Our family has two CR-Vs, a 2005 5-speed manual 2.4 litre base model (mine), and a 2004 4-speed auto 2.4 litre "Winter Classic" (wife's). Both cars have always been serviced by the Honda dealer, both have done 200,000kms plus, both have been totally reliable, never required anything other than scheduled service parts. Both still drive "like new". Obviously, they're well put together.
We find the CR-Vs to have a similar sized "footprint" to a Corolla, and have more rear seat space (width, leg room, under-leg cushion support) than a NT Pajero, but with about 10% less cargo area (a roof-box fixes that, adding 350 litres or more when needed).
The manual CR-V (with air con running) does 600 + kilometres to a 55 litre tank highway, with 3 average adults and about 50 kilos in luggage. It does about 450 kilometres around town under similar conditions. (I never turn the air con off, I adjust the temperature to suit. Air con lasts longer that way).
Our CR-Vs have visted places that other people are truly surprised to find them, on normal road tyres (we run extra-load "M/S" tyres because they're tougher, never had a puncture). The RealTime 4WD system works effectively, even more-so when its operation is understood, and correct driver technique is employed. When one front wheel starts to spin you give the car MORE power, the rear drive (4WD) engages automatically, feed in the throttle to give the wheels enough torque, and the 4WD pushes you out of the slippery / boggy stuff. In the CR-V, there is no centre diff, but a hydraulically operated multiplate wet clutch, combined with a hydraulically operated rear diff. When engaged, front and rear axles are locked to turn together as in a conventional part-time 4WD, but in the CR-V, 4WD is activated automatically. Many times I've had one wheel hanging in the air, the other three on the ground pushing the car along; never been stuck yet, even in sand. Later model CRVs have electro-hydraulic engagement, which activates 4WD before wheelspin becomes noticeable.
I tow a 1200+kg caravan (and carry the whole family of 5 plus two big dogs) with the 2005 manual CR-V. It is fitted with a legally-required electric trailer-brake controller ($400 fitted) and a weight-distribution-hitch kit ($350 to $500), I would NOT attempt towing any caravan without both devices fitted, as the trailer brakes combine with the car brakes to stop safely in very similar distance to when not towing (even in the rain), and the weight distribution hitch lifts the rear of the car level and puts weight on the front wheels. If set up according to the makers instructions, the distribution hitch eliminates swaying, it forces the caravan to follow in the tow cars tracks, vastly improving handling of the car / van combination. The rig is much more stable, very predictable and safer.
When towing, the CR-V does well, it really shines on "B" or "C" roads, and can manage graded gravel roads. It is stable, easy to control, has a willing engine, and climbs hills one gear lower than without the caravan on. I've pulled the 1200 kg caravan up a 12.5% grade hill at 65 km/h on about half throttle, in second gear at 4000 rpm, or 60 percent of peak rpm. Our previous (more powerful) 2.4 litre turbo-charged automatic front-wheel-drive wagon could not tow 1200 kg up any hill steeper than 9 %, and not on gravel at all. Honda gearboxes are strong and shift beautifully, but I don't use 5th (overdrive) gear when towing more than 700 kg to keep transmission loads at a minimum. 4th gear is a 1 to 1 ratio, and is therefore "straight through" the gearbox, and transmits more torque with much less load on the gearbox, it is a commonly used towing technique to reduce the gearbox load on any vehicle, even heavy trucks don't use overdrive when at maximum weight. The fuel penalty for not using overdrive when towing at reasonable speeds (around 90 km/h) in the CR-V is about 1 litre in 100 kms, and actually reduces fuel consumption slightly when towing a tall, wide, caravan into stiff headwinds. When towing my 4 berth "16 foot class" caravan (6.5 metres overall) weighing 1200 kg, at 90 to 95 km/h on the highway (still wind conditions) using cruise-control in 4th gear, my manual CRV manages 13 litres per 100 kms. On twisty "B" roads, it does 14 litres per 100 kms, giving around 400 kilometres range from one tank with reserves.
For anyone needing an unpretentious, inexpensive, quality, reliable compact family-capable vehicle that is practical and tough, can go almost anywhere one wants to go on the weekend, and carry enough "stuff" to do it, get a Gen 2.5 CRV. IF you can find one for sale!