2011 Honda CR-V Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 9, 2011

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2011 Honda CR-V Buying Advice

The 2011 Honda CR-V is the best compact crossover for you if your decoder says this one’s name means “good value,” not “lame duck.”

The 2011 Honda CR-V is a virtual rerun of the 2010 Honda CR-V except for addition of an SE trim level to mark the final model year of a compact-crossover design that dates to model-year 2007. Arrival of an all-new 2012 Honda CR-V qualifies the 2011 CR-V as a lame duck. Qualifying it as good value is its roomy, well-designed cabin, fine handling, and a sterling record for reliability and resale value. Incidentally, “CR-V” actually is Honda’s abbreviation for “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle.”

Should you buy a 2011 Honda CR-V or wait for the 2012 Honda CR-V? Wait for the 2012 CR-V to benefit from Honda’s newest thinking in compact crossover SUVs – a category in which the CR-V has always been among the sales leaders. Buy a 2011 Honda CR-V if you want a crossover that still has some genuinely appealing qualities despite its advanced years and competitive shortcomings.

2011 Honda CR-V Changes back to top

Styling: The 2011 Honda CR-V styling mirrors the 2010 CR-V’s, meaning it carries over the only appearance alterations made to this generation of CR-V. Those changes were subtle: the 2010 CR-V’s grille was simplified with fewer horizontal bars and a mesh lower insert, and the look of the nose and tail was modernized by extending the body-colored bumpers into areas previously covered with black cladding. Inside, some dashboard backlighting was clarified.

The 2011 Honda CR-V lineup again starts with the base LX model, adds the SE, continues with the upscale EX, and tops out with the EX-L. The 2011 CR-V SE hews to a Honda tradition in which the last model-year of any design generation is marked by the addition of a “special edition.” Exterior styling distinctions between these models are minor, with the SE basically adding to the LX some of the cues that identify the EX and EX-L, such as alloy wheels instead of steel, body-colored door handles, and darkened rear “privacy glass.” The EX-L exterior is further set apart by exclusive body-colored outside mirrors    

Nothing for model-year 2011 alters the essential shape of this five-passenger crossover. The 2011 CR-V looks upscale and friendly without appearing pretentious or feminine. And it remains among the smaller compact SUVs. That’s great for parking and maneuverability. Yet smart packaging means the 2011 CR-V has one of the roomiest cabins in the class, with fine space for four adults, five if the back-seaters are fond of one another. And at 35.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 72.9 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded, the 2011 CR-V has more cargo volume than a host of bulkier rivals.

The 2007-2011 CR-V is based on the same basic engineering as the 2006-2011 Honda Civic. It’s that car-type construction, in which body and frame form a single unit, that qualifies the CR-V as a crossover. “Unibody” construction, in fact, is the prevailing design for today’s compact and midsize SUVs. It has replaced truck-type engineering, in which a body is attached to a separate heavy-duty frame. Unibody design isn’t as suited for heavy-duty towing or off-roading, but its lighter weight benefits handling and fuel economy.

Mechanical: The 2011 Honda CR-V is mechanically unchanged from the 2010 model. If the Honda CR-V has a weakness, it’s acceleration. This SUV moves along nicely in routine driving. It’ll keep up with fast-moving traffic if it’s lightly loaded and the driver is willing to use lots of throttle. But put three or more aboard, start stacking the luggage, and the CR-V struggles to merge or pass without drama and sidles into the slow lane on steep inclines.

A few competitors offer a V-6, but the 2011 CR-V’s only engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Its 180-horsepower rating is actually among the highest among comparable four-cylinder rivals, but the CR-V is one of the heavier crossovers in the class. And with just 161 pound-feet, it has less torque than the norm. Torque – the force that gets you moving -- is more important to the feel of acceleration than horsepower -- the energy that keeps you moving.

The 2011 CR-V retains a five-speed automatic as its sole transmission. Rivals are rapidly advancing to more efficient six-speed automatics, and besides lacking that extra gear, the CR-V transmission tends to hunt annoyingly between ratios and frustratingly delay downshifts.

The 2011 Honda CR-V remains front-wheel drive and is available with all-wheel-drive (AWD). Typical of crossover AWD systems, this one automatically shuffles power rearward when the front tires lose traction and isn’t designed for severe off-roading. Neither is the CR-V. It has a modest 6.7 inches of ground clearance. And its AWD system lacks a provision found on most rivals that enables the driver to lock in a 50:50 front-rear toque split at low speeds to maximize traction. Still, if you live where it snows and are considering a CR-V, we highly recommend an AWD version because front-drive models have notably poor traction when the white stuff piles up.

