By on February 16, 2017

5 Honda CR-V generations - Images: HondaHonda Canada delivered a 2017 Honda CR-V Touring to my driveway less than 100 hours ago.

It is, in so many ways, an exemplary means of transporting one’s family: surprisingly efficient, sufficiently powerful, wonderfully spacious, and undeniably refined.

But it’s not pretty.

Of course, merging some of Honda’s recent miscues with the apparently desperate need across the industry to make SUVs look angry won’t make the all-new, fifth-generation Honda CR-V unpopular. January 2017, the new CR-V’s first full month on sale in America, was the nameplate’s best-ever January. Last month served as a successful follow-up to a 2016 calendar year in which CR-V sales climbed to an all-time record high of 357,335 units, enough to make the CR-V America’s best-selling SUV/crossover for a fifth consecutive year.1997 Honda CR-V first-generation - Image: HondaYou get the sense Honda might know the first CR-V (1997-2001) was simplistic, handsome, Honda crossover design at its best. In a Super Bowl 50 commercial chock full of A-list celebs (Amy Adams, Magic Johnson, Missy Elliott, Robert Redford, and others), the 1997 Honda CR-V makes a cameo appearance, too.

Sure, it was obvious that the CR-V wasn’t a rugged body-on-frame SUV, the kind of traditional SUV that still reigned supreme twenty years ago. But it was boxy, it wasn’t overly weighed down by cladding, and the spare tire was out on the back where it belonged. You might need it when crossing the Gobi Desert.

Honda attempted to smooth off some edges with the second CR-V go-round, but it arguably was not a successful effort. The third CR-V (2007-2011) had a nicely arching roofline. The departing fourth-generation CR-V was by no means a stylistic homerun, but it didn’t get all up in your face like the new one.

“Best” can obviously mean different things to different people. Objectively, each of the 2017 Honda CR-V’s 184 horses must tote around 26-percent less weight. Yet fuel consumption is down between 22 and 28 percent, depending on engine choice. The new CR-V provides 32 percent more cargo capacity despite having grown only three inches longer.

But imagine if the fifth CR-V was as honestly charming as the first CR-V. Then we wouldn’t be forced into having this debate: was the first Honda CR-V the best Honda CR-V?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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107 Comments on “QOTD: Was The First Honda CR-V The Best Honda CR-V?...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    IMO the first-gen had the automotive equivalent of a “weak chin.” It looks a bit fragile now, especially with those delicate JDM door handles.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I have no opinion on the Honda crossover, but your definition of “A-list celebs” is interesting.

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    I bemoan the demise of the picnic table.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Aesthetically, emphatic yes!

    But you can never go home again because the neighborhood has always changed for the worse and there’s an Irish-Jamaican family of 14 wrecking your beautiful old brick split-level.

  • avatar
    whynot

    I always preferred the looks of the 2nd gen.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I like the first, it was a boxy brand of honest.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Compare the appearance and dimensions of first generation CR-V to the Civic Wagovan.

    It looks like the CR-V was not much more than the Wagovan on stilts.

    Thus epitomizing the demise of the wagon and its replacement by the CUV.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Interesting to me despite the Honda reputation for durability, rare sight these days compared to the Jeep XJ Cherokee of the same vintage.
    Perhaps terminated by rust here in the salt belt?

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      While they do have their corrosion issues, in the Boston area, first gen CRVs are a common sight. They also have an interior that doesn’t seem to wear.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Indifan here in Indy I’d say it’s more dictated by how many sold when new. I’d place a gen 1 CRV’s lifespan as exceeding that of an XJ in the hands of a typical consumer. XJ is more rust-prone of the two, and the 4.0L engine although eminently rebuildable, will in all likelihood need more attention sooner in regards to things like cooling system repairs, oil leaks, miscellaneous stuff like exhaust manifolds, and more serious issues like cracked heads and low oil pressure issues at idle (I never have figured out why the 4.0L is predisposed to the latter).

      XJ is more durable in the offroad abuse sense and actual hardware, and is probably easier and cheaper to service/repair major components. But to the every day consumer that is using it for a commuter, the CRV is hands down the less trouble-prone car. They have just a few worry-spots: keep valves adjusted on the B20 as they are known to tighten up, and AC compressors are a weak link through the end of gen 2.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Yup, just east of you and those old Hondas and Acuras are long gone in the salt belt. Or was it Takata airbags that finished them off?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Norm like I said the XJ is easily more rust prone than the Honda. CRVs get rear quarter rot (and under the plastic rocker covers gets ugly) but it I’ve never heard of one with the floors rotting out (unlike the XJ). Plenty of gen 1 CRVs in Central/Western/Upstate NY where I’m from. Same for older Accords/Civics, the rear quarter panels can be totally destroyed but underneath the car is still serviceable, the subframes and their mounting points are usually fine,floor boards etc intact.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Yes, that or the RE-5.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Those humpback CR-Vs are the worst looking in my opinion. But you see them everywhere so what do I know.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    Best for whom? Right not, the Nissan Rogue has become a sales star. I suspect the new Rogue’s popularity has much to do with it being a little bit larger that most of its competition, making it a better family vehicle. But, if you’re only carrying one or two people, the extra space is not needed.

