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Car reviews - Honda - CR-V - Vi

Our Opinion

We like
Low entry price for auto medium SUV, space, access, ease, reliability, five-year warranty
Room for improvement
Dreary performance, no AEB, questionable value since much stronger VTi only costs $2400 more, goes harder and uses less fuel

Specification cuts make the $28,290 Honda CR-V Vi iffy value over much stronger VTi

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Honda logo29 Aug 2018

Overview
 
HONDA Australia is on a roll. Sales are up significantly year on year in a market that has declined, with the CR-V accounting for 80 per cent of the company’s growth. 
 
In fact, the medium SUV is number two with private buyers just behind the Mazda CX-5, and rising. Buoyed by such success, the brand has launched a new base Vi, including automatic, for a sensational $28,290 before on-road costs.
 
That’s $2400 less than the continuing old entry-level VTi, and undercuts all rival equivalents. But, in cutting spec to achieve that headline pricing, has Honda thrown the baby out with the bathwater?  
 
Drive impressions
 
Sometimes, you lose more than you gain by going for the cheapest option, and that’s certainly true with the Honda CR-V Vi.
 
Dropping the ‘T’ from the previous entry-level VTi model (which continues for only $2400 more) means the lusty 140kW/240Nm 1.5-litre direct-injection turbo gives way to an old naturally aspirated 113kW/189Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine last used in the previous-gen CR-V VTi.
 
Now that’s not so bad in isolation, since even old Honda engines are generally better than most rival equivalents, especially as in its previous CR-V (RM-series) incarnation, the old 114kW/190Nm 2.0-litre atmo provided sufficient muscle thanks in part to a responsive and quite enjoyable five-speed torque-converter auto.
 
However in the RW-series, we find said 2.0-litre successor driving the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission. Oh, what joy!
 
Now, we have to reveal that the example we drove had only 50km on the odometer as opposed to the 1000km-plus that most press vehicles arrive with, so to call our Vi tight is an understatement.
 
And the drive covered all of about 10km in total. So we’re talking a taster at best here.
 
Still, the Vi’s listless acceleration and noise elicited from the retrograde heart transplant as a result of the necessary high revving required to get it moving is tiresome – particularly as the turbo in the rest of the CR-V range is a tearaway treat. Additionally, the 2.0-litre drinks more fuel too, so it’s clear that exhuming this 1990s powertrain just isn’t good enough for 2018 and beyond. 
 
How many kilometres of driving will the far-superior VTi’s $2400 premium be recouped?
 
We admit that the rest of the Vi is much the same as any other new Thai-built CR-V, meaning a large and good looking body, spacious cabin, appealing dashboard look and layout, comfy seating for five, rear backrests that recline (a little), a huge cargo area and plenty of new-car tech like a 5.0-inch central screen, reversing camera, electric park brake with a hold function, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and tyre-pressure monitors.
 
Inevitably, though, some stuff does get left out, and going for the bargain-basement means you lose goodies like climate control for the air-conditioning system, keyless entry/start with walk-away auto-locking, rear-seat USB connection, remote window opening, 7.0-inch central touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, multiple view options for the significantly bigger reverse camera and even the rear cargo cover. And that’s only the stuff we could ascertain after a quick 10-minute drive and walk-around.
 
Plus, as with all CR-Vs bar the flagship VTi-LX, there is no autonomous emergency braking (AEB). Most rivals already supply this important driver-assist safety feature as standard across their medium SUV ranges.
 
Perhaps a greater amount of time would endear us to the Vi more, but after our brief experience, it is clear that the extra ease, convenience, efficiency and oomph that the $30,690 VTi 1.5-litre turbo provides far exceeds the $2400 saving. 

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