I don’t know why this just occurred to me, but the Honda CR-V is hideous. It’s an awful looking car, and it has looked awful for years. What’s more, I don’t think Honda cares at all, because Americans just keep buying more of them the uglier they get.
Let’s break this down point by point. The first thing to take in is that the CR-V has a cruel visage, equal parts bland and surprisingly gross. It’s bland in that, well, it’s shaped like any other crossover on the market. It doesn’t have big fins. It doesn’t have the driver’s seat ahead of the front wheels. There’s nothing strange about the CR-V, nothing unusual. All it has is this unblinking glaring headlights, a sneering half-chrome grille and jutting chin, creased over and over with no cohesion.
The second thing to note is that Honda has kept the CR-V in this style for a long, long time. The CR-V on sale at this moment is the fifth generation of CR-V, which debuted back in late 2016 in Detroit but not at the city’s annual auto show. I think the reason for the sideshow fanfare was that the new CR-V looked pretty much identical to the one before it, the fourth-gen.
In turn, the fourth-gen only looked like a revised version of the third-gen CR-V, the one that had the false roofline and an underbite. That CR-V went on sale in 2006, so we’re nearly a decade and a half into the history of the CR-V looking plain bad.
How has this hurt sales? Surely the much more conservative, old-school Honda first- and second-gen CR-Vs took a hit when the CR-V turned gross? Not at all! Sales have been on the upswing even since the changeover. Some 150,219 CR-Vs found homes in America in 2005, as GoodCarBadCar tabulates. That was up to 219,160 in 2007. The CR-V crossed over 300,000 units in 2011, and peaked at 384,168 sales in 2019, only slightly dropping in 2020 for the pandemic. This is to say, the uglier the CR-V has gotten, the more Americans want to buy it.
It’s not just Honda, either. The only car that outsells it is the Toyota RAV4 and that thing is even uglier than the CR-V, full of creases that don’t line up. The only difference is that the RAV4 retained fairly conservative styling right up to its most recent generation. The CR-V has been betting on hideousness for ages.
The takeaway, then, is that Americans clearly don’t care how leering, angry, disjointed, or ugly their cars are. Make them as ugly as you want, automakers. I don’t even know if we can tell the difference.