    For family use, the first gen CR-V is definitely not the best. For a single or a couple, it might very well be.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I like the new one. Yeah, the grill isn’t great, but the rest of it looks good.

  • avatar
    Twyxx

    Automakers are designing utilitarian cars that make a design statement. For example, the new Prius is downright hideous. While the 2nd and 3rd Gen Prius (Prii?) aren’t the best looking cars out there, they serve a purpose and look the part. I just want to drive my Prius, and not look “edgy”.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Friends of ours have bought CR-Vs from the beginning all the way up to 5th gen. One of the CR-Vs, a 2005 with 200+ K, was still a reliable daily driver when a teen removed it from service. Its replacement was a 2014. Our friends commented on how much cheaper the 14 seemed compared to the 05. In their case I would have to agree as I had driven nearly all the CR-Vs they had over the years. Very plasticy and cheapish interior. It reminded me of an early 2000s GM product (but still not as bad). Even the leather seats didn’t look right to me- as if the fitment of the leather was off and the texture vinyl-ish. Mind you the 05 was a base model and the 14 an LX.

  • avatar
    jameslw2

    Owned a first gen. Second worst vehicle purchase I’ve made. Slow, abysmal handling and if I rolled over a pebble a piece would break off. Put me in the corner with the others who don’t get the love for this segment of the market.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “if I rolled over a pebble a piece would break off.”

      Do tell.

      I was highly skeptical of repurposing Honda’s Civic-derived wishbone suspension and applying it to something with nominal-rough road cred, but they seem to have held up quite well. High mile units typically need rear trailing arm bushings (not unlike Civics from whence they came), as well as ball joints/control arms up front mileage/use dependent, but they’re really no more fragile than most of the competition at the time or even currently. Having said that, if I was choosing a cute-ute for off-road chops and durability in 1997/1998 I’d make a beeline to the Toyota dealer for a 5spd Rav4 with true 50/50 fulltime AWD and rear LSD. That and I find Toyota’s Mac-strut front end and multi-link rears tend to outlive just about anything else short of true truck-based hardware. Speaking of which, if offroading was a big part of the use, a Suzuki Sidekick would likely mop the floor with all comers off-road. The back roads and villages of Costa Rica were chock full of old Vitaras (and Samurais). gen 1 Rav4s also had a strong presence, but basically no older CRVs (likely never sold there new).

  • avatar
    ArialATOMV8

    I’ve driven the first 3 gens in my life and I’ve come to a conclusion.

    At a looks point of view, the 2017 looks the sharpest.

    Driving wise (since I have not driven a 2017 yet), I adore the first generation the most. Its engine + gearbox was the only one that put a smile on my face. Also, It felt the most utilitarian. That tire on the back adds to the personality of the car and the bare bones interior makes me smile. Starting with the 2nd, Honda designed the original CRV’s successors with a more sedate (performance wise) and practical mindset. Gone are the days of the manual gearbox, the days of CRV’s with massive liftkits coming back to their driveways covered in mud after a brutal ordeal. Also gone are the days of seeing a pimped out CRV with stance, aftermarket head and tail lights, heavily tinted windows and massive spoilers on the back. Just like adults, Its grown and matured to be a more practical generic CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      I’ve never in life seen a CRV with a massive lift kit, or pimped/stanced with a wing.

      Do you live south of the border?

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Not sure why you’re surprised. With 145hp on tap and those ultra-sticky wide tires, the first gen CR-V had a massive downforce problem and needed that spoiler.

      • 0 avatar
        scott25

        The most customization I’ve seen on any CRV is with various lights and trims to make it look like the JDM version. Of course the actual JDM CRV is a very common postal delivery vehicle in Ontario so you can only tell them apart by which side the driver is on.

    • 0 avatar
      Coopdeville

      “the days of CRV’s with massive liftkits coming back to their driveways covered in mud after a brutal ordeal.”

      This can’t be a serious sentence. Is it? I think I would still be laughing if ever saw a lifted CRV. Might as well lift an AWD Town & Country and take it off road for all the “utility” it possesses.

      • 0 avatar
        ArialATOMV8

        I wish I was joking I’ve seen 5 lifted 1st2nd gen CRV’s. Now these lifts are not like jac***s Liftkits but minor ones that add half a foot at the most. All of them had offroad tires too. Here’s a example of what I saw http://www.coloradomountainrally.com/blog/our-newest-batch-of-cr-v-lift-kits [this one is like 2″]

        And with the ricer CRV’s, I’ve seen 2 both in the ghetto section of Providence. They had underglow, smoked windows, aftermarket taillights, a big spoiler and the most annoying, straight pipe exausts.

        Yeah I’m a Masshole (a Massachusetts driver who drives like a mainiac)

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        You would be surprised at the many things done to CR-V’s. Mostly the 1st gen, but some have had a go at the 2nd too. I’ve seen them lifted, lowered, and ‘stanced’. Bodydropped, airbagged, airbrushed, engineswaps, turbo’d, you name it.
        I lowered my 2nd gen and put adjustable Konis on it to make it handle and look better, and uprated dampers really helped when towing a caravan too. (it was also cheaper than getting new oem springs and dampers)

  • avatar

    I owned a 2005 (second-generation) for ten years and 230,000 miles before trading it in. It was solid, versatile, and ultra-reliable. It was also noisy and slow. That said, other than the PU-leather wearing off of the steering wheel in spots the interior and exterior hardly showed any wear.

