Car reviews - Honda - CR-V - VTi L7
Smooth power delivery, sense of cabin spaciousness, seven-seat versatility, comfortable ride quality
Room for improvement
Dull engine, small and dated infotainment, cabin plastics, cumbersome steering
Honda’s updated CR-V medium SUV may not excite, but it does deliver
13 Nov 2020
THE medium SUV segment has come a long way over the past 20 years. Now packed to the rafters with a broad range of options from a diverse range of brands, the segment is now the most popular in the country, with 143,838 sales this year to the end of October.
While the majority of brands now offer a small SUV, only a handful can claim to be stalwarts of the segment. Models like the Subaru Forester and Nissan X-Trail may come to mind, however Honda’s venerable CR-V also belongs on that list.
First brought to Australia in 1997, the CR-V is now in its fifth generation, and has been treated to a mid-life update to keep it fresh in an increasingly competitive segment.
So how does the CR-V stack up in a market filled with competent rivals?
The updated CR-V range will come with seven variants, ranging from the $30,490 Vi all the way up to the VTi LX AWD which asks $47,490. Tested here is penultimate VTi L7 grade, based on the mid-spec VTi L with a third-row seven-seat arrangement.
Asking $43,490, the seven-seat CR-V compares on price with the likes of the Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed 7-seat AWD petrol ($43,990) and Nissan X-Trail ST-L 7-seat 2WD ($39,450).
As one of only a few medium SUVs to offer a seven-seat option, the CR-V already has a USP that helps it stand out against other rivals, however the amount of third-row space in medium SUVs usually leaves a little to be desired.
Entering the car for the first time, the CR-V interior gives the impression of ample space, no doubt helped by the sense of lightness provided by the large windscreen and panoramic glass sunroof.
A sliding second-row bench seat ensures that both first- and second-row occupants have ample legroom, however headroom in the rear pews leaves a little to be desired.
Entry to the rear seats is also made easier by the fitment of rear doors with a 90-degree hinge, a simple but useful feature for busy families.
As mentioned, the third-row seats are essentially unusable for adults, however this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise – this is only a medium SUV after all, hardly a Nissan Patrol.
With the third-row seats folded, the boot provides an ample amount of space with an adjustable load floor to allow a flat surface when the seats are folded.
The CR-V’s dashboard retains some of the angular, segmented aesthetics of other Honda models, however it is presented in a relatively clutter-free manner with only a small collection of buttons on the centre console.
Along with the seats, touchpoints like the centre storage bin, door arm rests and steering wheel are upholstered in supple leather, however there also exists an abundance of black plastic which gives the interior a slightly bland feel.
The VTi L7 scores the same 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system as the rest of the range, complete with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, sat-nav and wireless phone charging.
Unfortunately, compared to other systems, Honda’s unit is slow and dated, with a relatively small screen and basic graphics for the sat-nav system that would encourage users to switch straight to Apple CarPlay. No DAB+ digital radio is also a let-down.
The centre console provides a good amount of usable space, with a wireless charging pad, two cupholders and a configurable storage bin with a strong amount of space.
A large digital instrument cluster is included, albeit with limited customisation, while features like heated front seats and dual-zone climate control provide an extra level of comfort.
All versions of the CR-V bar the entry-level Vi are powered by the same 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, producing a healthy 140kW/240Nm and channelled to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Driving the CR-V around town, the engine pulls smoothly and evenly, and allows for a calm and serene driving experience perfect for families loaded with kids.
The 1.5-litre engine provides ample power, and while it won’t win any awards for visceral driving thrills, it does exactly what it says on the box.
We were less impressed with the CVT, which provided a dull, droning drive experience and while geared well for around-town driving, could have been more receptive to stronger throttle inputs.
Even when applying a healthy dose of right foot, the CVT would ensure the tachometer only creeps as high as around 2500-3000rpm, leaving much of the engine’s potential untapped.
Fuel consumption came in at around 9.1 litres per 100km for the little turbo mill, up on the 7.3L/100km official figure but made up almost exclusively of around-town urban driving which will drive the fuel consumption figure northwards.
Honda would do well to introduce the CR-V hybrid variant offered on other overseas markets, with rivals such as the Subaru Forester and in particular the Toyota RAV4 finding success with their fuel-saving drivelines.
We found the CR-V to be a comfortable car to potter around town in with a soft and supple suspension tune that soaked up bumps and potholes well.
Too often will non-performance cars have an unnecessarily stiff suspension tune to allow for greater handling, however Honda knows its customer base and has made the smart decision to prioritise comfort over dynamics.
The drawback is a dull steering calibration, compounded by a large turning circle to make the CR-V seem a little more cumbersome than some of its rivals. However we daresay it is still more nimble than some of its one-size larger seven-seat competitors.
Unless pushed to the limit, body roll and understeer are not a problem, and for its purposes, CR-V drivers shouldn’t really have any reason for finding themselves pushing the car to its dynamic limits.
Overall the CR-V is ideally positioned as a family-friendly medium SUV with the seven-seat option placing it among a small list of segment offerings with three rows of seating.
However we would like to see a little more differentiation from Honda to help the CR-V stand out in a hugely competitive segment, of which a good starting point could be a hybrid grade to help capitalise on Australian buyers’ recent flocking towards fuel-saving powertrains.
While it may not be the most exciting or quirky member of the small SUV segment, buyers can be assured that the CR-V will do exactly what it says on the box, and for most families, that is what they want out of their family hauler.
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Model release date: 1 November 2020
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