Once a paragon of refinement, the CR-V now suffers a little too much tire roar, coarse-road vibration, and wind noise compared with newer, quieter rivals. Ride and handling remain CR-V high notes. This crossover feels light on its feet in changes of direction and its suspension balances compliance with good control. All CR-Vs again come with 17-inch wheels and tires.

Features: All 2011 Honda CR-Vs are available with front-drive or AWD and come with a laudable array of safety features, including antilock four-wheel disc brakes and an antiskid system.

The 2011 CR-V SE gilds the LX by cherry picking some features from the EX, including a steering wheel with audio controls and an audio system with six speakers instead of four. Honda, however, continues to reserve leather upholstery for the top-line EX-L, model – that’s what the “L” stands for. The EX-L also has traditionally been the lone CR-V model available with a navigation system and that doesn’t change for model-year 2011.

Honda for model-year 2010 did take the overdue step of modernizing the CR-V’s audio system to include USB connectivity for iPods and other MP3 devices. Similarly, it added Bluetooth cell-phone linking, a power driver’s seat, and dual-zone automatic climate control. However, it confined the USB interface and the power-seat and climate upgrades to EX-L models and it limited Bluetooth to EX-L models with the navigation system.

Honda will need to make USB and Bluetooth technology available on more than just the most-expensive versions of the redesigned 2012 CR-V if it’s to match equipment levels common on the top competition. Expanding these features beyond the EX-L level might give the company’s marketing folks fits: they could argue it dilutes a drawing card for the EX-L, which accounts for about 25 percent of CR-V sales. But it’s a perk buyers of other CR-V models deserve and would make the 2012 CR-V more competitive with rivals that install Bluetooth and USB linking on a wider range of models within their lineups.

That’s where our beef with the CR-V’s cabin ends. This airy passenger compartment is pleasantly laid out, with ergonomically sound controls, clear instrumentation, and solid, upscale materials. The navigation system’s doesn’t consistently understand spoken commands, but you’ll never tire of the short-stroke precision and tactile rewards built into every button and knob.

2011 Honda CR-V Prices back to top

The 2011 Honda CR-V price range is $22,475-$30,683. This represents a modest increase of about $220 per model over the 2010 CR-V, though Honda has raised the destination fee it charges to deliver this vehicle, to $780 from $710. (All vehicle prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee).

Honda has traditionally priced the CR-V in the upper-third of compact crossover SUVs. That’s partly a factor of Honda’s sterling brand reputation, but also because each CR-V model comes generously equipped, with no factory options offered. However, the EX-L with navigation tops $30,000, putting it in competition with compact crossovers that have more power, better off-road ability, and in the case of the arch-rival 2011 Toyota RAV-4, both those assets, plus three-row seating.

Further, while CR-V sales are up through most of 2010 compared to the year-earlier period, they’re not up as much as those of some rivals. At times during the year, the Ford Escape has overtaken the CR-V atop the compact-crossover segment. The No. 3-selling RAV-4 is closing the gap on the leaders. The fastest growing entry in the compact-crossover class is the recently redesigned Hyundai Tucson from the South Korean brand that’s always specialized in value for dollar and now is making waves with wild styling.  

The 2011 Honda CR-V LX is priced at $22,475 with front-wheel drive and $23,725 with all-wheel drive. Power windows, locks, and mirrors, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, remote keyless entry, height-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, stereo with auxiliary jack for digital media, and 40/20/40 split folding rear seatbacks are standard on the 2011 CR-V LX.

The 2011 Honda CR-V SE is priced at $23,175 with front-wheel drive and $24,425 with all-wheel drive. It adds to the LX model front and rear 12-volt power outlets, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, rear privacy glass, and alloy wheels. It uses the same basic 160-watt audio system but adds a six-disc changer and CD text display and two more speakers for a total of six.

The 2011 Honda CR-V EX retails for $24,775 with front-drive and $26,025 with AWD. It builds on the SE with a power sunroof, a third 12-volt outlet, illuminated vanity mirrors, and a compass and outside temperature gauge.

