Surprisingly, the later CR-V's extra power didn't come at the expense of fuel economy. Front- and all-wheel-drive versions were rated at 22 mpg city/25 mpg highway under the old EPA system. (They correct to 19/23 under the new methodology.) That's a dead heat with the dinkier Toyota RAV4 and trounces the most popular midsize SUV of the day, the V-6 Ford Explorer, which was rated at 15/19.

Problems? If there are widespread maladies, we can't find record of them. Overall, it looks like the CR-V has a good record of reliability. The only common complaints center around road noise, the sound of the four-cylinder (versus competing sixes) and its lack of power for passing, plus the inevitable handling of a tall vehicle on smallish tires. There were a few recalls but all were minor. We say go for the 1999-and-later models for the extra power--and be prepared to hear, "Oh, that's cute," from the missus when you bring one home.

1997-2001 Honda cr-v
Body type Four-door SUV
Drivetrain Front engine, FWD/AWD
Airbags Driver, passenger
Base engines 2.0L/126-hp DOHC I-4; 2.0L/146-hp DOHC I-4 (1999-up)
Brakes, f/r Disc/drum, ABS (2000-up)
Price range, whlsl/ret (2001 AWD SE) $4339/$7275 (1997) $7468/$11,406
Recalls (IntelliChoice) See
NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/pass Four stars/five stars