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[November 26, 2012]


Nov 27, 2012 (The Manila Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- THIS thing has got it all down pat from Day One.

When Honda got around to building the original CR-V off the underpinnings of its popular Civic in the late '90s, the product did not pretend to be anything other than what it truly was. It didn't preen as an SUV, or as a minivan, but rather as a car that was roomier than the Civic, drove and rode like a Civic, but which sat on stilts and packed all-wheel drive, making it a bit more useful on rougher terrain--like the cobbled pavement of mall parking lots. Together with its nemesis, Toyota's RAV4, the CR-V laid the template from which future crossovers--as such types of vehicles were eventually labeled--were drawn.

That the CR-V always wore tidy sheet metal only helped it become one of the most popular cars on the planet, although in the previous, third-gen version of the model, Honda tried a bit too much in infusing it with style.

The CR-V's latest version fixed that. Released in the Philippines in May, the 2012 CR-V, like the one pictured here (a 4WD EX), flaunts looks that are more upscale than any CR-V before it, undoubtedly helping the nameplate to instantly claw back the lofty status it lost--no thanks to Japan and Thailand disasters that crimped Honda's car supply to many of its showrooms, counting those in the Philippines. Instantly recognizable as a Honda and as a CR-V, the new model manages to strut enough styling spunk (the shape of the greenhouse, C-pillar, taillights and hatch, as well as the car's silhouette, are quite striking) to mark it apart from a sea of crossovers.

Under the hood of the CR-V's EX variant is a 2.4-liter iVTEC engine that outputs a respectable 220 Newton-meter of torque and 185 horsepower--15 stallions more than what the 2.4-liter mill made in the previous-gen car--and which bolts on to a five-speed automatic transmission. The combo hustles the CR-V fairly briskly on city roads and expressways, and both engine and gearbox do their duties smoothly and quietly. As a new-generation car, the latest CR-V gets an Econ button, the function of which Honda is apparently quite proud of as the carmaker untiringly spouts the eco/fuel-efficient gains that the system offers. Now, should you use it Only if you have been clinically diagnosed as schizophrenic and you need tranquilizers to stabilize your mood. The Econ mode simply saps from the CR-V's drivetrain any sort of response that could qualify as "movement," so keep away from pressing that button.

In its latest cut, the CR-V is roomier even if the car's size didn't really increase (it's even lower than the old car) so there's no shortage of space for five people whether they sit in front or in the back. The cargo bay is huge, too, and there's more space beneath the floor to hide stuff in. But however neat its layout may be, the car's cabin lacks flash when compared to other present-gen models, and the top-spec EX's level of equipment--sunroof; touch-screen multimedia with Bluetooth phone link, reverse camera, steering wheel buttons and a pair of tweeters; an info panel that displays mileage, real-time fuel consumption and sundry other items; and dual-zone air-conditioning--is at best only staple fare now in the crossover segment. Oh, and there are no leather wrappers for the seats, too.

Still, and even at a not-exactly-cheap price tag of P1.655 million, the CR-V is good value considering its refinement, proven record of reliability, and deservedly high resale prices. Four generations on, it remains a compelling vehicle choice for any family seeking something good-looking and practical to ferry them around.

___ (c)2012 The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines) Visit The Manila Times (Manila, Philippines) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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