Over the last decade, Honda’s relationship with the Australian car buying public has been complicated. For a considerable chunk of that time, Honda could easily be described as the Sunday cardigan of the new car scene. The cars that filled Honda dealerships did the job but lacked a bit of fizz at a time when tastes where changing.
This phenomenon was localised to us, Honda remained a strong force in the United States and in Britain. Locally the sales that would usually be earmarked for Honda went to a revitalised Mazda.
Over the last 18 months, Honda has found form. It could be said that Honda is currently enjoying a renaissance in Australia on the back of the arrival of fresh metal on dealership forecourts. Last year saw sales increase 14.6 per cent.
New models such as the HR-V and Civic have given local dealers the right bait to hook a buyer or two, as has the move to a standard five-year warranty.
A renewed line-up and a comprehensive ownership package have allowed Honda to build the momentum needed to propel the brand back to prosperity in Australia.
Perhaps the most important piece of the resurgence puzzle has arrived, the 2018 Honda CR-V. This all-new, fifth-generation of the popular midsize SUV has landed at an opportune time. SUVs are now the new car market’s biggest segment and the midsize category is where plenty of the action is.
The CR-V has its work cut out, the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape all present genuine competition.
Now the new CR-V isn’t here to just make up the numbers, it has come armed to challenge the segment leaders.
Honda Australia was generous enough to let Car Conversation experience four new CR-V variants, two front-wheel drive models, the VTi and VTi-L 7-seat, and two all-wheel drive models in the VTi-S and range-topping VTi-LX.
The 2018 CR-V range is reasonably straightforward, all models are powered by Honda’s new 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine which is matched to a CVT automatic transmission. This is a drivetrain combo we have seen before in the top-spec Civic.
Sharing the engine and transmission across the range greatly benefits buyers of the entry models. There’s no stripped out breathless variant to open the range.
With a common drivetrain, all CR-V variants offer a crisp driving experience. Previous generations of the CR-V were never as driver focussed as this new incarnation. The new CR-V succeeds in achieving the delicate balance of engaging handling and comfort.
This is a family car with a seemingly minuscule 1.5-litre engine, yet it isn’t lacking in performance. In fact, the Honda four-pot used here outperforms Mazda’s 2.5-litre power plant that resides under the hood of the higher spec CX-5 models.
Throttle response is brilliant, offering plenty of low down push, with peak torque coming online at 2000rpm.
The automatic transmission is the often misunderstood CVT, in this application it only serves to highlight just how far the technology has come. Everything is nice and smooth, which is exactly what the majority of family buyers will expect.
From the driver’s seat, the only criticism is the clunky feel of the gear selector. It’s not as well executed as it could be.
Honda has deployed an electric power steering set up in the CR-V, it’s beautifully weighted to the point Goldilocks would have no choice but to classify it as ‘just right’.
Extensive work has been done to deliver a suspension tune that gives the CR-V a stronger sporty feeling over its numerous rivals. It is slightly firmer than older versions of the CR-V, however, the dampers iron out sharp bumps regardless of whether the car is riding on 17- or 18-inch wheels.
Getting into tight parking spaces can be challenging, the front arches are high making it difficult to know where the corners of the car are.
On highway runs, the CR-V is easily able to establish a high level of refinement. Honda engineers have made commendable improvements to the tranquillity level of the cabin by incorporating a floating rear sub-frame, optimising the arm configuration of the multi-link rear suspension and adding liquid-filled compliance bushing at the front and rear.
We exposed the AWD CR-V models to a few wet country tracks and the system was very responsive. If you reside on a rural property, there is a case to be made for an AWD variant.
The CR-V isn’t really a go anywhere SUV, however, some bush tracks can be confidently conquered with power sent to both axles. All-wheel drive variants of the CR-V are only relevant if you regularly need to negotiate slippery conditions, around town there is no noticeable difference in the drive. Like the overwhelming majority of soft-roaders, the front wheels do most of the grunt work and torque is only sent to the rear when slip is detected.
It’s not just the drive where the CR-V scores well, the interior packaging is nothing short of remarkable. This is one of the roomiest SUVs in the class, it whips the CX-5 and Tucson. The only midsize SUV that comes close to matching the CR-V for interior space is the Haval H6, which has an additional 60mm of wheelbase to play with.
The space in the second row is so good even the tallest passengers will feel at home. They will also be able to charge their devices with two rear USB ports. Every car should now offer at least two in the back to keep everybody happy on long trips.
