SPARE A THOUGHT FOR HONDA'S 2016 CR-V, ONCE A PIONEERING MEDIUM SUV, IT’S NOW AWASH IN A SEA OF JOHNNY-COME-LATELY COMPETITORS.
The current model impressed well-enough when launched here 2013, but, even after a light update late in 2014, there are threats aplenty (and some good cars) lurking both above and below. Like Mazda's CX-5 and CX-3 family of all-stars, and like the new RAV4 and Ford Kuga.
And now, even the premium brands are pressing down on the top-spec CR-V VTi-L at its $42,290 (plus) price point. So, how is the current generation CR-V holding up?
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $42,290 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 140kW/222Nm 2.4 petrol 4cyl | 5spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.7 l/100km | tested: 9.9 l/100km
In a way, the Honda CR-V does things a little differently. It offers a 2.4 litre engine as standard across AWD variants, but Honda has never made a fuss of its performance, more of its 'family-wagon' adventure credentials.
And while it has a nicely balanced on-road feel, that too is something of a closely-guarded secret. (Certainly not so Mazda with the way it beats the drum about the CX-5's sporty soul.)
It is almost like the CR-V thrives on being humble - on being the best-fit for the job, a nicely styled SUV for younger families. That it's a joy to drive, you'd hardly know... unless you're chasing the pink horses of the TV commercial.
We're testing the CR-V in top-spec VTi-L trim. It's getting a little 'exxy' at $42,290 plus on roads.
- Standard equipment: Keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, power adjustable front seats, heated front seats, leather seat trim, multi-function trip computer, automatic lights and wipers, powered sunroof
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen including AM/FM/CD/MP3 and WMA playback, satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, six-speaker audio
- Options fitted: Modulo sports pack $3120, 19-inch alloy wheels and tyres $3155
- Cargo volume: 556 litres minimum, 1120 maximum
While it isn’t exactly old, the CR-V’s interior isn’t (and never was) cutting edge. It’s clearly laid-out, simple to navigate, and robust, just not flashy or heart-racing.
The plastics on the dash and the doors are a mix of hard and soft surfaces, and the combination of design and materials feel a generation older than they are.
The VTi-L, however, carries a little extra class in its coachwork and interior. It comes well-stocked with up-spec features like heated and power adjustable leather seats for the driver and passenger. Overhead, you’ll find a powered sunroof, and in front of you a touchscreen navigation system.
While the infotainment system offers plenty of functions, the buttons along the side of the unit are small and fiddly to use, and the unit itself can be achingly slow to respond. Also, some functions operate a little counter intuitively and will occasionally have you scratching your head.
Both front and rear seats offer plenty of room. There’s not a great deal of lateral support in the front seats, but there is a bit of shaping there and they are easy to slide in and out of.
In the rear there’s a surprising amount of legroom, and headroom is quite generous too. The rear backrest can be reclined slightly as well, although it does tend to feel rather upright after a bit of time there.
Boot access is still via a manual tailgate (compared to the diesel DTi-L which has an electric opener), but inside the boot there’s a big fat square loading space with a decently low loading height and rear seat release handles. Trigger them, and the rear seats fold perfectly flat with a quick single action.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 140kW/222Nm 2.4 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Five-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear
- Brakes: Four wheel disc brakes with vented front rotors
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, turning circle: 11.0m
- Towing capacity: 1500 kg braked, 600kg unbraked
Honda has aimed for comfort with the ride and handling, making the CR-V a calm place to while away long hours behind the wheel, just don’t expect a particularly dynamic drive.
The heavy lifting is handled by Honda’s 2.4 litre four-cylinder engine producing 140kW or power and 222Nm of torque (while 2WD versions score a less powerful 2.0 litre engine). It’s that fairly anemic torque figure that does the most damage to the CR-V’s performance.
Acceleration is just fine with an empty vehicle, but slows appreciably with a full load on board. Loaded up, there’s not a great deal left up its sleeve for overtaking.
That said, the five-speed auto manages to keep the engine working where it needs to be. When compared to more modern six-speed units though, the ratio gaps can feel pronounced at times.
But, once up to cruising speed on the highway, it settles into an easy lope and will cover long miles pretty effortlessly.
And, on the road, the CR-V is comfortable, well insulated from outside and mechanical noise, with a smooth gearbox and an unobtrusive manner of going about its daily dealings.
Tyre noise can be evident on coarse bitumen, but the ride is quite settled on secondary roads.
Ride comfort on the optional 19-inch alloy wheels fitted to this tester isn’t quite as comfy as we recall from previous trips in CR-V’s fitted with standard 18-inch wheels, but we doubt few would complain.
Honda’s LaneWatch camera system helps with visibility too, offering a camera feed from along the left side of the vehicle each time the indicator is engaged.
It is very handy for keeping a constant distance from the kerb whist parking, or to know when it's safe to slot back in after overtaking.
Equipped with all-wheel-drive for added grip in adverse conditions, it feels maybe a little unnecessary in the suburbs where the CR-V rarely overcomes its own traction limits. But those living in rural areas will appreciate the extra grip on loose surfaces.
SAFETY | RATING: 5/5
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the CR-V scored 35.91 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2012
Safety features: Standard safety features in the CR-V include six airbags, ABS brakes with brake assist, and electronic brakeforce distribution, rear ISOfix and top tether child seat anchor points, reversing camera, and stability control with traction control.
Honda Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) is an option on the VTi-L model only, adding adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation and braking, lane keep assist, and seatbelt fit assist for $3500.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The medium SUV class is bursting at the seams, but for similar money the Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring offers a more engaging drive, while the Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed adds the bonus of two extra seats if you need them.
A recent update to the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser keeps it fresh, but it’s also the most expensive of this group, while the Subaru Forester 2.5i-S sits as the best value of the group
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
As a competent and nicely styled family truckster the CR-V does the job cleverly and unobtrusively. Overall, it is honest buying with a bit of extra styling flair and Honda's renowned reliability and robustness.
The easy folding rear seats and Lanewatch passenger side camera earns it brownie points, but the clunky infotainment system costs it a few.
Fresh metal in the class, like the Hyundai Tucson, can show up the CR-V’s age. The Hyundai feels the more youthful, modern and exciting buy.
However, next to the likes of the Holden Captiva, the CR-V is a relative spring-chicken.
Overall, there is a nice maturity to the CR-V that we like. It is not the best in the segment for on-road dynamics, but there is more to it than that. Give it look; like all Hondas it carries a little extra class.
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