2002 Honda CR-V
Click image to enlarge

by Greg Wilson

The redesigned 2002 Honda CR-V has a new 160 horsepower 2.4 litre four cylinder engine, a larger passenger and cargo area, powerful four wheel disc brakes with ABS, and a redesigned interior with plenty of storage areas. Honda’s ‘Real-Time’ 4WD is standard, but a V6 engine is not offered. 2002 prices range from $26,900 to $32,200.

CR-V is roomier, more powerful — but no V6

Canada’s most popular small SUV for the better part of the last five years, the Honda CR-V, has been completely redesigned just in time to compete with a host of newer, more powerful competitors such as the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Liberty and Saturn VUE.

Unlike those vehicles though, the 2002 CR-V does not offer an optional V6 engine – the only engine available in the new CR-V is an all-new 160 horsepower 2.4 litre four cylinder DOHC motor with new i-VTEC variable valve timing. Though this is more horsepower than the CR-V’s previous 2.0 litre four cylinder motor, it’s less than many V6 engines like the Escape’s 200 horsepower 3.0 litre V6.

Still, the new CR-V offers surprisingly good performance and better fuel consumption than V6 competitors, and its towing capacity is quite good, ranging from 1000 lb. to 1500 lb.

Compared to the CR-V’s previous four cylinder engine, horsepower has increased to 160 from 146 and torque to 162 lb-ft from 133 lb-ft at much lower engine revs. Even though the new CR-V is bigger and heavier, fuel consumption has improved slightly to 10.6 l/100 km (27 mpg) in the city and 8.2 l/100 km (34 mpg) on the highway.

2002 Honda CR-V
Click image to enlarge

In addition to improved performance, the 2002 CR-V offers considerably more passenger and cargo room and more safety features. Though not significantly bigger on the outside (27 mm longer, 32 mm wider and 7 mm higher), the CR-V’s cabin is 8% larger and the cargo area behind the rear seats is 13% bigger.

The new CR-V includes many new safety features, including dual stage front airbags, optional side airbags, a third rear head restraint, seat belt pre-tensioners for front passengers, the LATCH system for anchoring child seats, a passive whiplash protection system, and a stiffened body structure which is expected to meet future NHTSA five-star crash standards.

One thing that hasn’t changed for 2002 is the CR-V’s ‘Real-time’ 4WD system. This Honda system operates in front-wheel-drive until it senses front wheel slip, and then sends some engine power to the rear wheels. Critics of this system say it’s slow to react and doesn’t offer as much grip as full-time all-wheel-drive systems. I’ll get back to this later..

2002 CR-V prices, which range from $26,900 to $32,200, have risen from 2% on base LX models to 5% on better-equipped EX models – but these increases don’t take into account new standard equipment such as side airbags on EX models. Overall, price increases are minimal.

Driving impressions

2002 Honda CR-V
Click image to enlarge

The CR-V’s new 2.4 litre i-VTEC engine develops 160 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 162 lb.-ft. of torque at 3600 rpm – an increase of 10 and 22 percent respectively. The new i-VTEC, or ‘intelligent’ variable valve timing and lift electronic control system, similar to that on the Acura RSX, incorporates new Variable Timing Control which continually adjusts the camshaft phase based on engine speed and load to produce more power and torque and better emissions. The effect of I-VTEC is most noticeable at low to medium engine speeds where there is much better throttle response than with the previous 2.0 litre four cylinder engine. The new engine develops 162 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm compared to 133 @ 4500 rpm for the 2.0 litre engine. (See Jim Kerr’s report on Honda’s new i-VTEC technology.)

Acceleration is very good for a four cylinder compact SUV. According to independent ‘street start’ acceleration tests conducted at the recent AJAC Car of the Year test-fest, the CR-V with an automatic transmission went from 0 to 100 km/h in 10 seconds. Its V6-equipped competitors, the Jeep Liberty, Saturn VUE and Suzuki XL7 did the same test in 10.0 seconds, 9.5 seconds, and 10.5 seconds respectively. The CR-V was also comparable in the 80 to 120 km/h passing tests.

In my road test, I noticed better off-the-line responsiveness, mostly due to this engine’s increased torque. Cruising down the freeway, the CR-V’s engine settles down to relaxed and quiet engine speeds. At 100 km/h in fourth gear, the CR-V’s engine is doing only 2,300 rpm, and at 120 km/h it’s just 2,800 rpm.

2002 Honda CR-V
Click image to enlarge

Despite a high redline of 6,500 rpm, the CR-V’s new 2.4 litre four cylinder engine is not noisy. In fact, I would say that the new CR-V is significantly quieter than the previous model. At idle, the engine is quiet and virtually vibration-free. At freeway speeds, there’s considerably less vibration and noise from the engine and very little tire noise – but there is some wind noise.