The cabin layout is a winner when it comes to ergonomics. It’s supremely comfortable with plenty of room for passengers and their belongings. Things like the large door pockets and massive centre console storage bin make a big difference when the family is loaded up.
Speaking of loading the family up, the rear doors conveniently open to almost 90-degrees.
In the place of traditional dials, owners will now find a digital instrument cluster that contains all the car’s vital information.
All models also get a very comprehensive infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
There are some subtle differences from model to model which you can read about below.
From the outside, it’s almost impossible to identify the VTi as a base model. The alloy wheels, fog lamps and LED daytime running lights are generally the domain of variants at the pointy end of the range.
The only clue that this is the entry-point is the absence of the chrome strip along the bottom of the doors.
The interior uses a quality fabric on the seats and soft-touch surfaces throughout.
At $30,690 plus on-road costs, the VTi is a lot of SUV for the money.
CR-V VTi-L 7 Seats
The seven-seat option gives the CR-V range a point of difference to the usual suspects in the midsize SUV segment. While the extra seats are necessary for some buyers and convenient for others, they are not without some compromises.
In order to access the third row, the middle bench needs to be mounted on a rail. In this instance, the middle row becomes raised cutting into the available headroom. Very tall passengers will feel short-changed.
Then there are the rearmost seats, space is tight making them only suitable for small children. For families with young kids, this won't be an issue.
Luggage space is also slightly reduced – the back seats don’t fold flat into the floor.
CR-V VTi-S AWD
Regardless of the where the power is sent, the VTi-S model is arguably the pick of the range based on the value equation. For not much more coin, the VTi-S adds some premium features like a power tailgate, satellite navigation, front and rear parking sensors, automatic dusk-sensing headlights and the very handy LaneWatch camera.
CR-V VTi-LX AWD
The only reason to go to the range-topping VTi-LX is to secure the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist technologies.
All CR-V variants get a long list of standard safety features and a 5-star ANCAP rating but the VTi-LX takes things a step further.
Unfortunately, adaptive cruise control with low speed follow, forward collision warning, autonomous braking, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation system and lane keeping assist are exclusive to the VTi-LX, and as such cannot be optioned on models down the range.
This is something we hope Honda will rectify at some stage in the very near future. Some buyers will happily pay extra for the safety kit but struggle to see the value in the panoramic roof.
Over our testing period, that covered more than 2000 kilometres, the CR-V’s combined fuel consumption hovered between 7.6 and 8.3L/100km. This result stacks up very strongly against the office combined figure of 7.4L/100km.
Honda now offers Australian buyers one of the most comprehensive ownership packages available. A capped price servicing program covers the CR-V for the first 100,000km. Intervals are set at 12 months/10,000km, which is slightly lower than the 15k intervals offered elsewhere. Prices are competitive at $295 a throw plus any incidentals.
Last year, Honda moved to extended its standard warranty coverage to five-years/unlimited kilometres. This is the best warranty of any Japanese manufacturer doing business in Australia and is only bettered by Kia’s seven-year plan.
The CR-V has come a long way. Back in the day, along with the RAV4, the CR-V was one of the instigators of the SUV craze we now find ourselves witness to.
It’s now much better to drive and nicer to look at, yet it hasn’t lost any of the practicality that built its reputation as a great choice for family buyers.
When carefully comparing the CR-V to big-selling CX-5, the Honda will score a knock out on space and practicality. It also has a very strong price advantage when comparing like for like models.
The CR-V remains an excellent choice for buyers wanting space and comfort with a dash of sporty. Importantly, there is a CR-V for every budget. Regardless of the variant, the strengths of the CR-V are easy to see and not just from the driver’s seat.
2018 Honda CR-V Specifications
Price from $30,690 plus on-road costs Engine 1.5-litre VTEC inline four-cylinder turbo petrol Power 140kW @ 5600rpm Torque 240Nm @ 2000 – 5000rpm Transmission Automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) Combined Fuel Consumption 7.4L/100km Performance 0-100km/h 9.9 seconds Tank Capacity 57L Length 4,596mm Width 1,855mm Height 1679mm (2WD) 1689mm (AWD) Wheelbase 2660mm Kerb Weight 1536 - 1630kg depending on variant Ground Clearance 198mm (2WD) 208mm (AWD) Turning circle 5.5m Service Intervals 12-months/10,000km Warranty five year/ unlimited kilometre
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