Family values: Driven road test the all-new Honda CR-V
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I was about 10 when my parents decided to replace the ageing 1988 Mazda 323 that was parked in the driveway.
Naturally, I took the opportunity to try to push them towards buying something cool. I would constantly bombard Dad with Impreza WRXs and Altezzas that I'd excitedly circled in tatty editions of Auto Trader.
Unfortunately for me, my parents' desires were a bit more on the conventional side; Mitsubishi Chariots, Mazda MPVs, and ... the Honda CR-V. To a kid in the early 00s, nothing could be more uncool or detestable than any of these.
But, the world has a knack for folding over on to itself every now and again. Nowadays crossovers — like it or not — are cool. Manufacturers, including even Ferrari, are queueing to enter the market as they overtake sedans as the most dominant selling passenger cars.
But, while crossovers are now cool, the Honda CR-V has lagged behind somewhat; still entrenched in the mire as a vehicle for cripplingly conservative families.
The all-new CR-V could well change that. From the outset, you can tell that this is an SUV trying desperately to "keep up with the kids".
Its design is the most youthful and personable Honda has channeled since, well, since the first one it released in 1995. Like most of Honda's new-age machines, the bodywork is coated with creases — only, without the fussiness. Shiny chrome frames agreeable character lines, black cladding helps underline its SUV disposition, and those 18-inch wheels aren't fooling anyone; they're clearly giant fidget spinners.
All of this works together to create a rather handsome SUV, with a slight premium kick. The problem for the CR-V is that most of its key rivals walk the same stylish walk, too. Much like in life, the CR-V's looks will get it only so far. But, it has an ace up its sleeve.
Auckland | Penrose
$108.90 p/w $435.61 p/m
Although, that "ace" isn't necessarily how it drives.
The turbocharged 1.5-litre VTEC engine creates 140kW of power at 5500rpm, and 240Nm of torque between 2000–5000rpm. And it's paired with a automatic CVT transmission. This engine and transmission layout is consistent across the full CR-V range -- from the $37,900 front-wheel drive Touring to this $47,900 all-wheel drive Sport tester.
But, there isn't much that's "sporty" about it. That CVT box is fairly sluggish (improved a fraction by the paddle shifters fitted to our example), and the four-cylinder engine doesn't deliver much in the way of punch. It's not what I'd call stimulating.
What the package does deliver is something far more important in the grand scheme of the segment; comfort.
The CVT shifts smoothly and predictably, and that engine percolates in an adequate, rather quiet fashion. Steering is sharp and body roll compliant, thanks to a mixture of MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link independent suspension (rear), as well as a wider front and rear track.
Honda's Intelligent Real Time AWD system also plays a part in the handling mix; switching seamlessly from AWD to FWD in ideal conditions. This helps the CR-V's fuel economy figures drop to a claimed 7.4L/100km.
The comfort factor leaks into the interior as well, which is where the CR-V starts to come into its own.
The design and materials are adequate -- though still one step removed from the market-leading interiors you'll find in the Mazda CX-5, Skoda Kodiaq, and Volkswagen Tiguan. Still, there's plenty of kit. Honda's 7-inch touch screen and digital cluster are standard across the board, while the AWD Sport gets a big lump of additional safety wizardry, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and collision mitigation.
The infotainment screen is a mixed bag. It comes with a heavenly volume knob, and plenty of features like Honda's Lanewatch Camera and multi-angle reversing camera. But, it's can also be quite choppy and slow to use when rifling through the different menus, and it attracts thousands of fingerprints.
But it's the refinement that is my main interior grump. The panel covering the sensors atop the windscreen of our test car came loose, and some of the buttons and dials felt cheap. These included the steering-wheel buttons and the gear lever; the latter making an ugly "thunk thunk thunk" noise with each shift.
No, the best thing about the interior is the practicality. From top to tail, the CR-V's been engineered to be incredibly easy to live with. Storage capabilities are exceptional, with an impressive amount of nooks and crannies lodged just about everywhere imaginable. The amount of room in the back seats of the five-seat AWD Sport is commodious — there's plenty of headroom, legroom, and shoulder space. And, those in the rear get their own set of vents.
Less can be definitively said of the space in the seven-seat 2WD Sport, with five seats the maximum for the top-of-the-range AWD Sport.
Then there's the boot, which allows one to retract the 60/40–split rear seats with ease thanks to a couple of convenient grab handles. Each model also comes with an electric tailgate as standard, which is adjustable to suit even the most vertically challenged.
Indeed, the best thing about the new CR-V is the same thing that was best about all the old ones — it still has a great understanding of modern family struggles. It still knows its buyers.
Only now, it comes wrapped in a hip new package.
HONDA CR-V AWD SPORT
Price: $47,900 ($37,900 for entry level 2WD Touring, $40,700 or AWD Touring, $44,900 for 2WD Sport 7 Seater)
Pros: Still family focused, swish styling, comfort and practicality, easy to drive
Cons: No diesel, interior refinement, only most expensive model gets full safety features