by Brad Leach - 21/11/12
Honda’s clever thinking is clearly on display in the all-new fourth-generation CR-V mid-size SUV. Smaller outside but more spacious inside, now with a two-wheel-drive model, improved fuel consumption and packed with family-friendly features, the good-looking new Honda CR-V is well-placed to take-on rivals like the Mazda CX-5 and upcoming all-new Toyota RAV 4.
Debuting back in 1995, in many ways the Honda CR-V launched the so-called ‘soft-roader’ phenomenon and buyers throughout the world have responded with their cheque books – more than 5.5-million CRVs have been sold, with 133,000 on the road in Australia.
But times have changed and Hondas knew the all-new CR-V had to be good in order to match Mazda’s hot-selling new CX-5 (the latter gaining a more powerful 2.5-litre petrol engine from next year).
Underlining just how serious Honda is with the CR-V, the all-new model has been launched with a very competitive starting price of $27,490 (2WD VTi manual) – or $29,990 ‘Driveaway’. The two-wheel-drive variants are powered by Honda’s 2.0-litre petrol engine while the four-wheel-drive models score the improved 2.4-litre petrol powerplant with extra performance and improved fuel economy.
The range follows Honda’s normal nomenclature – entry model VTi (2WD and 4WD), mid-grade VTi-S and range-topping VTi-L (the latter two only in 4WD). VTi-L adds leather interior and nice 18-inch alloy wheels amongst its extras - pleasingly all variants come standard with the family-friendly safety of a reversing camera.
While the all-new fourth generation Honda CR-V rides on basically the same platform as the previous generation, we like the new looks. The latest CR-V is shorter and lower and clever design has provided extra space inside for passengers and cargo – always plus-points for families.
Honda will boost the CR-V lineup next year with the launch of a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel model.
The all-new Honda CR-V scores a new 2.0-litre engine for 2WD models. The same 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine is available in Civic sedan – maximum power is 114kW at 6500rpm and peak torque of 190Nm is delivered at 4300rpm. Combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 7.8l/100kms (six-speed manual) and exhaust C02 emissions score 179g/km.
Honda’s 2.4-litre i-VTEC engine has been improved for the all-new CR-V – power is up to 140kW at 7000rpm (125kW in the old model) and torque has climbed to 222Nm at 4400rpm (from 218Nm). But the big gains are in efficiency – fuel consumption down by 13 per-cent to 8.7l/100kms and exhaust C02 down by 15 per-cent to 201g/km.
Part of that improved efficiency comes from aerodynamics (weight for the all-new CRV is only slightly less than the old model). The new model has a longer roofline, underbody panels, an aero front bumper and curved wheel-arches, all of which combine to deliver an eight per-cent improvement in the drag co-efficient
The Honda CR-V comes with an ‘ECON’ mode (operated by a dashboard button) which adjusts the throttle mapping for enhanced fuel economy.
Transmissions are a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
As usual with Honda, there is a premium feel about the interior of the all-new CR-V. That comes from nice quality materials and – as expected – it’s just screwed together very well.
This time around, Honda designers have gone for a horizontal, layered look for the dashboard (increases the spacious feel). The conventional gauges are housed in a curved binnacle and the new-look; modern three-spoke steering wheel (with lots of F1-style buttons) adjusts for rake and reach.
To the left is the five-inch colour i-MID multi-information screen for audio and Bluetooth which allows customized wallpaper (perhaps a photo of your family, your pet or even your favourite sporting team) which doubles for the reversing camera and satellite navigation.
Seats look good but are a tad flat which means support when cornering hard is a little lacking. Both front seats adopt Honda’s new whiplash mitigation engineering – in an impact, the lower part of the seat backs provide some ‘give’, reducing the distance travelled by driver and front passenger’s heads before they hit the head-restraints.
But the big news comes in the rear. That extra interior space has been used cleverly – the hip point for the Honda CR-V’s rear seat is 38mm lower which combines with the longer roofline to provide enhanced head-room and the cargo capacity jumps by 147-litres to 1648-litres (rear seat folded).
