Car reviews - Honda - CR-V - VTi-L
In-cabin storage spaces, cabin comfort and quietness, peppy engine, forward vision
Room for improvement
Rear 2nd row headroom, CVT still flares, odd sound system wheel controls, luggage space behind third row, standard safety features
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15 Jan 2018
SPACE, comfort and convenience were always part of the mantra for Honda’s groundbreaking crossover, the CR-V, but it has recently been swamped by myriad updated models.
The fifth-generation version sits on an all-new platform and packs a turbocharged petrol engine for the first time, but don’t think it’s gone chasing the dynamics leaders of the pack.
It has retained the targeted aims of accommodating families and storing the associated paraphernalia and while it’s able to hunt a little quicker than some, it’s far happier at a brisk and sociable pace.
The new CR-V in VTi-L guise tested here is offered with seven seats, and while it compromises cargo space and headroom in some areas, and misses out on some safety features, the versatility factor can’t be ignored.
Price and equipment
The top rung of the front-drive ladder, the Thai-built Honda CR-V VTi-L seven-seater is priced from $38,990, which puts it well into the realm of value buying when considering the equipment list and the fact that it seats seven.
It sits within earshot of the top-spec Hyundai Tucson Elite at $36,250 and Kia’s Sportage SLi (priced from $34,690), but neither of those offer a third row.
Neither does the CX-5, which is offered in Maxx Sport front-drive guise for $34,390, or the $36,990 VW Tiguan petrol-powered Comfortline.
Nissan’s X-Trail ST-L seats the same number, as well as being in front-drive petrol guise, and slots in just beneath the Honda by $900, while the Mitsubishi Outlander LS seven-seater with a similar drivetrain offers more active safety and plenty of features for as much as $5000 less.
The Honda sits on 18-inch alloy wheels (with a matching spare) and offers keyless entry and ignition, filtered dual-zone climate control with vents and secondary fan controls for the back rows, heated front seats, active noise control, an eight-speaker sound system controlled by a 7.0-inch touchscreen with integrated sat-nav (with SUNA traffic information) as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but no digital radio reception, four USB outlets, leather trim, an electric park brake (with an auto-hold function) and a powered tailgate that is adjustable for height to find the balance between clearing your skull and not tapping on the carpark roof, although it is slow in operation.
It also has split-folding second (which also slides) and third row seats, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, cruise control with limiter (but without any radar-controlled aspect) and powered adjustment with memory for the driver, who gets a reach and rake adjustable leather-wrapped wheel with controls for sound, cruise and the trip computer.
Cabin space was always something the CR-V had as a selling point and the new-gen version is longer, wider and taller, so the expectation was for more of the same for the new model.
Honda claims it as the roomiest CR-V cabin yet, with improved rear legroom, more cargo space and easy-folding 60/40 split-fold rear seats.
Much of that is true but middle row passengers have had their headroom eroded by the seat mechanism and the workings of the vents and sunroof – sliding the middle row balances out the legroom for second- and third-row occupants but headroom will mean both those benches will be the domain of the teens and tweens as opposed to adults.
Seating is comfortable and the presence of vents and 12-volt and USB charging outlets means the rear passengers are better catered for than others in the segment.
The third row folds to leave a reasonably large cargo area, although the floor isn’t fully flat. With seven seated there’s 150 litres of space, rising to 472 with five aboard and 967 litres with both rows folded.
Finding places to put life’s accessories isn’t difficult if you’re sitting in the front two seats, with ample space in the door pockets and within the cleverly executed centre console.
With the electric park brake taking up less space than a conventional lever, the console can be adjusted and tailored to suit the paraphernalia being stowed, with adjustable cupholders on offer as well.
USB and 12-volt power outlets for the front and second row passengers are – like the rear vents – still not as commonplace as perhaps they should be, but the Honda has them well-placed for use by both rows as required.
The driver’s view is all-digital as well as an informative but sometimes difficult to control centre display.
It’s the controls on the multi-function leather steering wheel that can take some adjustment, but the driver gets a reversing and kerb side camera, as well as good exterior mirrors to deliver useful levels of vision.
Engine and transmission
The 16-valve powerplant has gone down in size but has come up in power and torque over the larger pair of engines in the superseded models that produced 114kW and 190Nm, rising to 222Nm in the 2.4.
The first turbo-petrol engine for the CR-V (it had a turbo-diesel) is shared with the smaller Civic but boost pressure has been wound up to the strongest incarnation yet – peak power is 140kW at 5600rpm and 240Nm of torque between 2000 and 5000rpm.
It’s also got new bits within the turbo and the exhaust to free up the internal flow, the result being an enthusiastic direct-injection powerplant, as most Honda engines are.
Using double overhead cams and 16 variably-timed valves, it still prefers engine revolutions to do its best work that said, the flexibility of the turbo’s torque curve can be used effectively, up to a point.
The continuously variable transmission (CVT) does take the edge off the outputs’ impact on the wheels if full throttle applications are implemented – it doesn’t dawdle but it feels happier at a more genteel pace where the engine doesn’t overwhelm the transmission.
