Honda has a reputation for innovation, built through the 70s and 80s with clever engine technologies leading to more power and greater efficiency. In the 90s that focus resulted in the CR-V, one the first of a wave of compact SUVs that now shape the urban landscape.
And then the brand went quiet, building mainstream conveyances that lacked the excitement or innovation of past models, and managing decent sales, but lacking the lustre of the past.
Now the newest CR-V aims to turn the tide. Not as groundbreaking as Honda’s of the past, but at least contemporary with a move to turbocharged petrol engines across the range and a new seven-seat variant, both firsts for Honda’s well known medium SUV.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $30,690 - $44.290 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 140kW/240Nm 1.5-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.0-7.4 l/100km
Interestingly buyers have more model choices than ever before, but with a more streamlined range. How so? This time Honda has ditched manual and diesel-powered variants of the past owing to a lack of demand, with a four-variant rang.
The model you pick dictates mechanical and passenger layout: The base VTi features front wheel drive only, the mid-spec VTi-L comes standard with seven seats (the only version to do so) and front wheel drive, but in between the five-seat VTi-S lets you pick front or all wheel drive.
At the top of the range the VTi-LX is an all-wheel drive only proposition, but loses the third row seating of the VTi-L. All models are powered by a 1.5-litre turbo engine from the Civic with a more powerful 140kW output, matched to a CVT automatic.
Prices go up for most models, with the VTi starting from $30,690 plus on-road costs and the VTi-LX copping the biggest hike at 44,290 ($1500 more than before) but with a swag of added safety tech to offset the difference.
- VTi: Cloth seat trim, dual-zone climate control, rear seat air vents, cruise control with speed limiter, keyless entry and start, 17-inch alloy wheels
- VTi-S: Leather-wrapped steering wheel, LaneWatch camera, power-folding mirrors, powered tailgate, front and rear park sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels.
- VTi-L: Leather seat trim, heated front seats, seven seats, power-adjustable front seats, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic sunroof,
- VTI-LX: LED headlights, LED foglights, privacy glass, auto-dimming rear view mirror, adaptive cruise control
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM radio, 4x USB ports, six-speaker audio. VTi-S adds satellite navigation, VTI-LX adds DAB+ digital radio
- Cargo Volume: 5 seat - 522 litres to rear seat, 1084 litres to front seats. 7 seat - 150 litres to third row, 472 litres to second row, 967 litres to front seats
Honda has been more generous with standard equipment on the new model, including features like keyless entry and push-button start, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, a reverse camera and a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring on even the base model VTi.
The VTi-S adds more luxurious features like a powered tailgate, leather-trimmed steering wheel, power folding mirrors, front and rear park sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels and Honda’s clever LaneWatch blind spot camera, that shows a video feed down the left side of the car on the centre screen when the indicator is activated.
As well as seven seats the VTi-L also brings leather trim, rain sensing wipers, powered front seats, and a panoramic sunroof, while the flagship VTi-LX adds LED headlights and fog lights, privacy glass, adaptive cruise control and a self-dimming rear view mirror but cuts seating back to five.
The interior also makes the most of available space - overall the CR-V is just 11mm longer than its predecessor, but on the inside Honda’s engineers have unlocked significantly more space no matter which seat you’re sitting in.
The driver faces a clear and easy to understand digital display, with decent visibility past the A-Pillars. The dashboard makes use of quality materials for a substantial look and feel, with a sensible layout to the controls.
Storage space is cleverly metered out, as it should be in a family SUV, starting with a massive bin with a clever three-stage divider that can be used to sort and separate small items, or arranged to accommodate a handbag or laptop. Add deep door bins with bottle holders, a binnacle at the bottom of the centre stack, and dual rear USB outlets and it's clear that the CR-V understands families.
Rear seat space impresses, with generous legroom and decent headroom in the VTi and VTI-S, but the sunroof of the VTi-L and VTi-LX limits rear seat head space for anyone over 180cm tall.
The third row is best left for occasional use, small kids will fit back there, but the new CR-V doesn’t cut it as full-time seven-seat transport. Having the third row up obliterates boot space too, fold it and there’s 472 litre of cargo space, with five-seat models enjoying 522 litres of boot space.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, 140kW @5600rpm, 240Nm @2000-5000rpm
- Transmission: Continuously variable automatic transmission, front and all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, 11.0m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 600kg unbraked, 1000-1500kg braked, towball load 100kg
The turbocharged 1.5-litre engine might sound modest for an SUV of the CR-V’s size, but with 140kW of power and 240Nm of torque the engines feels much ‘bigger’ than it really is.
That makes it ideal as a suburban runabout, adequate to trundle around town but without being too perky or punchy. There’s a moment of lag from standstill as the turbocharger builds boost and the CVT responds to driver demands, then once it gets rolling the CR-V settles into a quiet lope, with enough torque in reserve to keep momentum flowing on the open road.
As is common to transmissions of its type, the CVT auto’s elastic feel means no intrusion from traditional gearshifts, though it does lack the kind of instant response of a traditional auto, and is prone to flaring under heavy acceleration.
Ride quality balances out comfort and dynamics successfully, the suspension is supple enough to absorb most of what patchy Aussie roads have to offer and remains controlled and sure-footed through corners without quite being competent enough to lead its class in agility or plushness.
Thanks to its raised ride there’s some body lean through corners, and the front end will naturally push wide if driven enthusiastically. Stability control calibration that’s subtle, yet preemptively cautious, means no abrupt surprises should conditions turn slippery.
Natural steering feel and solid feeling brakes that utilise an electric brake booster adapted from the Honda NSX hybrid supercar only add to the feeling of security, but significant levels of road noise, despite an active noise cancelling system, take the joy out of long journeys.
ANCAP Rating: The Honda CR-V has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: All CR-V models are equipped with six airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain), electronic stability control including trailer stability assist, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, tyre pressure monitoring, and a reversing camera.
The VTi-LX adds Honda Sensing, a safety kit including adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, and lane keep assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited km
Servicing: Honda offers a capped price servicing program up to 100,000km with intervals every 12 months/10,000km and each service priced at $295. Additional service items like brake fluid, cabin filters, spark plugs and brake fluid have individual replacement intervals and incur an extra cost. Your Honda dealer can explain full details of the program.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new CR-V sets the benchmark for interior space and functionality among its fellow medium SUV competitors, although competitors are still safe - the CR-V doesn’t exactly challenge its rivals in any other area.
That’s not to say it should be struck from shopping list. It’s more flexible than ever before, as well as being more efficient, with a slew of added features while still maintaining a comfortable driving character and an affordable price tag, making it perfectly suited to modern suburban families.