Car reviews - Honda - CR-V - 2WD VTi
Roomy cabin, versatile interior with quick-flip rear seats, decent ride, engine responds well to city demands.
Room for improvement
Hard plastics dominate, five-speed auto is off the pace, flat and unsupportive front seats.
30 Apr 2013
By BARRY PARK
Price and equipment
THE new CR-V range runs up to $42,290 for the top of the line VTi-L, but here we’re behind the wheel of the $29,790 entry-level VTi, featuring a five-speed automatic gearbox displacing the $2200 cheaper six-speed manual version mated to a new, smaller 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.
This end of the market is pretty competitive, with a spread of vehicles to chose from within a couple of grand of the entry-level CR-V, including Mazda’s class-leading CX-5, the smart-looking Toyota RAV4, and the all-new Ford Kuga.
Honda’s specification list for the CR-V pretty much shadows its rivals. That means all the usual suspects are there, including USB and auxiliary inputs for the audio system (but only four speakers, not six), a Bluetooth phone connection with audio streaming, tilt and reach steering adjustment, audio and cruise controls on a plastic steering wheel, single-zone climate control air-conditioning, an almost essential-for-a-family-car reversing camera that pops up on the screen in the middle of the dash (but no parking sensors), powered windows including an auto function for the driver, a fairly comprehensive trip computer, and roof rails.
The follow-me-home lighting that leaves the headlights on for a fixed time after you get out of the CR-V at night is handy, but the lack of an intermittent wiper control isn’t.
Each door gets a bottle holder, but it is a bit of a struggle to get a standard refillable drink bottle into them.
The 17-inch spare wheel hidden away under the boot floor is a full-size alloy in a class where a few competitors fit a steel rim.
In a nutshell, the CR-V’s fit-out can’t match the richly equipped Captiva on price but beats it hands down on packaging, isn’t as premium in feel as the CX-5, and lacks the shiny newness and techno-bent of the Kuga.
Adding all-wheel-drive grip adds a hefty $5300 because you need to step up to the larger 2.4-litre engine mated to the five-speed automatic transmission.
Honda does do interiors well. Not so much in terms of presentation, because hard plastics abound in the entry-level CR-V, but it’s what you can do with it.
The mix of matte black interrupted with satin chrome-look highlights gives an understated elegance to the cockpit, the switchgear has a nice tactility and everything is well laid-out and logical.
There’s plenty of adjustment to both the steering wheel and driver’s seat to get a good position behind the wheel, however, the cloth-trimmed seats are relatively flat and lack lateral support.
The gear lever has moved to a more natural position down on the centre console instead of hanging off the dash on a small plinth, and the handbrake is a foot-operated pedal that requires one pump to set it, and another to release.
Storage space is OK with a flip-up door covering a pair of cupholders. There’s another shallow bin with a 12-volt socket, but really there’s nowhere sensible to put the contents of your pockets. A small glovebox drops down from the dash.
The more upright, boxy exterior of the CR-V is reflected inside, where the width has become extremely generous. Leaning across to unlock the passenger-side door requires a lot more effort than before.
A cloth-trimmed centre console box sits under the driver’s left elbow providing a good amount of storage, but also houses the USB and auxiliary inputs for the audio system.
Likewise, rear-seat storage isn’t generous. There are door pockets, and the flip-down centre armrest hides a pair of cupholders, but that’s about it.
If you don’t have anyone in the reclining rear seats, the headrests on both outboard seats flips forward at the pull of a strap to give a much clearer view out of the rear window.
The highlight of the CR-V is the ease in which it converts its 556-litre boot into a 1648-litre cargo space. Flip up the tall tailgate via its low-mounted soft-touch release button, reach in and pull a lever, and the rear seats drop their headrests, fold in half and flip forward as if they’re spring-loaded, revealing the huge, flat load space with a low loading lip.
A colleague loaded a circa two-metre long piece of flat-pack furniture with ease. , Taller owners will need to duck in under the low-rising tailgate.
There’s no cover for the boot space, so anything stored there is within sight of prying eyes.
Engine and transmission
The fuel-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is a new addition to the line-up, and reserved purely for the front-wheel-drive version of the CR-V.