    It wasn’t fancy but that box on wheels style made for really useful cargo capacity.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’ll argue for the first being the best because it was in on the ground floor of the CUV movement and helped define the segment. It was a somewhat unique proposition back then. The current one is just another blob. Perhaps the best blob, but a blob nonetheless.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Now this is downright eerie, for me personally at least. I helped a female friend buy a 1st gen. I bought a 2nd gen for my wife. I helped the same female friend buy a 3rd gen (used) to replace the 1st gen. In every case, the vehicles were even the same color as the ones you’ve shown.

    My two cents:

    1st gen was not meant to drive at speed — remember, it was a JDM vehicle not even designed with the intent to export it to America (the US dealers insisted). But it was very well built, with impressively high-quality interior materials.

    2nd gen was designed for America. It didn’t get bigger outside, but it got bigger inside, and it drove better — really, very well for what it was. They also held the price line. But something had to go, and that something was interior materials; all but the top leather trims were durable inside, but felt like the interior of a milk jug.

    3rd gen remedied the style problem (depending on your point of view) and still drove well. Interior was much nicer, and much more modern-looking than the first two, albeit with some silly little butch cues for the women who bought it. Downsides: The swoopy back end cost some cargo room and rear quarter visibility compared to its unbashedly boxy predecessors, and the price crept up.

    4th gen: I agree that the interior got visibly cheaper. Also noteworthy, its CVT and direct injection were a level of mechanical complexity its predecessors didn’t have, and its reliability – a huge strength before – has noticeably declined in Consumer Reports surveys.

    5th gen: As with the current Civic and the next Accord, we enter the era of the highly stressed little turbo. I seriously doubt CR-V drivers will let the car sit at idle for 60 seconds after summer drives to let the turbo spool down before they shut off the car and cut off the oiling. Time will tell whether that’s an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Hopefully owners are using something that meets the HTO-06 spec to keep their turbo going.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        “Hopefully owners are using something that meets the HTO-06 spec to keep their turbo going.”

        Really, because of how common small-displacement turbos are these days, all of the full-synth oils on the market will work just fine with said engines. And the CR-V calls for 0W-20, which is hard to find outside of a full-synth. The only ones I know of are Motorcraft and Honda, which sell that weight in a synth blend. (And since both companies sell this type of engine, one could guess that their house brand will work fine in them.)

        The HTO-6 spec only applied to the Acura RDX with the Turbo. The new 1.5T mill has a water-jacketed integrated exhaust manifold, which puts much less heat stress on the turbo itself.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      “As with the current Civic and the next Accord, we enter the era of the highly stressed little turbo.”

      Turbocharged small engines aren’t exactly new. They’ve been used in quite-reliable diesels for what, nearly 40 years? Turbocharged engines don’t become magically less-reliable when running on gasoline.

      (And the turbo unit itself in the Civic/CR-V is the Mitsubishi TD03, which has been on the market long enough for the bugs to be worked out; it’s not a new product.)

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        If Honda dumps the V6 for a turdo, they’ll be conceding a piece of the market, as Toyota has already announced that the next-gen Camry will keep the V6! Toyota admitted that the take rate is something like 10% of the total, but that’s still a market they didn’t want to ignore.

        If Honda drops that V6 from the Accord, if the next Hybrid comes to market with compromises, e.g., fixed rear seat because of battery packaging, I’ll likely defect to the Toyota camp if the handling is cleaned-up as much as is anticipated. (I had a 2017 Accord Hybrid as a loaner vehicle while my 2013 Accord Touring was having a TSB addressed, and came away VERY impressed; the two-motor drivetrain is going to be carried into the 10th-Gen appearing this fall.)

    • 0 avatar

      I always thought that the rounded side windows on the 3rd generation transformed the CR-V from slightly butch to a minivan wannabe.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        I don’t know of minivans with that rounded window line, but maybe.

        To me, they’ve grafted the roofline of an-early-2000’s Passat onto a typically boxy shape. Therefore, they’ve given us the poor aerodynamics of a hatchback with the poor over–the-shoulder visibility of a sedan. Thanks, Honda!

        Many folks seem to want that, or don’t care because …Honda! But the Gen 3 I drove creaked at the driver’s door latch when I pulled away from a stoplight and accelerated normally. Not an endorsement of the car’s structural ridgidity, was it?

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Total bullseye Tonycd,
      I helped my mother buy a 98 AWD, and it was so good over the years that I bought a 2001. I’m the second owner, and I still have it.

      I love the JDM-ness of it, but it’s why I won’t let my wife drive it on trips. The safety and more importantly, the power, is just not there to handle modern toll-highway dangers.

      I use the JDM excuse all the time to talk her back out of it (as she LOVES the size and the low-beltline visibility). I tell her it was designed to go up into the mountains on picnics (the table) and drive in traffic, not do 80+ on a six-lane between semi tractors.

      Still, the only fails I’ve had was the driver’s door lock mechanism, and weakened motor mounts leading to a radiator leak (the upper hose finally pulled the plastic shell apart), not bad for 16 years of daily outdoor use and storage. Total repairs: < $150, or $10 per year.

