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2007 Honda CR-V 5DR 4WD EX-L Compact Sport Utility Vehicle

What was tested? 2007 Honda CR-V 5DR 4WD EX-L ($24,800).

Options: Navigation system with rearview camera ($2,000).

Price as tested: $26,800

Pros: It has no major weaknesses and comes with Honda's reputation for reliability. It will probably have great resale value because of that.

Cons: There are a lot of good competitors in the small-SUV class, including some that are more fun, more luxurious or more affordable than the Honda.

RATINGS: (1-10)
Style: 7
Performance: 7
Price: 7
Handling: 7
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 10
Overall: 8

People often complain about "reality" television shows, but I'd suggest TV has an even worse scourge: home design programs.

This Old House may have started the trend, but it wasn't so bad because at least it offered useful information. You could learn how to install plumbing or trim a window. Starting with Trading Spaces, though - which itself was a blatant rip-off of a British program - home shows focused more on cutsey music and goofy personalities than actually telling you something important. They're all entertainment and no substance, like Soul Train with power tools.

Even worse, they give bad design advice.

For example, every single design show - every one of 'em - will give the same advice for making a stylish kitchen. They'll either recommend lots of stainless steel or they'll try to create a "tuscan feel" in their designs.

Sometimes they try both at the same time.

This wouldn't be a problem except for the fact that stainless steel is going to be the next avocado green and those Tuscan kitchens end up looking exactly like what you see inside the Olive Garden. Seriously, is there anything tackier than making your home look like an Italian chain restaurant?

And I suspect SUV buyers may be getting their advice from these same follow-the-trend designers.

SUVs became popular, at least as products for the masses, in the 1990s. It made perfect sense in that pre-Sept. 11 world when the economy rocked, gas was cheap and no one questioned whether we had whooped Iraq in war.

Today, though, SUVs remain popular against the odds. They're a stainless-steel kitchen for the highway, a safe bet for people who want something that's both functional and stylish. Yes, some day you know they'll go the way of shag carpets and cheesy wood paneling, but for now they persist as the style du jour.

They're also getting dramatically better.

Take the new Honda CR-V. It was once classified as a compact SUV, but now there's hardly anything compact or SUV-like about it. It's a big, roomy vehicle that drives exactly like a car, with precise control and smooth performance. It's a spectacular vehicle. Problem is, it also has some spectacular competitors.

The Koreans are now building amazing SUVs that are bigger and cheaper than the Honda but also have excellent quality ratings. Toyota's RAV4 is totally faultless and actually drives smoother than the CR-V. Mazda makes an SUV that feels like a sports car.

You can get hybrid SUVs, powerful SUVs, off-road SUVs and luxury SUVs.

So why would you buy the Honda?

There are two reasons. It has no real weaknesses, and it has the Honda name.

This is a vehicle that does everything well. It has a big back seat for hauling the family, a spacious cargo area in back and a cabin that can be outfitted like a luxury car with leather seats, a navigation system and a video camera to help when you're backing up. It performs well and looks good.

Plus, thanks to Honda's reputation, you can bet it will have great resale value and excellent reliability.

It's really a no-brainer. It's not an original concept, but as those design shows prove, originality isn't everything.

Trendiness is.