Car reviews - Honda - CR-V - 4WD DTi-S
Strong and quiet diesel engine, impressive fuel economy, versatile and capacious load area, excellent visibility
Room for improvement
Dated navigation, uninspiring handling
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17 Nov 2014
Price and equipment
Spending $10,800 over the cost of the entry level 2.0-litre front-drive petrol VTi doesn’t just chuck a diesel engine into the deal. The $38,290 DTi-S oil-burning version also comes with four-wheel drive and a good amount of extra equipment too.
More closely related to the entry-level diesel is the (auto-only) $36,290 4WD VTi-S 2.4-litre petrol, which shares the same specification level of the DTi-S.
But the latter also benefits from additions such as heated door-mirrors, adjustable headlight levelling, LED front and rear lights, driver’s seat powered lumbar support, a speed limiter and an increased towing capacity of 2000kg on manual versions.
The automatic version of the DTi-S starts at $40,590, which is $2300 more than the manual.
On the outside both DTi-S and VTi-S variants get fog lights at the front-end, 17-inch alloy wheels and rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors and camera.
Inside the decent levels of equipment continue with cruise-control, two-way adjustable steering column, touchscreen operated entertainment systems including Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB point, 3.5mm jack and MP3 compatibility.
Satellite navigation is included as standard on DTi-S variants and while the system worked adequately much of the time, it did occasionally get a bit confused by indicating our course was through uncharted zones and sometimes on completely different roads.
With the CR-V, Honda has kept everything simple and straightforward. All plastics are soft-touch, all fittings feel solid, and an understated tone of black prevails.
Front seats provide good support, comfort and a good view of the road and surroundings, while the ceiling sunglasses stowing pocket doubles as a convex child/pet observation mirror for an equally good rear-view too.
The area behind the front seats provides the cleverest design features though.
With just one tug of a strap, the rear seats flip the seat cushions and fold the back in one smooth motion resulting in an almost completely flat 1648 litre load area – the biggest in its class. We’ve seen a similar design on the Civic and Jazz.
By comparison, Mazda’s CX-5 can only swallow 1560 litres of stuff and while other vehicles can provide a similarly respectable load-bay volume, the figure alone is meaningless without considering the shape of the space.
The Honda’s luggage area shape was almost van-like in its regularity allowing the transportation of items which seemingly defied the capacity. Putting people in the back of the CR-V was just as simple and trouble-free with ample head, leg and elbow room and the high ride-height made entry and exit a breeze.
Engine and transmission
So here we have it only the second diesel engine to arrive Down Under from the longest running Japanese brand in Australia. What took it so long?The 2.2-litre turbo delivers its modest 110kW/350Nm smoothly and with little hesitation, and with its hearty dollop of torque sitting between 2000 and 2750 rpm decent progress can be made without ever feeling a need to go near the relatively low 4500rpm governor.
There were no unpleasant diesel rattles or knocks and very little engine noise made its way into the passenger compartment.
In fact the only noticeable sound was a strange whining sound akin to an over-tightened drive-belt, but it was only really perceptible with the windows open.
No doubt a majority of Australian sales will be of the $2300 more expensive automatic version, which is a shame because the six-speed manual as fitted to our test car had one more gear and was really enjoyable to use.
The selector-lever emerged from a point on the dash rather the more conventional floor-mounted solution and had a satisfyingly notchy operation.
With a manual gearbox we felt the very best could be extracted from the accomplished engine, especially when using the substantial internal mass to slow the CR-V’s 1664kg of kerb weight when engine-braking.
The manual gearbox also provides the best fuel-efficiency with a quoted combined figure of 5.8 litres per 100km versus the 6.7l/100km of the automatic.
We recorded a very respectable figure of 5.9l/100km considering the weight and typical SUV frontal section and associated aerodynamics.
We found the proudly displayed green Econ button of little benefit to the more experienced driver, with colour-changing displays altering according to driving style and a suggested gear-change to optimise economy – things most economical drivers would establish themselves.
The operation of Econ mode also alters the behaviour of the air-conditioning and cruise-control, but we couldn’t detect an improvement in the already impressive efficiency.
Ride and handling
While the Mazda CX-5 uses a sporty drive experience as a key selling proposition, the CR-V focuses more on the aforementioned cabin practicalities.
This is apparent as soon as it stretches its legs.
All diesel variants have four-wheel drive as standard but the system is the variety which sends all the power to the front wheels until they really start to struggle, only then diverting some action to the back.
The system is clearly more geared towards pulling a trailer out of a boggy paddock or a jet-ski up a boat-ramp rather than improving the experience on the road.
Powering in and out of corners made the steering feel like it had locked on to a course rather than tending to straighten-up when the grip on the steering wheel was loosened, which required concentration to pull the Honda back on track.
At the limit, the CR-V scrubbed its tyres in predictable but frustrating understeer, without any evidence of the rear-wheels stepping in to lend a hand.
On straighter roads and at more sedate speeds the CR-V returned a comfortable ride and an enjoyable drive, aided significantly by the pleasant manual gearbox involvement.
The combination of the manual gearbox and manual park-brake lever (automatics get a foot-operated park-brake) gave the CR-V a pleasant utilitarian feel, which increased the sense of driver involvement.
Safety and servicing
Honda’s CR-V 2.4-litre petrol scored the maximum five stars during ANCAP testing in 2012 thanks to all the usual electronic stability programs, five ISOFIX child-seat anchors and seven airbags including full length curtain bags.
The diesel gets additional trailer stability programming and an emergency stop signal system to add to the safety systems.
Tyre pressure monitoring kept a close eye on all four corners, but our test car seemed to dislike fluctuating temperatures and brought up a false alarm on more than one occasion.
Capped-price servicing is included with all new Hondas for up to five years or 100,000km.
Honda’s first foray into diesels resulted in an impressive and efficient hatchback – the UK-made Civic. Its second has resulted in another strong contender, this time breaking into the SUV class.
It might not handle like rivals, but it certainly is the pick of the bunch if practicality is the main priority, with the biggest load-bay and cleverest seating arrangement. If maximising the driving experience or towing on a regular basis is a priority we recommend the manual variant, if you can be bothered with three pedals.
Either way, the CR-V is a frugal and highly practical option in the class, and should be a strong consideration.
Mazda CX-5 2.2 diesel Maxx Sport ($39,470 before on-road costs) Mazda has managed to get more power and torque out of the same capacity engine and at a reduced fuel consumption compared to the Honda. It also provides the most rewarding drive, albeit at the highest price.
Toyota RAV4 2.2 diesel GX ($35,690 before on-road costs).
Cheaper than the Honda, but with an inferior towing capacity to all rivals, the Toyota is a middling contender.
MAKE/MODEL: Honda CR-V DTi-S
ENGINE: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
LAYOUT: Front-engined, four-wheel drive
POWER: 110kW @4000rpm
TORQUE: 350Nm @2000-2750rpm
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
EMISSIONS: 151g/km CO2
STEERING: Variable electric PAS
BRAKES: Vented disc (f)/Disc (r)
PRICE: From $38,290 before on-roads
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