A short history of the Honda CR-V

Updated Sep 07, 2020 | Same topic: Nostalgia: Cars We Miss
From small and compact to large and cavernous.

When it was released here, the Honda CR-V’s first-generation RD1-RD3 versions might have confused many Honda guys. This is because it was unlike any Honda they have seen before. It’s raised so it has tall ground clearance, it’s more spacious than a Civic, and it looks like an SUV but handles like a car.

The Honda CR-V was introduced at the same time as its Toyota RAV4 rival back in 1997. Despite that though, it was probably your first encounter with a crossover. This is because unlike the smaller RAV4, the CR-V was larger so it had more usability.

So how did the Honda CR-V come about?

As you Honda fans might know by now, the CR-V was the Japanese car maker’s first-ever “sport utility vehicle.” For those who don’t know however, CR-V actually means “comfortable runabout vehicle.”

A picture of the 1st-gen Honda CR-V

More like "Cool Rad Vehicle" right?

The Honda CR-V was of course dubbed as an SUV because there were few precedents for it, and the market didn’t exactly know what a crossover was at the time. Unlike a body-on-frame SUV, the CR-V used a unibody frame. This means that its top carriage and the chassis form a single structure. This enabled the CR-V to become cheaper than its contemporary SUV models. It handled better too because of the fact that unibody cars are typically lighter than body-on-frame vehicles.

While it handled more like a car, it had all the practicality and usability of an SUV. Its rear seats can be folded flat, and some variants even came with a picnic table. And as we’ve said, the CR-V also had a considerable ride height which allowed for light off-roading. Some variants even had all-wheel-drive.

Note though that the first-generation CR-V wasn’t that fast. It’s B-series inline-4 made 126 horsepower, but its double-wishbone suspension and short wheelbase made it very agile around corners.

For the second-generation 2002 RD4-RD9 CR-Vs, things became much more interesting. The CR-V came with the Honda K-Series engine (except for the diesel variant). That’s right, the CR-V shared the same engine as the 2001-2006 Civic Type R, Integra Type R, and Accord Euro Type R.  All of these, however, were exclusive for the Japanese Domestic Market. This meant that the second-gen CR-V to this very day is a desirable engine donor for many performance builds. And alas, it also became one of the few ways for Pinoy Honda guys to get a taste of the Honda JDM power.

A picture of the Honda CR-V 2nd-generation.

Pristine examples of the 2nd-gen CR-V can still fetch a hefty price in the used market.

The K-series engine found the Honda crossover however came with a different tune so a little tinkering is involved to bring out its full potential. Regardless, the Honda K-series has become one of the best inline-4 engines ever made. It is durable, it can fit into many models, and it’s easier than most inline-4 engines to tune for performance.

Honda CR-V 2007-2011

Back to the CR-V, its third-generation model became more powerful, but it also became monstrously huge. At least in comparison to the old one. Sure, it was still smaller than most SUVs at that time, but longtime CR-V fans were intimidated by its size. Make no mistake though, this larger CR-V was, and still is a very practical car. It’s also the first CR-V to come with a lift-gate.

3rd-gen Honda CR-V on the road.

The 3rd-gen CR-V became larger and heftier.

As per its looks though, this was the time when the CR-V was slowly shedding the adventurous and youthful character that was found on older examples. It lost its rear-mounted spare tire, it came with larger 17-inch wheels, and it became more high-tech. And as we’ve said, the 3rd-gen is also far larger than its earlier examples. This meant that it required more effort to park, and was harder to squeeze in tight city roads. It was also heavier and that also meant less fuel efficiency and poorer handling.

And no, the third-generation CR-V was no longer using the beloved K-series Honda engine.

Honda CR-V 4th-gen and 5th-gen: The Family Chariot

Then came the fourth-generation CR-V in 2011, and the fifth-generation in 2017. Both are far more powerful and larger than the previous versions. They both offer more space, and their exterior designs are very aggressively modern. Just like the third-gen CR-V however, these two are unlike the rough and adventurous first- and second-generation CR-Vs.

The 4th-generation Honda CR-V

The 4th-generation Honda CR-V.

For the Philippine market, the fifth-generation CR-V uses a continuously variable transmission, and most of its variants are full to the brim of safety features. There’s even a hybrid version in some markets. So while it has become more sophisticated and more comfortable, the CR-V is now used almost exclusively as a family chariot. There’s nothing wrong about that but for a car enthusiast, the fourth- and fifth-generation CR-V is more ideal as a daily driver.

The 5th-gen CR-V on a road.

The latest iteration of the Honda CR-V.

Do you miss the old, first-generation Honda CR-V? Well, you can still get one today because there are a ton of surviving examples in decent shape. For the more pampered ones however, do prepare to pay for a premium. If you want an older Honda CR-V, do check out our car for sale section.

Do you miss the good old first-gen and 2nd-gen Honda CR-V?

For more nostalgic articles like this, keep reading here on Philkotse.com.


Cesar G.B. Miguel

Cesar learned how to drive a car years before he got his license. Today, he's still looking for that perfect '90s Japanese coupe to drive into the sunset while listening to Crazy Little Love by Nuage. Also has a thing for badass off-road vehicles and weird engine swaps. 

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