Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My take on the Honda CR-V...past, present, and future

Honda CR-V Concept
If you read any popular car news blogs, you've probably already come across this picture "leaked" by Honda (probably on purpose) a couple days ago. This is the only picture released so far, so we haven't seen the taillights or interior. In a nutshell, I think this "concept" - which, by the way, will probably be ~95% identical to the eventual showroom model - is a huge improvement over the outgoing model, but the grille bothers me. Click through to read my impressions.



Honda Accord Crosstour
The CR-V concept's troubling grille is unfortunately borrowed from the new Crosstour. The Crosstour is probably the most unattractive and disproportionate SUV on the market today, so it pains me to think that Honda is spreading its awkward design cues to adjacent models. The Crosstour's grille is too short and angular, the rump is too big (makes the Panamera look svelte!), the stance is too low, and the price is too high for a vehicle that really can't go off road. The CR-V's more toned-down grille looks slightly better, but still...c'mon Honda!

2006-present CR-V
Let's take a look at the current CR-V. As I mentioned, the new CR-V Concept represents a significant improvement. But first a disclaimer: to any readers who own this car, I do understand why: it is very well constructed, cheap to repair, has excellent resale value, is pleasant to drive, and has ample space. I am not denying these facts at all. However, the design is a mixture of awkward curves and angles that, when combined, look fairly disjointed and convoluted. Let's start with the front end - why is there an extra grille underneath the Honda logo? It looks ridiculous and completely out of proportion. Honda facelifted the front end in 2010, but it did not solve the issue.

2006-present CR-V

Now let's move to the thick D-pillar. Besides providing poor rear visibility, the ovular rear windows look frumpy. I'm not really sure what look Honda was going for - the Jetsons? A mid-90s Ford Taurus? The new CR-V concept thankfully solves this issue with much more attractive Lexus RX-like rear windows. The ribbed plastic body-cladding along the sides, front, and rear of the car help a little bit, but I'm afraid it's not enough. One design feature that does work on this (and all) CR-Vs is the taillight design. The vertically-stacked lights are unique to the CR-V and from afar, give the rear end an almost Volvo-esque look.

2006-present CR-V
The interior of the current CR-V is quite pleasant and, similar to most Hondas, extremely well made. The position and angle of the shifter are not very sporty, but the overall fit and finish is leaps and bounds over the CR-V's American competitors.

2002-2006 CR-V
In contrast with the current CR-V, the previous generation has a fantastic exterior design, through-and-through. The front-end is simple and clean, yet rugged. The triangular-shaped C and D pillars make the car look quite strong, as if it could traverse any kind of terrain (whether or not it actually can!).

2002-2006 CR-V
The interior is also up to Honda's high standards of craftsmanship, but the design looks a bit outdated now (including the print on the cloth seats). Perhaps Honda was aiming for the rugged Land Rover / Jeep effect? If so, it worked.

1995-2001 CR-V
In the mid-90s, SUVs were a novelty; suddenly the Jeep Cherokee had competition from Japan,  namely the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. (Nissan was late to the game with the XTerra, and I would not consider the Suzuki Vitara a formidable competitor.) Compared to the first-gen Toyota RAV4, the original CR-V has held up considerably better. Whereas a mid-90s RAV4 looks squished and stilted, the first-gen CR-V still looks like it is ready to go on a safari. The proportions are excellently well-balanced - not too big, not too small. The front end is modest yet attractive, and from afar (to the untrained eye) this model could be mistaken for a Land Rover Freelander. 

1995-2001 CR-V
The original CR-V's interior is basic, yet functional and attractive. No user manual required to operate any of the switches. And look at that cassette player...nice ;)

The takeaway of this post: the CR-V has always been an steadfast competitor in the small crossover market. I think Honda lost its way in the current (2006-present) model, but the jury's still out on whether the brand new concept will regain the essence that made the original CR-V so unique. Basic is better!

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