      Now that I think of it, it shares the shortcomings of the 1st gen Fit/Jazz for the same reason.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      Each generation has its issues. I have driven a 2000 CRV for a few thousand miles, and I currently own a 2008 CRV w/155,000 miles.

      1st gen. Valve springs that could tighten up if not serviced/adjusted, requiring replacement of valves or head. My sister’s 2000 did that at 80k. She bought it new. Also rust is prominent in the states using salt.

      2nd Gen: A/c compressors were known to fail, especially 2002-2004 models; air bags takata.

      3rd Gen: Power door lock actuator problems requiring expensive replacement, some have a/c compressor issues.

      4th Gen: VTC actuator noise problems on the 2012-2014. I tend to think this problem is worse when people drive 7-10,000 miles without checking the oil. TPMS sensors are so finicky they have installed a reset switch because of hundreds of complaints.

      2015 model has vibration likely caused from the Earth Dream engine’s low idle, there are kits to help solve vibrations, but sensitive people are claiming nausea, etc from the vibration, and this is likely causing issues with consumer reports.
      2016 solid, except with the software update on the engine idle, the gas mileage isnt as good as the 2015.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I just bought a ’17 CR-V (EX-L in “Obsidian Blue”) as a replacement for my ’04 Passat M/T 1.8T Wagon and I rather like it. (Obviously, or I would have bought something else.)

    The interior’s been stepped up over the 4th-Gen, and the new 1.5T seems to behave well enough. It’s certainly slower than the same engine plopped into a Civic, but it’s a bit more lively than the NA 2.5 from the previous generation.

    I agree that the exterior styling isn’t for everybody, but I think it’s handsome enough.

    (FYI, the cargo capacity hasn’t actually gone up by 30+%. What’s gone up is maximum cargo length with a lay-flat load floor. Before, to achieve a lay-flat floor you had to flip up the base of the rear seats, which decreased the length available. Now, when you flop down the seatbacks, the base of the rear seats actually lower themselves downward enough to make room for the seatback. (It’s a neat trick, actually…) Without those flipped-up seat bottoms in the way, you can stick longer stuff back there.)

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      sirwired,
      How do you feel about all of its tech? My Odyssey lease is coming up this summer, and I love all of the tech things it can do (except the confounding door unlocking behavior). Oh, and it took two years to figure out the twin-lcd dash and audio controls.

      I would love if it had following cruise control and remote start, but I believe the new CR-V comes with those items, plus lane-keeping, etc. Does yours have all of these toys?

      • 0 avatar
        johnds

        I was going to buy an odyssey or a pilot, but seeing the quality of the 2017’s interior, i think it’s honda’s best in years.

      • 0 avatar
        sirwired

        Mine does have all the latest safety innovations (I would not have bought it if it did not; would have waited…) Here’s my opinion

        Adaptive Cruise Control: This is one of those “How Did I Ever Live Without It” features. If you EVER drive in any kind of traffic, it REALLY reduces your stress level. The Honda version will take you from full cruise speed all the way down to zero, and back up. And even when traffic is okay, but not moving at 100%, it’s great; instead of having to keep fiddling with the brake and gas and cruise control, you just slot behind somebody who’s not driving like a moron and if they slow down due to conditions, you won’t even notice until you glance down at the dash and see the car’s 5 below the limit.

        Lane-Keep assist: This works okay on the interstate if the paint’s in good condition.

        Collision Mitigation Braking: This one’s beeped at me when I was approaching a stopped car faster than it thought I should, but I haven’t had it actually apply the brakes for me yet.

        Land Departure Mitigation System: This one seems to be a bit of a hair trigger; it’s shaken the wheel a few times when I’m still on the road. But I haven’t found it to be so frequent to be obnoxious.

        Blind-Spot Monitoring: I agree with the consumer rags; this is both simpler (a light if somebody’s in your blind spot, and a beep if you turn on your turn signal at the time) and more useful than the “Lanewatch” in the Civic.

        Rear Cross-Traffic Alert: This function (which supplements the rear-view camera with radar sensors that look for cars or pedestrians) is incredibly useful if you are sandwiched between a pair of Tahoe’s at the mall.

        I don’t see any of this tech being inherently failure-prone, at least no more so than the other tech involved. (I even checked parts prices; the forward camera is expensive ($700 list), the rest seems to be pretty reasonable should it fail.)

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          As stated in a thread above, I had an Accord Hybrid as a service loaner a week ago, which includes the entire HondaSensing package. The ACC seemed a bit better sorted than my 2013’s “v1.0” effort despite low-speed following being absent (because it uses the camera AND the radar together, instead of just the radar, like on my 2013), and the lane-keep assist (LKAS) was spooky in the way it could track around a small curve. Very nicely sorted, and in the five days I had the car, not one “false alarm” with autobrake.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    I’m going to not say what I thought I’d say when I clicked here. I think gen 2 is the best, in terms of usable space, looks, and refinement. But not with the black bumpers like in the collage above. Give me one of those later ones with color-key bumpers and nice wheels. It was a sensible evolution from the first generation.

