Test Drive: 2008 Honda CR V EX L with navigation car test drives honda
2008 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge
Competitors
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Chevrolet Equinox
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Ford Escape
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Jeep Compass
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Jeep Patriot
See complete list at end of article

Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2008 Honda CR-V

Ottawa, Ontario – The Honda CR-V was on the leading edge of the compact SUV segment back in 1997, along with the Toyota RAV4. When Toyota launched its third-generation trucklet in 2006, it went the bigger-and-faster route, adding a third row of seats and a wicked V6 engine.

The following year, Honda brought out its third-generation CR-V and went in a completely different direction. Honda decided to make its little SUV more car-like, and decided its clients didn’t want a V6 engine or a seven-seat option enough to bother offering them.

What the CR-V did get was softer styling, a look that can be hard to wrap your head around. Still, Honda must have done something right, as the CR-V continues to sell well.

It’s not hard to see why. The CR-V is a very pleasant vehicle to drive. If the 166-hp 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine (the only one available and the same one used in the Accord and Element) is a little underpowered in passing situations, but it’s smooth and peppy in most applications. So is the standard five-speed automatic transmission.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda CR V EX L with navigation car test drives honda
2008 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

The CR-V’s all-wheel drive system is the reactive type typical of the crossover class. Power goes to the front wheels until they slip, then the system routes torque to the rears for added grip. My April test drive was on mostly dry roads, so there wasn’t much opportunity to test it out but my past experience with this system in winter weather proved it to be effective for navigating snowy city streets.

My tester is the same vehicle that was used in round two of Autos’s Fuel Economy Challenge. Managing Editor Grant Yoxon and Senior Editor Paul Williams were disappointed by the CR-Vs initial showing in that exercise.

What a difference a season makes. The last time our tester got any press was in March. It was cold, it was snowy, and the CR-V was burning way more gasoline than expected.

Fast forward to late Spring: the weather was warmer, the snow was gone and now the CR-V’s fuel consumption, while not quite matching the vehicle’s EnerGuide estimates, was at least reasonable: a week’s worth of city driving netted at an average of a little better than 11 L/100 km. You’ll note that the CR-V’s EnerGuide ratings are 10.7 L/100 km (city) and 7.8 L/100 km (highway); my average was the result of light-footed (but not especially gentle) driving about evenly split between surface streets and Ottawa’s Highway 417.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda CR V EX L with navigation car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2008 Honda CR V EX L with navigation car test drives honda
Test Drive: 2008 Honda CR V EX L with navigation car test drives honda
2008 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

Back in January 2007, I drove a CR-V EX. While the winter of 2006-2007 was nowhere near as harsh as the one just past, I managed to get that first CR-V’s consumption down to just over 11 L/100 km thanks to some very gentle use of the accelerator.

Initially, I thought the 2008′s high fuel consumption might have had something to do with its weight. But how much could a navigation system, seat heaters, a cargo cover and automatic climate control – the only items the newer EX-L had that the 2007 didn’t – add to a vehicle’s curb weight? The answer, according to our Buyer’s Guide, is nine kilograms, or 20 pounds. So it was the weather, and not the weight, that had caused our Fuel Economy Challenger tester’s initial thirsty tendencies.

The “L” in EX-L indicates that this CR-V has leather upholstery; the seats are as comfortable as they are in lesser CR-Vs, but the feel of the leather didn’t drive me wild. I’d stick to the cloth used in the LX and EX models. One bonus that comes with the leather is seat heaters; I didn’t need them during this latest test drive, but they could have been handy in the 2007 model in mid-winter.

The CR-V’s navigation system is an option on the top-line EX-L model. It’s a pretty easy system to use, though programming it to guide you to your destination is still something you’ll want to do while stopped. Choosing the navigation option also gets you a back-up camera that broadcasts its images through the navigation screen. While visibility out the rear of the CR-V is generally good, the rear-view camera is something you’ll still appreciate every day.

Cargo space is good, but I’d prefer if the rear seatbacks folded flat with the load floor; to get a flat floor, you have to tumble the folded seat forward. This creates a large space, but the length of the cargo hold is limited by the folded back seats.

Test Drive: 2008 Honda CR V EX L with navigation car test drives honda
2008 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

Wind and tire noise are well controlled. My tester was still wearing winter tires; I imagine it would have been quieter over the road with all-seasons. Interior space is good, as is comfort, and sightlines are fine, except the over-the-shoulder view, which is obscured by the shape of the wedgy rear side windows.

As alluded to, this EX-L tester was a fully loaded model, sporting the optional navigation system. As such, the base price is $37,790, compared to $32,690 for an EX model; the most basic front-drive LX starts at $27,790.

The CR-V is far from exciting, but many shoppers in the compact SUV/CUV segment – not to mention those looking to make a move from another Honda model – will find lots to like in this latest version of Honda’s trendsetter.

Pricing: 2008 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi

Base price: $37,790

Options: None
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,540
Price as tested: $39,430
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Honda CR-V

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