Home » There Are Hundreds Of Thousands Of Honda CR-Vs With Built-In Picnic Tables And Many Owners Have No Idea

There Are Hundreds Of Thousands Of Honda CR-Vs With Built-In Picnic Tables And Many Owners Have No Idea

Hiddentabletopper
ADVERTISEMENT

Engineers and designers love coming up with nifty little features to improve a car or make it more useful in everyday life. Sometimes, these solutions are so neat and tidy and well-integrated that they fly almost entirely under the radar. The Honda CR-V and its secret undercover picnic table is one of those features. Hundreds of thousands of these vehicles are getting around, with most owners completely unaware that they’re hauling around the perfect accessory for an impromptu outdoor snack session.

If you caught the latest episode of The Smoking Tire podcast with Matt Farah and Doug DeMuro, you might have enjoyed the discussion of the CR-V’s obscure table feature. The picnic table was introduced on the first-generation Honda CR-V, which hit the Japanese market in 1995, and the US in 1997. The table itself served as the load floor in the back of the CR-V, behind the second row. It lived under the carpet, and also served as the topper for the spare wheel well. This cavity alternatively served as a waterproof storage cubby for models with the spare tire mounted on the rear door. Ultimately, serving as a plastic cover for this cubby effectively camouflaged the picnic table so well that a great many owners never realized they even had one. It was hiding in plain sight and was so banal, most people missed it entirely.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The table was, of course, noted in the owners manual for those that bothered to look. The manual noted that the table’s folding legs should be locked in place prior to use, and that it wasn’t fit for standing on. The table was rated to hold no more than 44 pounds, and hot items like pots, pans, and kettles were not to be placed on its plastic surface.

Honda Crvmanual
The table, as explained in the first-gen Honda CR-V owners manual.
Screenshot 2023 11 28 103852
Bonus points if you can identify the breed of dog in this image from the owner’s manual.

For its part, Honda could have done more to promote the feature. It casually mentioned the picnic table in some sales brochures, but it wasn’t a major headline feature. Indeed, in the 1998 pamphlet for the CR-V, the picnic table is shown in a tiny breakout image off to one side, and gets just two lines of copy. Based on a contemporary search of Honda archives, there are seldom few, if any, press era showing off the table, either.

It also bears noting that while the design of the table might seem nifty at first blush, it’s not perfect from a usability standpoint. On the one hand, yes, it’s neatly integrated into the vehicle, serving dual duty as the load floor and not taking up excessive space. However, to use it, you have to first empty out anything you might have in the cargo era, lift the carpet, and pull it out. If you’re hauling lots of gear on a camping trip, that could be a pain. Furthermore, it might seem useful to have a table on hand at all times, but that’s compromised by the fact that there are no chairs to go with it. Sure, if you find yourself at an impromptu tailgate party, a table could come in handy. But if you didn’t plan ahead and bring chairs, you’re out of luck anyway. You’re better off leaving the table in the car and sitting on the flat floor of the cargo area.

ADVERTISEMENT

06beePickernicktabley

The picnic table lived on into the second generation of the CR-V, and was upgraded to boot. The new-for-2002 model gained a larger table top, measuring 29.9 inches by 33.5 inches, and standing 26.7 inches high. It was a sizable upgrade compared to the original, at 25″ x 30.5″ x 26″ respectively. For those playing along at home, the new version had a full 6.9 square feet of tabletop, versus just 5.29 square feet for the original. In fact, Honda was so proud of this new, improved table that it saw fit to photograph it with a handsome CR-V in Chianti Red Pearl. In the new model’s press kit, Honda also touted a special feature—a groove in the corner of the table which could be used “as a hanger for small items or a trash bag.”

Astute readers of The Autopian may have noted the table’s previous appearance in Rob Spiteri’s piece on the best vehicles to use for a tailgating party. Some were unaware the feature even existed, while one reader noted that they took the table out once, appreciated it, and never used it again.

Screenshot 2023 11 28 104459Screenshot 2023 11 28 104517

Upgrade
The picnic table was upgraded for the second-generation CR-V.

Fundamentally, the table did too good a job of being a spare tire cover, and many owners never even realized they had a fully-fledged picnic table lurking under there. Reddit has tales of owners suddenly discovering the hidden table by accident. Meanwhile, one owner on YouTube was pleasantly surprised when he found the pushbutton in the cargo floor. “I didn’t know it done any of this until I started reading the owner’s manual,” said Don B, an American true-crime YouTuber. “You’ve got a table that you can take out of your CR-V and have a picnic with!”

ADVERTISEMENT

Screenshot 2023 11 28 At 10.13.52 Am

Screenshot 2023 11 28 124603

Autopian readers weighing in on the matter.

You’ve got to feel for the team that designed the CR-V’s picnic solution. They did such a good job integrating it into the vehicle that it was all but invisible to its intended audience. You can print what you like in the owner’s manual, but you have to reckon with the fact that seldom few will ever read it.