    http://pictures.topspeed.com/IMG/crop/200605/2006-honda-cr-v-7_800x0w.jpg

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Gen 5 size and interior with Gen 1 exterior design FTW. I like modern conveniences and safety with excellent sight lines and simplistic design.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I knew someone with a first gen CR-V and under powered is what comes to mind. They were getting the windows tinted and needed someone to drop it off for them so I said sure. Getting on the highway was a scary, I put my foot down and was rewarded with… nothing. I also remember the flat floor which made it very van-like inside with seats high off the floor. Back then such a vehicle was a new concept, now CUVs are a dime a dozen.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      A matter of perspective. I traded a 1995 Del Sol for my 2001 CRv and I thought the CRv was plenty powerful. I had a friend who always owned V6 and V8s and thought my CR-V was an underpowered death trap.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    1st gen shared suspensions with the GOAT 96-00 Civic so that has to be it. I prefer the looks of the same era Forester though.

  • avatar
    18726543

    I’ve daily driven a first gen (2001) for the last 4ish years and 70k miles. It just turned 150k last week and I love the hell out of the little thing. It’s a 5-speed, which helps a lot in the enjoyment factor, and while it isn’t fast, the Civic underpinnings make it pretty enjoyable to drive! While leaving the dump a few weekends ago after dropping off 300 square feet of carpet and carpet pad that I tore out of my living room I found that the car (without me in it) weighs in at only 3140 pounds! That’s pretty fantastic! It’s not quiet, but it’s an AWD and still gets me between 26 and 28 mpg on my 60-mile-per-day commute. I can fit 3 bikes inside it with the rear seats down and 2 more on the hitch-mounted carrier, I’ve driven 700 pounds worth of retaining wall block home from Home Depot without feeling like it was going to die, the B20 engine is extremely easy and cheap to service, there’s a surprising amount of aftermarket for the car including 2″ lift springs from Old Man Emu…if you really want to go that route…people turbo them quite often with impressive results (much better to swap in a built GS-R engine first)…In my opinion it exemplifies all the fantastic that was Honda in the 90’s; simple, durable, it’ll always get you there.

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      THIS. I have a long history with Honda, thanks to so many of them being in my household or with college roommates. Both gens of CRX, early Preludes, multiple Civics, even early Accords. The first gen CR-V was more of a spiritual successor to late 80’s/early 90’s Hondas than anything else in their lineup during the last decade.

      • 0 avatar
        Willyam

        Yea me too. My fanboi career started with my Dad angrily defecting Buick to a 1989 Accord (partly on my car-nerd magazine-based frothing). It was an automatic, but still…what a fun car to drive. The little pop-up headlights and a great factory radio. I got a little too exuberant one winter and broke the suspension on a curb (ice), but so reliable and fun for its entire life.

        This begat a 1991 Civic DX hatch, a 1998 Civic LX sedan, a 1984 Civic sedan rescue/flip, the 2001 CR-V, and a 2013 Odyssey. I own other stuff, but I always go back to Soichiro.

        That being said, to me the Fit is sort of the last of what Honda used to be. Small, fun, reliable, and while they seemed bland, they grew on you and had soul like a willing puppy.

        Stuff I want before I’m too old to drive: Element, Fit, S2000, really nicely equipped brown Accord Coupe.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          The 4th-Gen (1990-1993) Accord is still my benchmark for the best, though just by a fraction, since the 9th, and current generation, only comes in second in terms of overall quality, mostly in the interior fitments; the carpet and contrasting-logoed floormats were akin to the Wilton wool carpet in a Rolls Royce, compared to the felt-like garbage which makes a WeatherTech/Husky floor-liner or OEM all-weather floormat purchase a necessity in a modern Honda.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I’m going to say in the context of the average American consumer, the latest generation is definitely the best in the ways that matter: highway friendly, efficient, easy to use. My grandfather in law has a leased ’14 EX-L and it’s a perfect run about for him, comfortable to ride in, good cargo space, etc.

    From a more “selfish” perspective the gen 1 is easily my favorite, followed by gen 2. Available manual transmissions (with super short gearing I should note), the gen 1 has the best clearance, best looks inside and out(subjective), biggest greenhouse. Gen 2 has a vastly better powerplant (the timeless chain driven K24), an excellently packaged interior, and better on the road refinement and handling.

    I wouldn’t mind having a gen 1 as a winter beater/camping vehicle. Stay away from long interstate drives and the short-geared manual becomes more of an asset than annoyance: makes the most of the B20 motor, and you get to enjoy a slick-shifting Honda manual transmission.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    I had a 1st gen and liked it a lot. Replaced it with a 2nd gen (current daily driver) and I can’t think of any aspect of the 1st gen I like better.
    Can’t imagine why anyone would think the 2nd gen wasn’t a big improvement.

    Enjoy.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I drove first model, may be, midcycle update. I tested one with MT. I liked it until I drove it. On the twisty road with hills, it had no power. I had to really downshift.

    And I drove 2008 EX AWD. This one I drove a lot. As a matter of fact, I found its seat not suitable for me. the one way trip was under 2 hours and yet, my back was hurting badly.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “I found its seat not suitable for me. the one way trip was under 2 hours and yet, my back was hurting badly.”

      Me too.

