TL;DR Uncut: Honda CR-V

This is TL;DR Uncut, a more detailed review of the title vehicle. For the original TL;DR Review, click here.

I hated the Honda CR-V. At first.

My mom purchased it new in 2002, somewhat because her old car was terrible in the snow, but mostly because I could no longer fit in the backseat of a ‘96 Grand Am. It was still slightly taboo in our family and community to buy foreign vehicles at the time, amplified by the fact that my aunt worked for GM. But after countless family road trips were cut short by faulty Chevrolets and Pontiacs, my mother and her Consumer Reports subscription were turning Japanese, I really think so.

The rear mounted spare is always a good look. The hatch window opening was also useful. The alloy wheels option is also pictured here. Photo from

And she loved it. She drove it for ten years, when she passed it to me and replaced it with a new 2012 CR-V. She didn’t like that one as much because it was bigger and heavier and worse in the snow. So, when I was out of college for a while, she bought the 2002 back from me with 185,000 miles on the clock. Recently, my uncle bought it from her and he still drives it daily. In all of this time, it has never had a major issue.

I drove the CR-V for 3 years. To be honest, I still didn’t like it much at the beginning of this period. Don’t get me wrong; I was very grateful for my parents giving it to me for a reduced cost and on a generous payment plan. But I didn’t really want to be seen in it. I thought it was wimpy and made me feel like a soccer mom.

Stock interior. It was also available with a center mounted manual. Photo from

It didn’t like me very much, either. Listing serviceability as a Con for this car is from two experiences. First, the starter went out, leaving me stranded at work. This repair requires a lot of things to come off before you can even attempt to loosen the extremely long bolts holding the starter on. Using two wrenches hooked together for leverage, and by turning a few degrees at a time until my arms were screaming, the starter was out. The new one cost a jaw-dropping $239 at AutoZone, after the core replacement.

Photo showing the starter location. Image and caption from

Second, the oil filter is in a spot that can hardly be seen. It is most easily accessed through the passenger wheel well, which makes things difficult when it won’t come off. Space was tight, but I was able to use the screwdriver trick to finally convince it to loosen.

Victory is mine over the dented and skewered filter

So, yes, serviceability is a con. Most people who buy these aren’t going to do their own wrenching, anyway. And Honda compensated for serviceability with that “R” word that was never talked about in design meetings for Y2K-era domestics: reliability. I had complete confidence to take it on the 2500 mile round trip to Panama City Beach when it already had 175k under its belt. (Side note: it averaged 23 MPG on this trip, which isn’t bad with over a half ton of passengers and cargo on board.)

In fact, there was never an obstacle that worried me. It fit four grown men comfortably for 20 hours. It got me through the snow where cars were stuck. I used it to move. It was short and easy to parallel park. It had decent power to overtake. The tailgate opened two different ways, revealing a freaking picnic table in the floor of the trunk. We actually used this table in our dining room for months during college.

The table doubles as the floor in the trunk. Photo from

It wasn’t a master of any of these things, but it was a jack of all trades. As much as I hate saying it, the CR-V made me a believer in small SUVs. That’s because, as I listed before, it will do anything for anyone. They aren’t just the contemporary version of a minivan for mommies. They can be an adventure vehicle, or a road trip vehicle, or a hippie van, or, yes, a grocery-getter. Coupled with the fact that subsequent CR-V generations are so ugly, this 2nd gen is still a desirable vehicle to this day.


In the end, I loved the CR-V. Although it took longer than any other vehicle I’ve driven, I had come to respect it. I now wish that I never let it go. Maybe my uncle will want to sell the CR-V soon and I can buy it back. Probably not. It’s just that good at being everything.

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