The four-speed automatic transmission slides smoothly from gear to gear, and can’t be tricked into a sudden, jerky gear changes by suddenly flooring the accelerator pedal. Since the early 90’s, Honda’s automatic transmissions have always been among the best in their class.

Now based on the new Civic platform, the 2002 CR-V offers a new four-wheel independent suspension with struts up front (formerly a double wishbone suspension) and a new, more compact double wishbone suspension in the rear. The new front suspension allows a shorter front end and a redesigned steering system while the new rear suspension takes up less room in the cargo area.

I found that the new CR-V offers a more comfortable, stable ride than the 2001 CR-V – the last CR-V was already one of the most comfortable small SUV’s, so this is really a compliment. The 2002 model is even less ‘SUV-like’ and more ‘car-like’ in its ride and handling although because it is bigger, it is not quite as nimble.

In my test-drive, I experienced a smooth highway ride interrupted only by tires that seemed too sensitive to those expansion cracks you find in concrete highways. I experienced minimal dive under hard braking and little pitch when accelerating – and lateral stability when cornering was quite flat and stable for such a tall vehicle. The 2002 model’s wider track accounts for much of this.

2002 Honda CR-V
Click image to enlarge

Braking performance is excellent – the CR-V’s four wheel disc brakes with ABS bring it to a stop from 100 km/h in 41.5 metres (136 feet) according to independent braking tests conducted by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. That compares to the new Jeep Liberty at 42.4 metres (139 feet) and the Saturn VUE at 46 metres (151 feet).

I found the CR-V’s power variable-assist rack and pinion steering required little effort at all speeds but was not quite as precise as the previous CR-V.

The permanently-engaged ‘Real-Time’ four-wheel-drive system, which works in front-wheel-drive most of the time, has the advantage of offering better fuel economy than cars with full-time all-wheel-drive system, and it disengages under braking to allow the four-wheel ABS to work. On the negative side, if you get stuck in some mud, there is a bit of a delay in power transfer which might mean that you can’t maintain the momentum needed to continue. In my opinion, full-time 4WD systems, like the Toyota RAV4’s revised system or Subaru Forester’s AWD system, offer superior performance to Honda’s system. However, Honda’s system is better than just front-wheel-drive – for those who only need 4WD for getting out of a snow-filled driveway or getting up a slippery hill, Honda’s system is quite adequate.

Bigger interior and cargo area

2002 Honda CR-V
Click image to enlarge

As SUV’s go, the CR-V’s step-in height is fairly low at 51 mm (20 in.), but there is a ledge to step over. All the seats have a high hip point, which means an upright seating position that’s easier to slide into and offers better outward visibility. My test vehicle had a manually height-adjustable driver’s seat and a tilt steering wheel which made it possible to find just the right position to see the instruments and the road ahead. The steering wheel is now more vertical than the previous ‘bus-like’ wheel.

The CR-V’s tall cabin and large windows provide great visibility in all directions, but I’d recommend removing the centre rear head restraint to improve visibility through the rearview mirror.

2002 Honda CR-V
Automatic transmission
Click image to enlarge

The CR-V’s new interior is roomier, more functional but less stylish than its predecessors. The automatic transmission lever now protrudes from the dashboard just to the right of the steering wheel, sort of like a slot-machine handle. You pull down to select gears, a movement that feels foreign at first, but which you get used to. A button on the end of the transmission lever allows the driver to turn off fourth gear to provide better around-town responsiveness.

The handbrake handle looks like it’s part of the centre console – but it’s easy to reach and out of the way of the floor.

The new dashboard has numerous storage areas and shelves for storing stuff, including a covered bin in the middle of the centre stack and an open bin on the passenger side of the dash. However, in my view, the dash looks cluttered, and has the potential to become even more cluttered if all those open storage areas are filled with candy wrappers, maps, notepads, and assorted garbage. Also, the open storage areas are likely to collect dust and will be hard to clean.

2002 Honda CR-V
CR-V with standard shift
Click image to enlarge

The driver faces four, metallic-rimmed gauges including a tachometer and an illuminated gearshift selection indicator for the automatic transmission. A sporty, thick-rimmed steering wheel includes buttons for cruise control. The new front seats have larger side bolsters for better lateral support when cornering, and both front seats have folding, inboard armrests – I really find these useful for long drives to rest my right arm while holding the steering wheel at the same time.

New dual-stage front airbags are standard, and my car had the optional side airbags in the front seats – the passenger side includes an occupant-position seat sensor to detect if the passenger is out of position, or is too small for an airbag deployment.