      I have a simple solution: Buy one of those pool noodle floats and cut off a one-foot length and put it behind your back. It works great for me, as I need a lumbar support. I guess that’s why I love my Impala so much – it has an adjustable lumbar support built in.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Hondas have traditionally struggled with lumbar support that’s either inadequate, as in your car, or far too aggressive, like the 2010 Accord EX-L I once borrowed.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    As an owner – well, Wifey is – of a silver 2002 CR-V EX bought new, fresh off the boat from Japan, it’s been a remarkable if uninspiring (to me) vehicle. I would not want one for my daily driver.

    I refer to it as our “$22,500.00 picnic table”.

    Honda wasn’t giving much of a discount on CR-Vs back then, and the best we could do was go thru the dealership’s internet sales dept. where we got $500.00 off. If we didn’t go that route, $250.00 was it!

    The only complaint I have is that it has the absolute worst excuse for a CD player/changer ever foisted on the public. It won’t play any CD worth a dime. I always wanted to replace it, but now as old as it is, we just listen to the radio.

    The first-gen CR-V was underpowered.

    Our 2nd-gen does have more power, but is not a screamer by any measure, but gets out of its own way.

    Wifey loves the thing and it is the family truck, and we haul anything that will fit and some stuff we probably shouldn’t have risked, but hauled it anyway. It has been quite durable with few repairs.

    Almost 15 years old and 135,000 miles. We’re keeping both of our cars until the wheels fall off, and there is a chance it may outlast my 2012 Impala, which will have close to the same mileage when I retire in 6 weeks!

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      Do you have the 6 cd in dash system? I thought Honda only put that in the EX-L. Anyways, I have owned a few with the 6 CD and it worked great for CDS. If you have the single CD system I bet it sucks.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        6 CD changer. It basically doesn’t play anything, but Wifey just informed me we are going CR-V shopping on Saturday! As ours is 15 years old and I’m 6 weeks from retirement, she’s thinking it’s wise to replace it now, while she’s still working!

        I agree.

        This will be fun!

        Stay tuned, TTAC’ers for updates!

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Honda sound systems are somewhat hit-and-miss. Back in the days of the first CR-V, anything in a Civic-class Honda was passable at best, with a lack of bass. Accord-class systems were OK on EX and above trims, though they didn’t necessarily improve with each generation; the system in my Dad’s 2011 Accord is better than the “Premium” system in my 2013.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I do like the new CR-V, and am considering one (Shhhh! Don’t tell anybody!). I definitely hate the looks of the recently-departed fourth-gen, and am not particularly impressed with the third-gen, either. The first and second generations were good-looking.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    The first gen looked the best (almost like older 4wd Civic wagons), but the newest one has the best hardware. EPA rates first gens with a whopping 25mpg highway.

    Weren’t the first few generations plagued with black death AC compressors?

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Our 2002 A/C still works fine, but has an extremely narrow cool band: either max or no more than two clicks of the knob towards warm – then you actually feel heat when the cycle breaks.

      Also, the herky-jerky cruise control is just as aggravating. Late-80s tech, just like on our 1990 Acclaim!

      Ours is quite noisy, though.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      I think the 2nd generation had AC problems. Mostly the ones Made in England. I owned a 1st generation in Florida for 8 years and the AC worked great.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    I bought a Gen 1 EX with 5 speed manual in 1999 and it’s still going strong 18 years later. I’ve used the picnic table a couple of times tailgating before football games and it’s taken me reliably all over the eastern seaboard. Reliability has been pretty good, requiring replacement of the water pump, clutch master cylinder, alternator, radiator, a few wheel lugs, and the hatch retraction struts. Amazingly, it’s still on the original clutch. The black plastic has faded quite a bit, but the paint still shines up nicely.

    I found the car pleasant enough to drive, if a bit noisy. It scoots nimbly in traffic and mileage averages a little over 20 in a mostly urban cycle. My expectations were reasonable: I needed a robust runabout vehicle that could take my family of four to visit grandma, bring home stuff from Home Depot, haul the kids to school and Liitle League, and not subject me to breakdowns. For those events, the CR-V has performed admirably.

    Best of the series? I have no experience with follow-on generations, but certainly they have become quieter, more voluminous, and probably have similar reliability. These are remarkably honest vehicles: they let you get on with your life with no pretense and no drama.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Swing out taildoors in cars intended for urban use, is just a nuisance. No matter how cool and outdoorsy someone may think decorating the rear of ones car with a rubber donut is.

  • avatar
    harrycase2000

    had a 99 gen 1 rugged put 260k miles on it with only a few major repairs Sold it last year because the suspension needed a grand worth of struts to make the ride livable. Last few years used it as a commuter car but more than a half hour trip was torture
    miss the ergonomics of the interior and the maneuverability of that vehicle,
    Still have an 04 gen 2 much bigger, interior is starting to wear, but other than air conditioner compressors it is pretty bullet proof. Wife goes 120 miles round trip every day to ATL gets 22-24mpg I find the cargo capacity more useful than our Pilot, lower lift over and bigger door opening in the rear. passenger compartment was marginally nicer than the 99 but the seats are definitely better.

  • avatar

    I’m slightly biased, but the last-gen CRV is the best (also because I own a 2016 EX-L AWD).