There’s an ECON mode to calm things down but the extra 154kg of kerb weight suggests it is not of much use if anything other than sedate pace is required the CVT can be left to its own devices, which includes a stepped demeanour under full throttle, or there are paddle shifters to bring on a seven-step mode.
The CVT on part throttle is at its happiest, slurring across its ratio range with the turbo’s torque not stretching the friendship between engine and transmission.
It’s all smooth and unfussed, with plenty of engine bay and body sound insulation to keep the noise out, as well as active noise cancelling to further quell the din.
The official fuel use claim is 7.3 litres from the small-ish 57-litre tank per 100km on the combined cycle laboratory test. Our time in the Honda resulted in a thirst of 8.4L/100km at a 48km/h average speed, so more suburban running might get that number closer to double figures.
Ride and handling
Honda feels as though it has resisted much of the temptation to chase dynamics at the expense of ride quality, keeping its family wagon on the comfortable side of the ledger.
The suspension set-up is nothing unconventional – front MacPherson struts and a multi-link rear – but Honda boasts of low-friction dampers and tubular front and solid rear stabiliser bars, as well as fluid-filled suspension bushes to help isolate road noise and vibration.
Around the city, which is were it will complete most of its chores, the road manners are anything but – it sits firmly on the road and dismisses all but the nastiest of bumps, helped out by tyres not too low in profile.
What was more surprising was the quick variable-ratio steering, which is light enough for tight car park duties and light in weight, resulting in a darty nose a little at odds with the rest of the car’s demeanour.
It’s a level of sportiness to the steering that’s not quite matched by the chassis, although it’s more of a handler than its predecessor. Bodyroll isn’t excessive when the CR-V is pushed a little harder in the bends and while the nose is sharp in its response to instruction, it’s not talking back like a stroppy teenager either.
Honda has implemented electronic assistance through the steering, using something called Straight Driving Assist to counter road slopes, as well as using a brake-based torque vectoring function – Agile Handling Assist System (AHAS) – to upgrade the handling side of the seven-seat five-door wagon.
Using the ‘manual change’ mode by way of the paddle shifters on the steering wheel to hurry things up on a back road does offer more control in press-ahead of driving, but the response is still smudged by the CVT and it will still change up if pressed to the floor.
Dynamically it is more of a kindred spirit with the Nissan X-Trail rather than the VW Tiguan or Mazda CX-5, the latter pair being better suited to a spritely run on a favoured back road the Nissan and Honda can cover ground at a good rate but feel less at home with some lateral g-force built up.
Safety and servicing
The updated CR-V scored the full five stars available from ANCAP and top marks for side impact and pole testing, no doubt due in part to the inclusion of dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags covering all three rows of seats.
A reversing camera is standard and the angle of its lens is adjustable, plus there’s also a kerbside camera that operates with the left indicator, handy for avoiding an impact with a cyclist or small car in the blind spot.
The snout gets front foglights, daytime running lights but only halogen headlights, which falls short of the segment average now, but something that’s not below par is Honda’s inclusion of a full-size spare.
A driver attention monitor is standard but there are no automatic emergency braking or collision warning systems on offer, even as an option. The Honda Sensing pack delivers on that front (as well as adaptive cruise control, lane departure and auto high-beam among others) but it is only offered on the top-spec AWD VTi-LX.
It does get tyre pressure monitoring system, stability control (including a trailer stability function) assist, front and rear parking sensors, automatic (halogen only, which is below segment yardsticks) headlights and rain-sensing wipers, seatbelt reminders for all seats, Isofix anchors and five child seat anchor points.
Honda has upped its factory five-year warranty with unlimited kilometres, as well as adding the Honda Tailored capped-price servicing program for scheduled services, but the interval is 12 months or 10,000km, the latter being below the segment best.
Honda has maintained its position as the first choice for a quiet, refined interior with space – particularly boot space but not second-row headroom – and clever in-cabin storage, as well as delivering a good all-round package for ride and road manners.
The limited safety spec will annoy some and while the other sub-segments of the features lists are decent, the absence of digital radio reception is one of several omissions that will score against it in this evermore competitive segment.
Nissan X-Trail ST-L 2WD, from $38,590 plus on-road costs
Also offering pews for seven, the 126kW/226Nm Nissan doesn’t get Apple CarPlay or tyre pressure warnings, but is equipped with digital radio reception and sat-nav, as well as automated emergency braking and rear cross traffic alert.
Surround view cameras, rear sensors and blind spot warning also worthy inclusions but its still blighted by a foot-operated park brake.
Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Comfortline, from $36,990 plus on-road costs
Not the most powerful at 110kW but offering the most torque at 250Nm from its peppy 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder, it and the Mazda might only seat 5 but they win with conventional autos. The Tiguan also has CarPlay but no DAB, with tyre pressure monitoring, sat-nav, automated emergency collision warning and braking (low speed) and a driver’s knee bag among the highlights.
Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport FWD, from $34,390 plus on-road costs
It misses out on a third row as well, and isn’t the class leader for power (114kW) or torque (200Nm), but it’s got good road manners. A clever six-speed auto and automatic LED headlights are among the Mazda’s highlights, as well as a rear camera and automated emergency braking.
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