still a great ride for the money.

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    Wheels.ca
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