Not-so-base variant

‘Low-end doesn't always mean ‘subpar.' Paulo Subido gets to know the Honda CR-V and reckons it's probably the range's best buy
Feb 11, 2009

When budget isn't a consideration, it is only natural to lust after top-of-the-line models. Who would want to settle for anything less, right? The leather seats, extra electronic gizmos, as well as the prestige of owning the best that the assembly line has to offer are very tempting baits. So tempting, in fact, that would-be buyers are sometimes willing to cough up that extra bit of cash.

But ‘cheaper' doesn't necessarily equate with ‘inferior', as in the case of the Honda CR-V.

There are two types of CR-V. One is the 2.4-liter all-wheel-drive, upper-end cool-mom mobile (driven by deputy managing editor Carmela in our September 2007 issue), the same one that didn't level up to the Mitsubishi Outlander in the December 2007 issue's Big Test. What was lacking is the all-too-important fun factor. You have to run it hard to feel the power. Plus, the automatic tranny is somewhat sedate. It can definitely deliver, of course - if you are the type to be content with sitting in the back. But if honest-to-goodness driving is your bag, the other CR-V is for you.

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The car you see here has been stripped of the frivolous extras. No leather seats, no tweeters, no tan interior accents, no rear differential. In essence, what is left is a driver-oriented car that can carve up the roads with plenty of spirit - thanks to the weight savings. To be honest, this humble variant can give the Outlander a run for its money and should have been featured in December's Big Test instead, despite having only two liters of engine displacement. What this car lacks in frills, it makes up for in an utterly engaging drive.

Six speeds (with the familiar sporty throw that all Honda manual trannies are known for) give more room for choosing the most economical gear. But if you want to hammer through all six, the feeling is so gratifying, you will forget that you are driving an SUV. And you won't be sliding around as the seats grip like Velcro (they look great, too).

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It pays to be familiar with each variant before making that all-too-important decision to purchase a brand-new car. Knowledge about what is out there can spell the difference between a solid and a mediocre buy. Nothing can be worse than wishing you had bought the fun-to-drive, economical and ‘lower-end' variant instead.
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