Viewed from the front, the CR-V combines the Honda Civic's space-age looks with the face of a bulldog. While we're not 100 percent convinced whether that's a bad thing, but we are sure that, overall, the CR-V is an impressive little vehicle.

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Fortunately, the inside of the CR-V is much better looking than the outside. With tasteful use of plastics and EX-L level leather trim, the driver's seat of the CR-V isn't a bad place to be.

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Ribbed black plastic front and rear bumpers serve the dual purpose of making the CR-V look appropriately rugged and creating the illusion of more ground clearance.

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The CR-V retains many of the proportions of its smaller sibling, the Civic. Passengers were surprised to learn that nose-to-tail, the CR-V is only about 0.6 inch longer than the Civic. Wheel base and track are also very similar.

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Power isn't the CR-V's strong point with 166 horsepower on tap. Compounding the problem is the fact that most of the power is located high up in the powerband, requiring revving the heck out of the engine to get decent acceleration.

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The CR-V's stiffly tuned suspension allows it to keep a very car-like ride, in spite of its higher center of gravity. However, passengers pay the price with a slightly harsh ride over bumpy terrain.

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The CR-V's rear lights are right up at eye level, where they can best be seen. In EX and EX-L trim, the CR-V also gains rear privacy glass.

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For more storage space, the 40/60 fold rear seats can be folded and flipped out of the way.

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With the rear seats in place the CR-V has about as much storage space as your average hatchback. An EX level rear shelf doubles the amount of floor space for cargo.

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The CR-V's leather wrapped steering wheel has thumb-controlled buttons around the face, including a Talk button that activates the Honda's fantastic voice recognition system.

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Our CR-V featured a downright attractive instrument cluster that featured a handy LCD screen tucked between two analog gauges. The LCD screens show instantaneous and average fuel economy along with other information about the vehicle.

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All 2009 Honda CR-Vs feature a five-speed automatic transmission. There is no sport program, no manu-matic mode, and no paddle shifters.

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The CR-V EX-L's premium audio system features XM radio, CD playback with MP3 support, a six-disc CD changer, AM/FM radio, an unorthodox method of flash memory card support, and an aux-input hidden in the center console.

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When browsing MP3s from a CD or flash memory card, the CR-V allows navigation of folders. The menu structure is intuitive and responsive.

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Honda's navigation system's graphics are getting a bit long in the tooth, but are still attractive looking and easy to read. The entire in-dash experience can be voice commanded, from the navigation to the audio system to the climate control.

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As a general rule, any button label that you see onscreen can be spoken and recognized by the voice command system. For example, speaking "Intersection" at this prompt would take you to a screen where two street names can be entered.

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City names, street names, and points of interest can be spoken in plain English and recognized by the system. Alternate methods of entry include spelling the name aloud or typing with the onscreen keyboard.

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Here's Honda's odd system of flash memory card integration: a PC card slot. The idea is that owners will purchase a PC card adapter for their flash memory of choice and be able to add up to 8GB of removable storage to the system. Wouldn't a USB port be much simpler?

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The CR-V's rearview camera, combined with its short length and easy low speed steering, make it one of the easiest vehicles that we've ever had to parallel park.

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Hidden in the CR-V's menu is a calendar function.

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Dig a little deeper in the menu and you'll also find a calculator. We're not really sure why, but it's a nice touch.

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Another odd choice of an audio source is the six disc, cartridge loaded CD changer tucked into the center console. Before you get any ideas of loading up six CDs worth of MP3s, think again. The changer only supports standard audio CDs.

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