And folding the 60/40 split-fold rear seat is easy thanks to a clever one-tug strap which sees the seat back, base and headrests tumble-fold to provide a large, flat load area which can accommodate a few sets of golf clubs or mountain bikes.
All-new Honda CR-V adopts a sophisticated, sleek look and very smart packaging. It’s certainly more aggressive – Honda says the sleek upper half contrasts with the functional lower half to reflect CR-V’s combination of soft-roader/practicality.
That more purposeful look is highlighted by more sculpturing for the side panels and a sporty front-end with an aero shape for the bumper, bold three-bar grille and the modern, recessed headlights.
At the rear, all-new Honda CR-V retains the hallmark vertical rear lights but introduces a contemporary three-dimensional look.
Compared to the previous generation, the new model is 30mm shorter and 30mm longer. The longer roofline boosts both rear seat headroom and cargo capacity and up-front the A-pillar has shifted forward by 60mm.
Range-topping VTi-L runs very stylish 18-inch alloy wheels while the rest use handsome 17-inch alloys.
For the national media launch, Honda sent us from the Adelaide CBD up into the hills over a variety of city and rural roads. During the full day, car Showroom sampled CR-V’s range-topping VTi-L and entry-grade 2.0-litre VT-i in both automatic and manual.
A couple of significant engineering changes have altered the CR-V’s driving dynamics. For starters the new bodyshell is stiffer – seven per-cent stiffer in bending rigidity and nine per-cent stiffer in torsional rigidity. Power steering has switched from hydraulic to more fuel-efficient electric. And in the pursuit of improved refinement, there is substantially more sound insulation and a 10 per-cent change in rear damper volume.
We suspect there has been more done underneath as there’s no doubt the all-new Honda CR-V rides much flatter, with noticeably less body roll than its predecessor. There is also a much more linear response from the front-end when turning into fast corners.
Response from both engines was good, but over the twists and curves of the Adelaide hills, the ratios of the five-speed automatic transmission weren’t kind to the 2.0-litre (the gap between second and third gears was too wide – a six-speeder would be nice). The 2.4-litre with steering wheel paddle shifters was dynamic with quick responses changing up and down the ratios.
At the high-speed limit, the Honda CR-V doesn’t quite match the sporty Mazda CX-5 but there’s no doubting the refinement and comfort of Honda’s newcomer – it’s up there with the best in this segment.
Our only points deduction was a curious one. We tackled the same drive route numerous times and on one section the road surface changed to a new coarse chip which brought a noticeable leap in noise from the Japanese Dunlop tyres – but just in that one section.
We’d just like a six-speed automatic transmission and some extra support from the Honda CRV’s front seats.
We’ve always been big fans of the Honda CRV – Honda technology, a smart package size and family-friendly space gets out attention every time. But there’s no doubt the superseded CR-V was in need of replacement as it had been comprehensively lead-frogged by newer designs such as the MazdaCX-5 and Ford Kuga.
The mid-size SUV segment could be Australia’s most intense and the Honda CRV squares-off against some fantastic vehicles with more to come.
In the latter category list the previous segment leader the Toyota RAV4. The all-new RAV debuts at the Los Angeles International Auto Show the last week of November and launches locally next year.
Same for the other historic segment-leader, the Subaru Forester. We’ll be driving the all-new Forester at the national press launch in a couple of weeks. Despite the new looks and extra specification, we reckon Subaru will be desperate to hold the Forster’s current $30,990 starting price or even move it under $30,000.
In the ‘Here Now And Currently The Best-Seller’ department, we have the mighty Mazda CX-5 – without doubt one of the best cars of 2012. Priced from $27,800 the CX-5 has the benchmark driving dynamics in this league and gives the Honda CR-V a run for its money for interior space.
A Car Showroom favourite in this segment is the German-sourced Ford Kuga. Now looking a little pricey, starting from $38,990, the current Kuga employs Ford’s marvelous five-cylinder petrol engine but this will not be in the all-new lineup which arrives next year.
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