For 2006, the Honda CR-V’s base trim line SE gets all the new stuff: new trim, 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear skid plates, black side step bars and a roof rack.

The CR-V – the name stands for “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle” – shares its platform with the Honda Element. Like the Element, it has a smooth, car-like ride. It features a “RealTime” all-wheel-drive system that’s torque-on-demand, meaning that it sends power to the rear wheels when it detects slippage.

Three trim lines, the SE, EX and EX-L, share a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. The SE and EX start with a five-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a five-speed automatic; the EX-L uses the autobox exclusively.

The SE includes air conditioning, CD/cassette stereo with four speakers, cruise control, front folding centre table, power locks with keyless remote, power windows, black bumpers, soft spare tire cover, power mirrors, intermittent rear washer/wiper, and cloth seats. Unusually enough, the SE’s standard fog lights, roof rack, side step bars and skid plates are either add-ons or, with the skid plates, unavailable on the other two models.

The EX adds six-CD player with six speakers, outside temperature gauge, rear privacy glass, heated mirrors, and upgraded cloth seats.

The EX-L adds leather interior and leather-wrapped wheel, power sunroof, body-colour door handles, body mouldings and bumpers, heated seats and hard spare tire cover.

Nicely-sized and with a comfortable seating position, the CR-V is a pleasure to drive, although rear visibility suffers with a relatively small rear window, the top of the spare tire and the rear wiper. Most competitors have gone to V6 engines in their compact SUVs, but Honda’s four-cylinder is up to the task. The interior is loaded with cubbyholes and storage spaces, and a fold-flat table between the front seats means there’s a place to drop a purse, backpack or briefcase – a requirement sadly missing in so many vehicles that forget the “U” in SUV stands for “utility”.

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