Regardless, it seems as neat as a hidden table is on paper, it perhaps wasn’t actually as useful as the designers may have hoped. In any case, the feature was dropped for the third-generation CR-V, and has sadly never returned. Maybe we just don’t picnic as much as we should these days, or maybe a table without chairs is like a toy without batteries. In any case, the CR-V’s picnic table will go down as one of the more obscure, weird, and unappreciated accessories in automotive history.

Image credits: Honda, Google, The Autopian via screenshot

ADVERTISEMENT
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
70 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
CRX89
CRX89
4 months ago

I grab one whenever I see one in the junkyard. I have a few of them.

ProfPlum
ProfPlum
4 months ago

The dog looks like a poodle. My standard poodle approves.

Vetatur Fumare
Vetatur Fumare
4 months ago

An acquaintance was showing us his recently purchased Suzuki Wagon R, fresh off the boat from Japan. Seeing his mind being blown when I showed him the integrated shopping basket beneath the front passenger seat was true joy.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
4 months ago

“Bonus points if you can identify the breed of dog in this image from the owner’s manual.”

Its a Sketchy Doodle.

Last edited 4 months ago by Cheap Bastard
Seth Albaum
Seth Albaum
4 months ago

The Element had one that came without the legs. I never bothered to buy the legs for it and felt that it really should have been sold that way as an option on the EX trim – which I had.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
4 months ago

Next time I go to the junkyard I’m gonna look for one.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
4 months ago

I had forgot all about that. I do seem to remember that it was featured in at least one of the early TV ads.

Bendanzig
Bendanzig
4 months ago

SAVE THE MANUALS! (and read them…)

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
4 months ago

I love quirky features like this. You probably don’t use them daily but its good to have them. Example, the curry hook on the Polestar 2, perfect for take out orders. Or the straps, cubbies and hidden compartments on the trunk, the milk jug will not be rolling around even driving fast. Not everyone get this stuff done properly.

Here is a link for those features: https://www.polestar.com/us/polestar-support/how-to-videos/polestar-2/how-to-use-polestar-2-luggage-and-compartments/

Last edited 4 months ago by Mrbrown89
MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
4 months ago

As much as I was pleased to discover it once, we rarely used it or the huge cubby/tub cooler feature. I can confirm that if you lifted it up by the handle, you don’t notice the underside legs unless you really lift it high up. We owned an 06 manual CRV and I still miss it. Our 2018 RAV4 has a terrible automatic transmission and is 75% WORSE to drive. We are selling it.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
4 months ago
Reply to  MikeInTheWoods

That generation of CR-V was the best one, and maybe the best family hauler Honda ever built.

MikeInTheWoods
MikeInTheWoods
4 months ago
Reply to  TriangleRAD

Back glass flipped up too. Yeah, you don’t know what you are missing until it’s gone. It was so much better then our new RAV4 that if you put them side by side with equal mileage and price, I’d choose the 12 years older Honda every time.

Martin Ibert
Martin Ibert
4 months ago

That’s why you RTFM of every car you buy.

Bennett Alston
Bennett Alston
4 months ago

My first car was a ’97 CRV and I actually used the table a few times! Once I discovered it, my dumb friends and I really just looked for any excuse to use it so it mostly consisted of using our exciting new driving privileges to go to a gas station, buy some snacks and mountain dew, drive out into some grassy field outside of town at night, park up with some folding chairs, and lay out our feast. It did, at least, contribute to that unbeatable sensation of freedom that can only come from the combo of being a high school senior, and first-car ownership. Definitely transported some contraband in the cubby at some point too.

I think it’s really cool design for the right buyer, but like with most of the new stuff (removable bluetooth speakers, tables, what have you) it’s a better marketing tool to the people who want an adventurous car just to feel adventurous. Most people probably already have these things, but it is cool engineering and design to have them built into the car.

Luke
Luke
4 months ago

Picnic table was incredible. And in the 04, the spare was mounted on the tailgate. That cubby could fit a 30 rack and 2 handles and your parents (or the cops) were none the wiser.

I actually took the table out after I wrecked the car, still have it and use it in my workshop sometimes.

Martin Ibert
Martin Ibert
4 months ago
Reply to  Luke

What are “a 30 rack” and “2 handles”? Non-US-Americans may not be familiar with the terms.

Carl Nichols
Carl Nichols
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Ibert

A box of 30 12-ounce cans of beer and two 1.75-liter bottles of liquor (usually made of glass with an integral handle).

Lincoln Clown CaR
Lincoln Clown CaR
4 months ago

I’ve been quoted! I feel like I’ve truly arrived.

David Escargot
David Escargot
4 months ago

Looks like Snowy has left Tintin’s side for a job in the lucrative owners manual modelling sector

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
4 months ago
Reply to  David Escargot

If that’s Snowy then I’m a platypus

70
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x