    The new one convinced me that if we had to replace the CRV right now, we’d go the Forester route.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    THere are still plenty of them out there, commanding pretty good prices (if you’re a seller).

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The CR-V has never been pretty, in any generation, but it’s always been in a sweet spot in the market. It would be my recommendation today for anyone who wants a midsize crossover and doesn’t spend enough time in the snow or mud to make the Forester’s superior AWD and ground clearance worth its other warts.

  • avatar
    Prado

    No, the first gen CR-V was not very livable and certainly not the best. I owned a new 1999 automatic for 4 years. Dislikes: The driving position sucks …either no leg room or the steering wheel is to far away. Lots or road/wind noise. AWD system sucked … it was reactive which made it easy to get stuck. It could not hold interstate speeds (65-75) without downshifting at the slightest incline. No center console…the fold down armrests were lame. OEM stereo was terrible, gaping holes in front bumper leaves you radiator and AC condenser unprotected from small rocks … my AC condenser had to be replace due to this. Black coating on window sill molding was crackling already when I sold it at 4 years. Overall it was likable from a packaging and utility prospective, but really a pretty crappy car otherwise.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    1st gen was of undoubted utility and quality, but three issues:

    -underpowered and short-geared. Not for U.S. highways. Whenever I get behind one I immediately start strategizing on how to pass it.

    -rust-prone. I live 25 miles north of Buffalo…

    -external spare means that any impact that would put a somewhat unsightly bruise in the bumper cover on any other vehicle means that now you are getting a new hatch, and probably a new window for the hatch, interior trim, wiper/washer and hinge/latch hardware transferred, painted, mounted, latch/strike aligned…say $2,500.

  • avatar
    Willyam

    As dukeisduke mentioned, there’s a lot of them. Maybe there are as many later-gen cars running around, but it seems that the majority of first-gen just don’t die.

    Story:: Mine is a silver LX. Unremarkable except for tinted windows. I walked out of Wallys Neighborhood Market carrying groceries, and attempted to open the hatch. Again and again I tried, remote and even the key wouldn’t work. Looked up to see a sixty-ish couple carrying bags staring at me from about 20-feet. Safe distance. Total look of fear and dismay, as if in my bag were a machete, hockey mask, and industrial-size lube. Slowly, it dawned on me that this was NOT my CR-V. I smiled as non-threateningly as I could and backed away, pointing to mine about three spaces down behind a couple of battle-tug SUV’s that were blocking it. They did not move until I was gone.

    I now have stickers and a roof rack.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    The image of all the CR-V’s tells it all in terms of automotive design. It starts out looking decent then slowly evolves into something ugly.

    To me, the 2002-2006 generation looks the best. Not as stodgy as the first generation but good enough to look fresher than it really is.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    My vote would be for the 2nd gen.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    2nd gen was the best for me. I totally understand why people like the 1st. And I have been trying to convince myself to get one a couple of times, but I end up thinking that even with the modding capabilities of the ‘better’ suspension, and the beatiful B20, it’s still better to start off with the 2nd gen. And so I have bought it twice. (the first was totalled though)

    Europeans have been able to build usable cars with macpherson struts since forever, so I guess I can live without the double wishbones.
    And the K-series engine is a lot tougher and by now theres a lot of aftermarket support for that too.
    I also presonally prefer the looks of the 2nd gen. It’s very subtle and clean while retaining most of ‘old’ Hondas design cues.
    Luckily we always got it with a manual over here (and still do) I dont understand why anyone would ruin a Honda by putting a slushbox in it.

    It does have some downsides though.

    Roadnoise is enough for the short gearing to not be a problem at all. I can never hear the engine above 60mph anyway… (OK, rev limiter is at 7200 rpm, so you can technically do 60 in 2nd gear, but I doubt anyone does that much)
    The sideways opening rear hatch means you have to plan where you park. I do like the opening rear window and did miss that on the 3rd gen I owned though.
    (also, even if the 3rd gen had a conventional hacth, it didn’t open far enough for me to walk under without bowing my head)
    And the 4wd system is only designed to help out a bit in slippery conditions, and is kinda slow to engage, and quick to disengage. This doesn’t bother me at all, but I know it bothers other people. A limited slip differential would be almost just as good in most situations.

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    The 2nd gen. was the best designed of the lot.

    I liked the 3rd gen’s arched greenhouse, and the angular backlight was okay. But together they made no sense. And holy blindspot, Batman.

    The 4th generation’s greenhouse/D-pillar combo was also off–as if Honda decided that an ill-sorted roofline was now a brand characteristic.

    The 5th gen is not a handsome car, but at least the lines more-or-less work together.

    Vellum venom, please weigh in?

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I bought a brand new 2001 LX. Great little vehicle. Since mine was the base model FWD it was Spartan inside but very well put together. I traded it in after 8 years and 124k miles. During my 8 year ownership nothing went wrong mechanically. Oil changes, one coolant change and one set of brakes. Nothing else. That was the most reliable car I’ve ever owned and most of my cars were Hondas. It was in great shape when I traded it in for a Ridgeline.
    It wasn’t very powerful although the 2001 had slightly more HP than the 1997-1999. It was very much so on par with its contemporaries. I had it on long trips to the mountains of NC numerous times and never felt in danger of being in a seriously underpowered vehicle.
    The 2nd generation was probably better in many respects but the inside looked a bit cheaper than 1st generation. I’ve known 4-5 people who had the 2nd generation and all had problems with exploding AC compressors. Very expensive fix.
    The 3rd generation had considerably softer looks and never cared for it. The 4th generation looked better but inside seemed super cheap. I do like the looks of the last generation but not a big fan of the 1.5 L turbo. Nothing against the turbo but I think they should have blown the 2.0 engine and give Ford Escape a run for its money.