The AM/FM radio/6-disc CD changer (in my EX model) is now at the top of the centre stack instead of the middle, and the heater which includes three metallic-look, extra-large dials with integral buttons for the air recirculation, air conditioning, and rear defroster, is at the bottom. Below the heater is a pull-out cupholder and another covered storage area, and a 12 volt power point. My test vehicle had an overhead console with an area for storing sunglasses.

The useful, flip-down centre tray between the front seats includes two built-in cupholders and open storage areas, and two grocery bag hooks. The whole tray flips down for ‘walk-through’ access to the rear seats.

The rear doors are unusually large and open very wide which makes access to the rear seats easier. Rear passengers have lots of headroom and legroom – the front seats are raised so as to provide plenty of footroom for rear passengers feet. As the new CR-V is a bit wider than the previous model, there is adequate width for three rear adult passengers. The rear seat now has three height-adjustable head restraints and three three-point seatbelts.

2002 Honda CR-V2002 Honda CR-V
Click image to enlarge

When there are only two rear passengers, they can fold down a centre armrest which has two built-in cupholders. Storage abounds: there are also mesh-type pockets on the back of the front seats, and rear door pockets.

The rear seats are split 60/40 and both sides have fore-aft adjustment which means that rear passengers can increase legroom or rear cargo space as they like. In addition, the rear seat backrests recline for more comfort.

When not occupied, the rear backrests fold flat or the whole seat tumbles forwards to create more cargo room – unlike the previous CR-V, the rear head restraints do not have to be removed to tumble the rear seats. The rear seats are not removeable, however.

As with the previous CR-V, the cargo area is accessed from the rear by a sideways-opening door that is hinged on the right. This means that it blocks the curb when you park on a city street – however, the rear door now has a separate rear liftglass panel that makes it easier to throw in smaller packages – and it can be opened using a remote key fob.

As before, a spare tire is mounted on the rear door and it is positioned low enough so as not to impede the driver’s rear visibility.

2002 Honda CR-V
Click image to enlarge

The 2002 CR-V’s carpeted cargo area is wider and deeper than the previous model’s. A low loading height of 685 mm (27 in.) and a wide rear opening of 1143 mm (45 in.) makes it easier to lift in heavy, bulky objects. The cargo floor is 0.9 metres (3.0 ft.) long to the back of the rear seats, and with the rear seats tumbled forwards, the cargo area is 1422 mm (56 in.) in length – Honda says two full-size mountain bikes will fit inside the cargo area. The cargo area has four tie-down hooks, numerous grocery bag holders, a cargo net, and a 12 volt powerpoint. There are also handy storage bins built into the inside of the rear cargo door.

Underneath the cargo floor is a pull-out, portable ‘picnic table’ and below that is a fairly large hidden storage area where the spare tire might have resided if it wasn’t on the rear door.

Prices and features

2002 Honda CR-V
Click image to enlarge

The 2002 CR-V is available in two trim levels, LX and EX, both with “Real Time” 4WD. (A front-wheel-drive model is sold in the U.S. but not in Canada). CR-V LX models, which start at $26,900, include a standard manual transmission, power windows, air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette/CD with four speakers, power door locks, dual power mirrors, intermittent rear window wiper/washer, cruise control, outside temperature gauge, and tilt steering column. A 4-speed automatic transmission is an extra $1,000.

EX models, $28,700, are now offered with a standard manual transmission, and include alloy wheels, side airbags, AM/FM/cassette/6-disc CD changer, remote entry, heated mirrors, and premium seat cloth.

EX models with leather upholstery are $32,200 and include heated front seats, power moonroof, body-coloured bumpers, and a hard spare tire cover.

Four cylinder competitors for the CR-V include the Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Nissan Xterra, Suzuki Vitara, Chevrolet Tracker, and Jeep Liberty. Six cylinder competitors include the Hyundai Santa Fe, Suzuki Grand Vitara, and six cylinder versions of the Jeep Liberty, Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, and Nissan Xterra.

2002 Honda CR-V’s go on sale this month.

Technical Data:

2002 Honda CR-V EX
Base price $26,900
Price as tested $32,200
Type 4-door, 5 passenger compact SUV
Layout transverse front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 2.4 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valve, I-VTEC
Horsepower 160 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 162 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
Transmission 4 speed automatic (std. 5 speed manual)
Tires Bridgestone Dueller HT P205/70R-15
Ground clearance 205 mm (8.1 in.)
Curb weight 1506 kg (3320 lb.)
Wheelbase 2620 mm (103.1 in.)
Length 4537 mm (178.6 in.)
Width 1782 mm (70.1 in.)
Height 1682 mm (66.2 in.)
Cargo capacity 949 litres (33.5 cu. ft) seats up
  2039 litres (72 cu. ft.) seats down
Fuel Regular unleaded
Fuel consumption City: 10.6 l/100 km (27 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.2 l/100 km (34 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca