2009 Honda CR-V Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011

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2009 Honda CR-V Buying Advice

Though Honda never has used the delightfully Japanese-tinged term in marketing, “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle” is the root of the abbreviation “CR-V.” This compact SUV is surely that, and more.

You won’t go wrong with any of the three CR-V models, though some 55 percent of buyers wisely opt for the midline EX version. It comes with the canniest combination of features at a friendly $23,100 or so, or around $24,300 with all-wheel drive.

The base LX model saves you a couple-thousand bucks, and is no stripper, but is the least-popular model. CR-V buyers obviously like their amenities, as evidenced by the healthy 25 percent who choose the top-line EX-L model, which starts around $25,700 and kisses $28,500.

Across the line, buyers split evenly between two-wheel drive -- which is front-wheel drive in this case -- and all-wheel drive. AWD is the smart choice if you live where it snows; two-wheel-drive CR-Vs tend to scuttle about when the white stuff piles up.

The only caveat is that the CR-V just isn’t very powerful, so take two or three grown-ups along on your test drive, head for the highway on-ramp, and see if you experience acceleration or frustration.

The 2009 Honda CR-V is strongly positioned to defend its multi-year run as America’s most-popular compact SUV. Stylish and solid, efficient and satisfying to drive -- these CR-V attributes are found in many Hondas, but in precious few compact SUVs.

2009 Honda CR-V Changes back to top

No changes of significance are made to the 2009 Honda CR-V over the 2008 model. The 2009 Honda CR-V belongs to the CR-V’s third design generation, introduced for model-year 2007. With each succeeding design generation (1997-2001, 2002-2006), the CR-V has grown in size but has always used a four-cylinder engine.

No change to the 2009 Honda CR-V will significantly alter its performance or passenger accommodations from those of the 2008 model. Statements in this review about performance and accommodations are based on detailed test drives of the 2008 Honda CR-V.

2009 Honda CR-V Test Drive back to top

Driving the Honda CR-V:  Nimble and surefooted in anything the road throws at it, the CR-V drives remarkably like a tall car – a sporty and composed tall car. The smooth engine is willing but feels taxed when you want quick acceleration for freeway merging or passing. It can seem downright underpowered if you ask it to move a CR-V full of passengers and luggage with any verve. Annoyingly, the transmission responds to such demands by shifting a lot in an effort to extract every molecule of power.

CR-V’s AWD system does a fine job as an all-weather on-road safeguard, automatically distributing power to the rear tires when sensors detect the fronts are losing traction. In more challenging conditions, it falls short of some other compact-SUV AWD systems, including those in the RAV-4 and Rouge, because it can’t be set to maintain a 50-50 front-rear power distribution.

Riding in the Honda CR-V:  All CR-V models share a basic suspension setting and the same-size wheels and tires, so there’s no discernable difference in ride quality. That’s a good thing. This compact SUV strikes a great balance between firm control and jolt-free absorbency, even on rough or wavy roads.

Use the engine to its fullest and it lets you know its working hard with a snarl that’s not unpleasant but can infringe on conversation. Same for tire noise on certain coarse surfaces.

No mid-priced compact SUV has a more inviting interior. The Honda CR-V cabin mixes padded surfaces, complementing colors, nicely grained panels, and modern shapes to create a pleasantly sophisticated ambience.

The front seats do an exceptional job of being at once comfortable and cosseting. The driver’s seat is height-adjustable, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes. For 2008, the top-line EX-L model addressed a couple of convenience deficits by introducing a power driver’s seat and dual-zone automatic climate controls – both CR-V firsts.

Head room is abundant, and rear passengers are hardly shortchanged, getting generous leg and foot space and a seat with a comfortably contoured cushion and a reclining backrest.

With typical Honda packaging efficiency, the CR-V has lots of cargo space behind the rear seat. It splits that seat into handy 40/20/40 sections and allows it to flip-and-fold to create a flat load floor. Bins and nooks do a good job with small-items storage, but only the EX-L version gets a traditional front center console; LX and EX make do with a less useful folding shelf.

Honda CR-V dashboard and controls:  The air of easy sophistication continues in a dashboard that’s inviting to use and entertaining to the eye. Gauges are large and unobstructed, climate and audio controls big and conveniently placed. The gear lever mounts at the base of the instrument panel, where it falls easily to hand and frees up floor space. All levers, buttons, and switches move with a precision worthy of a luxury car.

2009 Honda CR-V Prices back to top

With just one engine and an array of safety and convenience items standard even in the LX base version, the price differentiators for the Honda CR-V are the features gained as you climb the model ladder. Honda keeps things simple: There are no CR-V options, though AWD adds about $1,200 to the prices noted below.