It only produces only 114kW of power compared with its bigger 2.4-litre sibling’s 140kW, and 190Nm of torque compared with 222Nm.
However, the way it delivers its performance is quite good for around-town driving. Step-off acceleration is quite brisk, helped by a lithe 1488kg kerb weight, and the CR-V builds speed confidently enough to keep up with city traffic.
If anything, the five-speed auto is a little too eager to drop back a gear or two to tackle a hill. We wonder, too, how much the less-than-stellar claimed 7.7 litre per 100 kilometre fuel use average on normal unleaded fuel could have improved if there was a six-speeder hanging off it.
Still, at an average of 8.3L/100km in our week behind the wheel, our real-world figures came commendably close to the theoretical ones.
There is no diesel option for the CR-V. For that, you need to wait for a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine due later this year.
Ride and handling
Around town, the CR-V rides respectably well, absorbing almost all the lumps and bumps of the road quite comfortably.
It’s no Mazda CX-5, though. By that we mean there’s no real sense of driver enjoyment as you pitch it a bit too roughly into the first corner.
Grip from the more premium Michelin rubber is good, and body roll is quite well suppressed for such a tall car, but the steering feels quite soft at its straight-ahead position and heavily assisted, robbing the driver of a fair bit of feedback.
The tendency to wander slightly at higher speeds means the CR-V also needs constant small corrections to keep it in the centre of the lane.
One area Honda has done well is suppressing road noise. The CR-V is commendably quiet at low speeds, providing a hushed, refined environment.
It has its problems over coarse-chip surfaces at high speed, where the tyre roar does increase enough to drown out the noise of the wind scything through the side mirrors, but the radio has a function that increases its volume as the pace rises.
Despite its boxy looks and articulation-robbing front-drive layout, the CR-V has an easily manageable turning circle.
Safety and servicing
Honda’s CR-V includes the full suite of six airbags along with electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.
In keeping with its lack of off-road accoutrements, there’s no special off-road functions available for the stability, traction control and braking computers.
Honda’s warranty extends over three years or 100,000 kilometres.
Honda’s attempt to bring a new generation of buyers to its mid-size soft-roader fan base is a pretty good one.
It looks good inside and out, it doesn’t feel cheap, and it carries the promise of adventure without the baggage of having to one day live up to it.
We can’t help thinking it could have been better, though, particularly if it was to use a more class-competitive drivetrain than it has been lumbered with.
Maybe things will change for the better once the diesel arrives. At that point we will probably sit up and take much more notice.
Mazda CX-5 Maxx auto.
, From $29,880 before on-roads.
A roomy, rorty and refined urban SUV that combines Japanese quality and reliability with classy dynamics and class-leading efficiency, but let down by a chassis that deserves more oomph, infuriating GPS system and dreary dashboard design.
, Toyota RAV4 GX CVT.
, From $30,990 before on-roads.
Good styling, handling and packaging, and typical Toyota quality.
Smooth 2.5-litre drivetrain using a stepless gearbox. On the downside, the ride is firm, there’s no digital speedo, and the tailgate doesn’t lift high enough.
, Ford Kuga Ambiente.
, From $27,990 before on-roads.
New kid on the block only offers front-wheel-drive with a manual gearbox, limiting appeal. It’s 1.6 turbo likes premium unleaded, but is the only model to get a stop-start system. Good dynamics, lacklustre performance, and feels like a price leader.
MAKE/MODEL: Honda CR-V VTi auto
, ENGINE: 1997cc four-cylinder petrol
, LAYOUT: Front, longitudinal
, POWER: 114kW @ 6500rpm
, TORQUE: 190Nm @ 4300rpm
, TRANSMISSION: Five-speed automatic
, 0-100km: N/A
, TOP SPEED: N/A
, FUEL: 7.7L/100km
, CO2: 179g/km
, WEIGHT: 1488kg
, SUSPENSION f/r: MacPherson/multilink
, STEERING: Electronic rack and pinion
, BRAKES f/r: Ventilated discs/solid discs
, PRICE: From $29,790 before on-roads
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