QOTD: Was The First Honda CR-V The Best Honda CR-V?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
qotd was the first honda cr v the best honda cr v

Honda 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.

You 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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  • Drzhivago138 Drzhivago138 on Feb 17, 2017

    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.

  • DJB1 DJB1 on Feb 17, 2017

    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.

    • BigOldChryslers BigOldChryslers on Feb 17, 2017

      +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.

  • PeterPuck For years, Ford has simply reworked existing designs originating from Europe and Japanese manufacturers, not being capable of designing a decent car in the USA.What’s the last clean sheet design from the USA? The 1986 Taurus?And they still can’t manage to get things right.why is this? Are they putting all of the competent engineers and designers on the F150? Is woke diversification affecting them, as some rumours suggest? Are they rewarding incompetence?
  • Brandon What is a "city crossover"?
  • Tassos What was the last time we had any good news from Ford? (or GM for that matter?)The last one was probably when Alan Mulally was CEO. Were you even born back then?Fields was a total disaster, then they go hire this clown from Toyota's PR department, the current Ford CEO, Fart-ley or something.He claims to be an auto enthusiast too (unlike Mary Barra who is even worse, but of course always forgiven, as she is the proud owner of a set of female genitals.
  • Tassos I know some would want to own a collectible Mustang. (sure as hell not me. This crappy 'secretary's car' (that was exactly its intended buying demo) was as sophisticated (transl. : CRUDE) as the FLintstone's mobile. Solid Real Axle? Are you effing kidding me?There is a huge number of these around, so they are neither expensive nor valuable.WHen it came out, it was $2,000 or so new. A colleague bought a recent one with the stupid Ecoboost which also promised good fuel economy. He drives a hard bargain and spends time shopping and I remember he paid $37k ( the fool only bought domestic crap, but luckily he is good with his hands and can fix lots of stuff on them).He told me that the alleged fuel economy is obtained only if you drive it like a VERY old lady. WHich defeats the purpose, of course, you might as well buy a used Toyota Yaris (not even a Corolla).
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.