THE ALL-NEW fifth-generation Honda CR-V has arrived in Australia boasting a refreshed and more dynamic look, improved ground clearance, more interior space, better visibility and a tweaked all-wheel drive system as well as, for the first time, a seven-seat variant. Honda has high hopes for the new CR-V and made several claims at the local launch, including that the new CR-V is the most family-oriented SUV in the medium segment and that no other vehicle can match the CR-V, in its segment, for interior space.
Only two sentences in and there’s an incredible amount to unpack there… We already know the CR-V is priced from $30,690 to $44,290+ORC and that while prices are generally up throughout the range, Honda has added in more standard kit, adding anywhere between $2800 to $5850 in extra features over the predecessor car. The CR-V now also gets Honda’s recently announced five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
The current-generation CR-V (fourth-generation) is the world’s best-selling SUV and has been for last few years. The CR-V is sold in around 130 countries with 170,000 CR-Vs finding homes in Australia since the first-generation car went on-sale here 1997. This new one sits on an all-new platform that doesn’t share anything with the Civic, can be had in 2WD or AWD trim but with only one engine and transmission option.
The local launch of the CR-V was held on some delicious and demanding roads around Canberra, including some gravel sections and Practical Motoring spent time in the entire specification range, including the seven-seater.
What’s The Interior Of The Honda CR-V Like?
From the entry-level to the top-spec car, the new CR-V feels more premium than the car it replaces. Feel around the dashboard and there’s a lot more soft-touch plastic with harder, scratchy stuff relegated to out of the way places and only on the entry-level VTi variant. A nice feature, although one that wasn’t as well integrated as it was in the Skoda Kodiaq was a spongey pad on the transmission tunnel right where your knee rests against it.
And while we’re on the topic of clever little niceties, the centre console, thanks to the addition of an electric handbrake, has made way for an adjustable and cavernous storage space that in its ultimate configuration will swallow an A4-sized laptop. That said, unlike the Land Rover Discovery with its cavernous and hidden storage space for several iPads, the storage space in the centre console of the CR-V is visible to anyone peering in through the windows, but that’s probably missing the point.
Let’s look at the dashboard itself. At first glance it looks as if the controls are all mounted down too low on the centre stack but, climb in behind the wheel and you realise they’re in the perfect position to be seen at a glance; indeed, Honda claims its 7.0-inch touchscreen unit can be seen with a simple eye movement rather than a head turn, and they’re correct. The stubby little shifter sits below the dual-zone climate controls (which are standard across the range), below that is 12V outlet and a small storage container, with twin cupholders sitting on the centre console. There are two USB points (1.0A and 1.5A) an HDMI and a 12V outlet. There are also two USB outlets at the back of the centre console for backseat passengers.
The infotainment screen isn’t big at just 7.0-inches but unlike key competitor, the Mazda CX-5, it does offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. We’ll have a thorough impression of it once we’ve spent more time with the new CR-V.
Ahead of the driver the multi-function steering wheel offers reach and rake adjustment but neither offers a huge range of movement; lucky then that the seat can be adjusted up and down and has a huge amount of travel forwards and backwards. All variants feature keyless entry and push-button start/stop. The digital display including digital speedo is easy to see no matter how you position the steering wheel or seat.
The front seats are broad but offer enough support that even my, ahem, thin, okay, thin-ish but lanky frame was kept in place comfortably. Over in the back and with the front seats set to suit myself there was a huge amount of leg and knee room and the back rests can be reclined too. Head and shoulder room was good too and the large windows create an airy space that will see both adults and kids accommodated comfortably. There’s only minimal intrusion from the transmission tunnel and so even if you draw the short straw and get stuck sitting on the perch-like middle seat you’ll still be reasonably comfortable.
The back seats are 60:40 split-fold and can be tumbled forwards via levers in the boot. They fold down to create a totally flat floor and can be tumbled forwards to create even more room if needed. The boot has lost a little bit of room to provide more leg and knee room in the back seat (also helped by the fact the wheelbase is 40mm bigger at 2660mm), but at 522 litres it sits towards the top of the segment; it grows to 1084 litres with the rear seats folded down flat. Honda claims the boot volume is measured only to the bottom of the rear window and that in total volume there’s more space in the boot than the predecessor car. Boot space in the seven-seat variant with all rows in use is 150 litres and 967 litres with the second and third rows folded down.
Beneath the boot floor is a full-size alloy, across the range, and while I didn’t measure it, the load height is easily one of the best in the segment with no load lip to speak of, meaning you can simply lift and slide things in and out of the boot.