Price for the 2011 Honda CR-V EX-L is $27,425 with front drive and $28,675 with AWD. In addition to EX-level equipment, the EX-L has leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, heated front seats and outside mirrors, a center console, and an eight-way power driver’s seat. The EX-L also upgrades to a 270-watt stereo with seven speakers, plus the USB interface.  

The 2011 Honda CR-V EX-L with Honda’s voice-activated navigation system and backup camera is priced at $29,425 with front-drive, $30,683 with AWD.

2011 Honda CR-V Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2011 CR-V are unchanged from the 2010 CR-V’s ratings.

The 2011 CR-V remains among the more fuel-efficient compact crossovers, with EPA ratings of 21/28 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive, 21/27 with AWD.

2011 Honda CR-V Release Date back to top

The 2011 Honda CR-V should be in showrooms by autumn 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Honda CR-V back to top

Honda’s reached a sort of corporate juncture. Critics say the proud Japanese carmaker’s vehicles are not the leaders in design and innovation they once were. Even some people inside Honda seem to agree. We don’t fully endorse that criticism. With the exception of the disappointing Insight hybrid, Hondas are still benchmarks in every segment in which they compete. Driving manners, efficient and reliable design, precision engineering, and materials quality are all top-notch. We do think there’s room to improve styling, and especially to modernize standard-features lists to equip even the least-expensive models with basic 21st necessities such as USB and Bluetooth.

Honda will have an opportunity to address just such issues with the redesigned fourth-generation 2012 CR-V. Sources say it’ll look racier than the 2007-2011 generation, though we urge designers not to sacrifice passenger and cargo room to achieve swoopy styling. The CR-V is likely to get slightly larger, but wheelbase and overall exterior dimensions probably won’t change drastically. Some reports indicate the basic structure will essentially be a development of the third-generation’s platform rather than a clean-sheet design.

Similarly, some sources say the drivetrain will largely be a carryover for the first few years of the new design. The theory holds that Honda will wait until a mid-cycle freshening, perhaps around 2015, to introduce a new family of CR-V engines and transmissions. No matter the timing, we’d anticipate improved performance from more power and a more sophisticated transmission, and perhaps less weight. At the same time, Honda must make the next-generation CR-V more fuel efficient – a tall order but essential in today’s competitive environment. Wind, road, and noise levels will need to be to be reduced, too.

2011 Honda CR-V Competition back to top

2011 Nissan Rogue: Among five-seat compact crossovers with four-cylinder engines is this feisty Nissan. A new grille and freshened trim inside and out dress up the 2011 Rogue but don’t change its character as an agile little SUV. Off-road credentials are only marginally stronger than the CR-V’s, and cabin room and decor are a step below. Plus, it takes some getting used to the behavior of Nissan’s continuously variable (automatic) transmission. But Rogue’s prices are competitive at around $21,300 to start, and so is its fuel economy, at 22/27 mpg with front-wheel drive, 21/26 with AWD.    

2011 Ford Escape: Hard to believe this ancient SUV – its basic design dates to model-year 2001 – challenges the CR-V as America’s top-selling compact crossover. But handsome styling and competitive pricing have their appeal. Just don’t look to Escape for quality cabin materials, generous passenger room, or even modern ride and handling. This crossover is fully contemporary for tech gadgets, though. It’s available with Ford/Microsoft Sync infotainment system, steering that compensates for crosswind drift, and Active Park Assist that automatically backs Escape into a parallel parking space. A choice of models with four- and six-cylinder engines is on tap in the $22,000-$27,000range with a 34/31-mpg gas-electric hybrid model starting around $31,000. Thankfully, an all-new Escape based on Ford’s global engineering acumen is due for model-year 2012.   

2011 Toyota RAV-4: This crossover SUV attracts fans with its solid feel, Toyota genes, and capable performance. It’s also larger than the CR-V, with a longer body that makes room for an optional, child-sized third-row seat. Most RAV-4 buyers are happy with the 179-horsepower four-cylinder engine (22/28 mpg front-wheel drive, 21/27 AWD), but the available 268-horsepower V-6 (19/27 mpg front-drive, 19/26 AWD) turns the RAV-4 into a crossover hot-rodders rave for. Base price range is roughly $23,000-$26,000 with the four-cylinder, $26,500-$27,600with the V-6; add about $1,400 for AWD. The RAV-4 got a mid-cycle freshening for model-year 2009 and is slated for a full redesign for model-year 2012 or 2013.