2011 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi
2011 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

Related links
Honda CR-V on Autos.ca

Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2011 Honda CR-V

When it comes to crossover vehicles, the compact category is where most of the action is, with just about every carmaker fielding an entry in order to grab a piece of this very popular pie.

The Honda CR-V, despite the polarizing styling it gained in its last redesign (2007), has remained a heavy hitter in a class where a number of up-and-comers – I’m thinking of the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson, specifically – have easily upstaged it in appearance, but still can’t touch Honda in sales numbers.

For 2011, the CR-V carries on unchanged, using a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic transmission, and with either front- or all-wheel drive, depending on trim: the base LX and mid-level EX start as front-drivers that can be optioned to all-wheelers, and the top-line EX-L is all-wheel drive only. There are no options for the engine or transmission.

The CR-V got a mid-cycle refresh for 2010, which brought styling updates and a horsepower boost. The changes to the car’s appearance didn’t make much difference, but the extra power did: this CR-V, with its 180 horses, felt quicker than the last one I drove, a 2008 with its pre-refresh, 166-hp motor. All the extra power comes at high revs, and the 161 lb-ft torque rating was untouched by the engineers’ massaging in 2010, so to get the extra punch, you have to be in a hurry and wind the engine out.

2011 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi
2011 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

Doing that’s not a hardship thanks to a motor that revs smoothly; the transmission is an easy target for being a gear down compared to the transmissions in many newer competitors, but it works well, bringing crisp shifts and reacting promptly to the loud pedal if passing power is called for.

Honda reserves its best all-wheel drive tech for its high-end Acura line, leaving the CR-V – among others – to make do with a slip-and-grip (it runs in front-wheel drive until they slip, and some power is routed rearward) system that’ll get you through bad weather, but isn’t as effective as a full-time all-wheel drive setup. A Subaru Forester in 2.5XT Limited trim brings similar convenience features as my CR-V EX-L tester, plus a more powerful engine and a better all-wheel drive system for about the same money. If the Honda is a good buy simply for the badge on its grille, the Subaru is a better value, to my eyes, for shoppers working on a features-per-dollar basis.

At the pumps, the CR-V with all-wheel drive is rated 10.1/7.5 L/100 km (city/highway); my tester returned 12.2 L/100 km in cold conditions and mostly city driving.

Connect with Autos.ca