Only the entry-level VTi misses out on a powered tailgate with anti-pinch technology, meaning if you try lowering it while you’re standing under it it will spring back with minimal pressure on your bonce and you can even jam your fingers in the side of the boot or, rather, you can’t jam your fingers. I didn’t test this feature out myself but I watched one of Honda’s product trainers test it and it worked. During our day with the CR-V we also managed to spend a bit of time with the seven-seat variant and tried out the third-row which offers ventilation as standard and a three-speed fan setting. Now, even Honda’s press kit suggests the third-row is designed primarily for adolescents rather than full-grown adults… and it’s right. I was squished in the third-row with my head up against the roof and my knees wedged up under my chin and that was with the second-row seats pushed as far forwards as they would go (seven-seat variants feature a sliding second row). Using the second-row was tricky; I tested it and my knees were hard up against the back of the front seat… sure, the front seat could have been moved forwards a bit to free up a little bit of knee room but it wouldn’t be a comfortable way to travel for any great length of time. So, if you need seven seats and absolutely have to have the CR-V then be warned, the third-row is not for adults. Sure, it’s priced right at the top of the CR-V’s range and is 30mm longer in the wheelbase, but the Skoda Kodiaq offers a much better seven-seat arrangement.
What’s The Honda CR-V Like On The Road?
There’s only one engine available in the CR-V range and that is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine borrowed from the Civic. With an output of 140kW at 5600rpm and 240Nm of torque from 2000-5000rpm, the CR-V is one of the gruntier cars in the segment, almost matching Mazda’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder for torque (251Nm). The CR-V runs, exclusively, a CVT and while there’ll be plenty of people who shudder at the thought of a CVT, I found it to be a perfect match to the engine although that was no doubt helped by the fact that all 240Nm of torque is available from 2000-5000rpm. And while this might sound like a damning the thing with faint praise, but I reckon it’s one of the best CVTs on the market, if not the best now.
The launch roads Honda chose were tight and twisting in section and long stretches of highway in others. In all situations, the CR-V felt more than urgent enough with good throttle response. That said, there were only two of us in the car with one overnight bag each, so we’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve had it across the Practical Motoring driveway for a week and loaded up the family into it. Fuel consumption is a claimed combined 7.0-7.4L/100km depending on the variant, but we saw an indicated 8.4L/100km on some section of the drive.
The CR-V runs active noise cancelling as well as a lot more sound insulation than the old car and while the engine and transmission were nice and hushed wind noise could be heard around the wing mirrors but no more than on other SUVs in this class and the underbody insulation across gravel was much better than you get in a Mazda CX-5.
However, depending on the type of rubber the wheels were wrapped in, there was more-or-less road noise. My colleague and I tested cars running on Michelins, Toyos and Dunlop tyres and the Dunlops were the quietest.
While the suspension set-up is the same across the line-up, MacPherson strut front-end and multi-link rear the damper tune is slightly different depending on the variant (read: weight), or maybe it isn’t. While, overall, the new CR-V is a comfortable car with a well-controlled body even across broken surfaces there were some slight inconsistencies in the cars we drove, with the entry-level VTi variant offering the best level of compliance and control. Like the performance, we’ll need some more time with the CR-V range to work out whether this was just the roads and the fact we didn’t drive all variants across the same stretches of road or whether it’s something else.
The steering was lacking feel but made up for it with a consistent weight and a direct action that suits the nature of the thing. Yes, the new CR-V is more sporty feeling than its predecessor, it’s not a sporty vehicle, if you catch my drift, rather it’s a family SUV that isn’t at all bad to drive.
The brake and accelerator offer a nice progressive action that allows easy modulation whether you’re inching along in stop-start traffic or pressing on along a backroad.
We didn’t get to sample an all-wheel drive variant on gravel but the two-wheel drive felt sure-footed with more than enough grip. The all-wheel drive system on the new CR-V has been tweaked slightly, yes, it’s still the same set-up in that it’s an on-demand system that sends torque to the rear wheels once slip is detected (a hydraulic pump controlling a multi-plate clutch with left and right rear-wheel driveshafts), but it’s been tuned to now start in all-wheel drive to prevent wheels spinning, even on dry roads. Then, as speed builds, torque is gradually pulled away from the rear axle until the thing is back in front-wheel drive.
What safety features does the Honda CR-V?
The new Honda CR-V hasn’t been tested by ANCAP yet but the predecessor car ran a five-star rating and it’s likely this one will too. However, where the CR-V is likely to cop criticism is in the fact the Honda Sensing suite of active safety features, like collision mitigation braking (AEB), forward collision warning, and lane departure warning and more, is only available on the VTi-L and VTi-LX variants. It isn’t available as a package on other variants, although Honda has said it is working on making this system a standard feature across the range; at the local launch, when quizzed, Honda said it wasn’t possible to break out sections of Honda Sensing, like AEB, and fit that alone to other variants in the range.
The CR-V gets a full complement of driver and passenger airbags (the new airbags and inflators are provided by Daicel and not Takata), as well as traction and stability controls, a multi-angle reversing camera and both front and rear parking sensors from VTi-S upwards and LaneWatch too, trailer stability assist (when fitted with a Honda-approved towbar), tyre pressure monitoring, ISOFIX and roof mounted top tether anchor points, driver attention monitor and hill start assist.
So, What Do We Think Of The New Honda CR-V?
The new CR-V is a big step ahead of its predecessor. It’s much better to drive throughout the range, there’s more room inside than the old car which makes for one of the roomiest interiors in the segment and the specification level from VTi-S and up is good, offering more kit depending on the variant than key rivals, like the Mazda CX-5. But the fact the active safety package (Honda Sensing) is only available on top-spec variants and not available even as a package for other variants is a disappointment.