  • avatar
    theonewhogotaway

    Have 2 CR-Vs: My daughter is driving a first generation manual and I am currently on the second year of a 3-year lease on a 2015 LX (4.5 generation, and the refresh is significant from the earlier 4th generation cars both mechanically and in creatures niceties.) I can do many more things (and get better gas mileage) with my car than hers, other than: a. being able to swing the lift-gate open and/or having the window open and the lift-gate closed, b. have a full size tire and 3. have easy access to a variety of roof racks.

    I am definitely on the market for a 5th generation CR-V. There are 2 things that Honda messed up with the 5th generation:

    a. (and this applies to the 4th generation as well) Weird option groups, and especially options I care about: You cannot get heated seats without getting a sunroof, you cannot get leather covered steering wheel without getting leather seating and you cannot get roof rails without getting a whole bunch of electronic distractors. And the most reasonable wheel size for use in snow, mud, gravel etc and best tires come to the base version of the car.

    b. And this might be the showstopper for me, and not widely advertised: They decreased the size of the gas tank down to 14 liters, which means that its range now has dropped by a good 20% (even with the 1-2 mpg increase in fuel economy with the turbo,) which means that I might have to refuel during the week, which makes it a pain.

    I rented all GM products, the Escape, RAV-4, and Cherokee. I definitely rate the CR-V (4.5 gen) higher than all of them, including the driveability, peppiness, etc. and other than the Escape, which I can live with, the rest are not options. That weird packaging and the drop in range might push me to Forester and/or Tuscon, which (guess what) offer heated seats, leather wheel and roof rails without many other stuff in their mid-level package and have reasonable rails. I will consider it, but Honda really is close on striking out on this one…

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      FYI, the rails can be a Dealer-Installed option on any trim. (Best place to get them is online and just install them yourself.) Didn’t know about the lack of availability of a leather wheel outside the EX-L and Touring. You could buddy up with the prep guy in the service dept. and ask him to sell you the leather wheel of anybody upgrading to a heated leather wheel (also a dealer-installed option.)

      The gas tank size dropped because they wanted to increase the length of the flat load floor. Too accomplish this, the lower seat section levers straight downward (into space formerly occupied by the fuel tank) when you flop the seats forward. (vs. the previous requirement that they be flipped upwards.)

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    I never thought of the CR-V as particularly good looking, just functional. Still enjoy driving our 2006 (final year of 2nd gen) with 5-speed stick, which is my wife’s DD. I think of it as Honda’s interpretation of a Jeep Liberty. (I don’t know how true that really is, since I’ve never driven a Liberty.)

    It’s a great family vehicle for a family with 2 young kids. The front seats can get tiring on long trips though, because they’re a bit narrow for me and the thick side bolsters start to dig into my back.

    I like the swing-open rear door with separately opening glass and the spare on the back. Never had much of a problem having to plan where to park because of the back door, as others have complained about.

    I thought the 3rd gen was ugly with the arch-shaped side windows, and took the model in the opposite direction from my interests. No available stick and minivan-style swing-up back door. The current one looks nicer, but the CVT would be a deal breaker.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I haven’t spent enough time in any besides a 4th gen to really form an opinion, but I’d just like to say kudos to Honda for keeping it exactly the same dimensions (okay, /almost/ exactly) for the first four generations.

  • avatar
    DJB1

    The 2nd generation is best. The engine gained 15 HP and a timing chain. A 5 speed manual was available with AWD. It has modern safety equipment like stability control and side curtain airbags, minus unnecessary electronic gimmicks like a back-up camera because there is actual visibility out of the side and rear windows. It’s big on the inside but small on the outside. The utilitarian styling looked slightly dated in 2005 when we bought ours and it still looks slightly dated, but not hideously unfashionable. Ours now has 150,000 miles and the only non-routine items replaced have been a knock sensor and the recalled Takata airbags. It is still on its original clutch and CV axles. Every item still works including the sunroof, A/C, tape deck and 6 disc changer. It has slogged through 12 road-salted winters and there is still no corrosion on the underside. I can’t say the same for my Toyota Tacoma that has half the miles on the odometer.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      +1 on the timing chain vs. a belt.

      The A/C compressor on our ’06 finally gave up a year or two ago. 9 years not bad. One of the O2 sensors went about the same time.

      I had to replace the swaybar end links not too long ago, and the front exhaust pipe less than a year ago. Unfortunately that pipe incorporates the cat so it was an expensive replacement, but rockauto.com saved me a bunch of money there.

      In the spring I plan to replace the timing chain tensioner as preventative maintenance. I already bought one and it looks easy to do because it’s accessible from outside the engine. Failed timing chain tensioner seems to be the cause of early demise of these engines in CR-V and Element.


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