The LX starts around $21,000. Moving to the EX (around $23,100) nets an upgraded audio unit with CD changer and steering-wheel controls, a power sunroof, and alloy wheels.

The “L” in EX-L denotes leather upholstery, and this model (about $25,700) also has heated front seats and mirrors, plus the aforementioned console, auto climate control, and power driver’s seat. Spring for the EX-L with navigation (around $27,000) and Honda adds a navigation system with a rearview camera. It projects on the system’s dashboard screen an image of what’s behind when the transmission is shifted into reverse.

2009 Honda CR-V Fuel Economy back to top

CR-V’s relatively light weight and modest power pay off in good fuel economy for an SUV. Expect a mix of city, suburban, and highway travel to net an average of about 23 mpg over the long haul. There shouldn’t be much difference between two- and all-wheel-drive versions. CR-V uses regular-grade fuel.

2009 Honda CR-V Safety and Reliability back to top

Every CR-V includes in its base price all the important safety features, including antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist technology that automatically applies maximum braking power in emergency stops. Also standard is an antiskid system that applies individual brakes to keep the CR-V on course in turns.

Torso-protecting airbags are mounted in the front seats, and head-protecting curtain side airbags cover both seating rows. The curtain bags deploy in side collisions or when sensors detect an impending rollover. Rollovers are a leading cause of fatalities in SUV crashes.

In government tests, the CR-V scores five stars on a five-star scale for protection of the driver and front and rear passengers in both frontal and side impacts. In government assessments of rollover resistance, the CR-V rates four stars on the five-star scale, a score that puts it among the best compact SUVs in that test.

Honda is the gold standard for mid-priced brands in terms of reliability and customer contentment with the vehicle, though dealer sales and service rate no more than average. This is according to surveys by J.D. Power and Associates, the leading consumer-satisfaction ratings firm.

CR-V buyers surveyed tend to be extremely pleased with their SUV, giving it highest or next-to-highest marks for mechanical and build quality and quality of accessories. They also rate it above average for comfort and design; the lowest rating – average – is in “performance.”

2009 Honda CR-V Release Date back to top

The 2009 Honda CR-V release date is autumn 2008.

What's next for the 2009 Honda CR-V back to top

The 2009 Honda CR-V continues as a four-door, five-passenger wagon with a cargo liftgate. Expect the return of three trim levels: base LX, midline EX, and EX-L. All are available in front-wheel drive form or with all-wheel drive (AWD). The sole powertrain is a 166-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed automatic transmission.

For the 2010 model year the Honda CR-V will reportedly offer a four-cylinder diesel engine as a higher-fuel-economy alternative to the current gasoline four. The diesel likely will provide more power, too.

The next Honda CR-V design generation isn’t due until at least model-year 2012, so the 2009 Honda CR-V’s basic looks and engineering will stay current until then.

2009 Honda CR-V Competition back to top

Three prime alternatives to the Honda CR-V are the Toyota RAV-4, Saturn Vue, and Nissan Rouge. Like the CR-V, they’re based on front-wheel-drive car-type structures, offer AWD, and are better suited to commuter duties than off-road excursions. Lighter and more fuel-efficient than SUVs with truck chassis, car-based SUVs are called “crossovers” and are the fastest-growing SUV segment.

The RAV-4 tops Vue and Rouge in sales and is the only one of this bunch available with third-row seats for seven-passenger capacity. RAV-4 doesn’t handle quite as well as the CR-V or Rouge but is solidly built and offers as an alternative to its four-cylinder engine the most-powerful V-6 in the class. Prices pace those of the CR-V, even for loaded models with the V-6. RAV-4 was redesigned for model-year 2006; its next big change is due around model-year 2012.

The Nissan Rouge was introduced for model-year 2008 and vies with the CR-V for sporty on-road feel, but not overall refinement or ride quality. Still, prices are the lowest of this foursome. Rouge comes only with a 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). A CVT is essentially an automatic transmission that dispenses with conventional gears in favor of a rheostat-like transfer of power. It’s fuel-efficient, but can exaggerate engine noise during rapid acceleration. Rouge’s 2008 looks and design will hold until at least model-year 2013.

The redesigned Vue from General Motors’ Saturn division debuted for 2008 as an Americanized version of an SUV developed by GM’s German Opel arm. It feels the most European of this bunch, with fine on-road composure and an upscale air. But it’s also the most cramped for passenger and cargo room. Vue offers the widest choice of engines here, including a four-cylinder and two V-6s. It’s also the only one with a gas-electric hybrid model, though it’s a “mild” hybrid that can’t run on electricity alone. Base prices start competitively, but top-line models hit $29,000. Vue’s not due for a redesign before 2012 or 2013.

2009 Honda CR-V Next Steps