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Launch Story

2 Feb 2007

HONDA has reinvented its venerable CR-V with a complete redesign.

On sale from February 15, the popular compact SUV is slightly smaller overall than before, but with a more versatile and upmarket interior offering increased space for people and packages.

Unlike its CR-V predecessors, launched here in 1997 and 2001, this third-generation edition is not based wholesale on the Honda Civic small car, although it does share about seven per cent of the current, eighth-generation model’s parts.

Following the Jazz light car, Civic and larger Accord mid-sized sedan, the CR-V is now being sourced from Thailand rather than Japan.

However, while the Honda is not cheaper for it – in fact, at $31,990, the price rises by $2000 – the opening gambit does place the CR-V right up against the Toyota RAV4, Australia’s best-selling compact SUV by a country mile.

Unlike the RAV4, every one of the three models on offer – base, Sport and Luxury – includes VSC stability control with an on/off switch as standard – a first for the series.

Other CR-V safety credentials include anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, advanced front and side airbags (curtain airbags with rollover sensors cost extra), active front-seat head restraints, and Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) unitary body structure technology.

The latter allows vehicles of differing sizes to ‘better connect’ in a frontal collision (instead of the larger one overriding the smaller one) while also better dispersing impact energy away from the occupant area.

Markedly improved pedestrian safety has resulted in a newly energy-absorbing bonnet design that deforms on impact, while contact with the trauma-inflicting hard engine parts underneath, windscreen-wiper pivots and bonnet hinges has also been lessened.

More advances come in the shape of increased bending rigidity (up 84 per cent) and refinement-aiding high-strength steels in the body structure (up from 24 per cent to 58 per cent).

All help earn the CR-V a five-star rating in the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rankings.

Moving away from the boxy and utilitarian visage of its predecessors with an oddball ‘U’ shaped grille kink and curved, almost coupe-like side glass profile, the CR-V banishes the rear-vision obstructing, tailgate-mounted exterior spare wheel housing for an underfloor, full-sized item.

This was facilitated by the implementation of a conventional, up-hinged tailgate, instead of the previous side-opening arrangement. An almost 100mm-shorter vehicle is the upshot, primarily because of the spare’s relocation (slicing 79mm of overhang), as well as a 45mm-taller and 10mm-wider loading aperture.

However, fans of the outgoing CR-V’s hinged rear window will be disappointed that it has vanished, along with the model’s famous picnic table.

Dimensionally, Honda has followed the trend of the current Odyssey people mover by reducing the CR-V’s height (by 30mm), ground clearance (by 20mm), wheelbase (by 5mm, to 2620mm) and centre of gravity (by 35mm), while there have been 35mm, 30mm and 20mm increases in body, front track and rear track widths respectively.

The doors also open wider and the lower-set cabin is easier to get into than on the previous model. Better sealing also brings improvements in sound deadening and aerodynamics, which in turn benefits fuel consumption and refinement properties.

In fact, taking into account the advances in body strength and liberal use of noise and vibration suppression materials, Honda claims luxury SUV levels of quietness for its affordable soft-roader. Noise levels in the cabin have dropped by three decibels.

Current CR-V owners may also notice the 32mm-lower seating positions, higher quality material finish in the completely redesigned interior, repositioned gear lever and handbrake (eliminating the cumbersome pistol-style set-up on the outgoing model), new centre console, upgraded audio system, 10mm-wider front seat surfaces on better seats and increased oddments receptacles.

Another step forward is the steering column’s newfound tilt and telescopic abilities.

There’s more luggage space (up to about 1011 litres from 952 litres), the same amount of legroom, more hip room, and slightly less rear shoulder space and headroom, although the front occupants do enjoy equal levels of these as before, despite the CR-V’s dramatic height decrease.

On higher spec models there is now a 10kg-rated dual-deck cargo shelf, while all CR-Vs have a 40/20/40 split-fold backrest and 60/40 tumbling rear seat base.

Honda has wrought an array of drivetrain improvements, even though the ingredients are essentially carried over.

This means the retention of the 2.4-litre double overhead cam, 16-valve i-VTEC four-cylinder engine producing 7kW extra but 2Nm less than previously, for a 125kW power output at 5800rpm and 218Nm of torque at 4200rpm.

However, with a higher compression ratio and freer flowing exhaust, Honda points out that the latter’s peak is spread across a wider rev range for improved driveability and lower emissions.

Driving the front wheels is Honda’s purely mechanical (and claimed low maintenance) Real Time 4WD system. As before, once the front wheels turn faster than the rear ones, drive is progressively sent rearwards (now with 20 per cent more torque transfer than previously) via a transfer case and a propeller shaft to the rear differential.

New to the CR-V is a six-speed manual gearbox (replacing the old five-speeder unit), while the five-speed automatic transmission introduced in the previous model’s 2004 upgrade carries over in the latest edition.

The manual CR-V uses 0.5L/100km more fuel than previously, while the automatic remains the same despite a hefty weight increase. Both are rated at 10L/100km on 95 RON unleaded petrol – although the Honda will happily operate on standard 91 RON.

As before, a MacPherson strut front suspension set-up is utilised, albeit with a host of changes to the geometry, spring rates and shock absorbers for more linear dynamic yet increased comfortable properties.

The steering box is now mounted lower than before, and it too features different springs and bushes, as well as an altered steering angle, for improved feel and cornering capabilities.

Meanwhile, a reactive multi-link rear suspension system is again employed, made up of a three-link independent design.

Honda says reducing front-end dive, and heavy squatting under acceleration, were priorities for the latest CR-V.

Front and rear anti-roll bars, of 20mm and 19mm widths, are standard.

A quicker steering ratio for the hydraulic power steering set-up has been implemented (15.7 versus 16.4), with the outcome being sub-three turns lock-to-lock and an 11.8m turning circle.

Curiously, a slightly smaller front brake package is employed, made up of 296mm front discs and solid 305mm solid rear discs (previously 300mm and 305mm respectively), while the Honda’s braked towing capacity remains the same at 1500kg (600kg unbraked), although auto and manual are now rated equally.

Overall weight ranges from 1570kg to 1620kg, which is up between 40 and 75kg from before.

Every CR-V includes stability control, air-conditioning, power windows/mirrors and (remote) door locks, and a 17-inch 225/64/R17 wheel and tyre combo (up from 16-inch items).

The Sport adds curtain airbags, climate control for the air-conditioning system, front fog lights, a CD stacker, and a ‘conversation mirror,’ while Luxury buyers will find leather upholstery, a power operated front driver’s seat, heated front seats and rear parking radar.

Honda aims to sell at least 1000 CR-Vs every month, split 60 per cent base, 25 per cent Sport and 15 per cent Luxury.

With a variety of specials to help shift stock, sales of the outgoing model rose in 2006, from 8844 to 10,069 units, to keep the Honda fourth in its class, behind the RAV4, Subaru Forester and Nissan X-Trail.

Other rivals include the newly introduced Mazda CX-7, Hyundai CM Santa Fe and Holden Captiva.

The original CR-V landed in Australia in September 1997, almost two years after a successful Japanese debut, and instantly settled in to become a leading compact SUV combatant. From 1999 to 2002, it was even Honda’s local bestseller.

Over 2.5 million have been sold in 160 countries since 1995.

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