by Brad Leach - 18/03/13
Honda’s fourth-generation CR-V has lobbed into Australia’s rapidly-growing mid-size SUV segment when the action is as furious as a Melbourne Cup field entering the home straight. Even as Santa was tightening the cargo straps on his sleigh for 2012, Mitsubishi (Outlander) and Subaru (Forester) launched their latest salvos.
Luckily the all-new Honda CR-V is good – very good in fact.
We’re family guys at Car Showroom and we’d gladly have a new Honda CR-V in our garage permanently. Great package size, clever and high-quality interior and lots of rear seat and cargo area means the good-looking new Honda CR-V meets all rivals head-on and lacks for nothing.
Car Showroom tested the entry-grade Honda CR-V two-wheel-drive (2WD) VTi model. Pricing starts at $27,490 for the six-speed manual but our five-speed automatic test car was stickered at $29,790.
Honda CR-V 2WD models are powered by the 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, but AWD versions (available in entry-grade VT-i as wells as VTi-S and VTi-L) gain the more powerful 2.4-litre powerplant.
Much improved in the looks department and still oozing that familiar Honda quality, the all-new CR-V’s addition of 2WD models (and their lower entry price) strengthens Honda’s position in our ‘take-no-prisoners’ SUV battle.
Two-wheel-drive versions of the all-new Honda CR-V employ Honda’s 2.0-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder petrol engine. Maximum power is 114kW at 6500rpm and peak torque of 190Nm is delivered at 4300rpm.
Drive is to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission or, as tested, a five-speed automatic.
Combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 7.0l/100kms – surprisingly tardy compared to the 6.4l/100kms for the 2WD Mazda CX-5 Maxx.
As the figures indicate, you need a few revs on board for Honda’s 2.0-litre to do its best work and at the end of the day, the 2.0-litre Honda CR-V - like the 114kW/200Nm CX-5 - is just a smidge light-on under the bonnet (of course AWD versions of the CR-V gain Honda’s 140kW/222Nm 2.4-litre engine and Mazda has a 2.5-litre powerplant coming for the CX-5).
The previous Honda CR-V was universally praised for its slickly designed and cleverly practical interior…good news is the all-new CR-V hasn’t taken a backwards step in that department.
CR-V owners will immediately pick the all-new dashboard, instruments and steering wheel – all the usual top-notch Honda executions. The new three-spoke steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach and the rim is just the right thickness and shape…some other manufacturers please take note: it’s simple to get steering wheels right really.
To the left is the standard reversing camera screen and Honda’s i-MID multi-information display for the audio and trip information. Audio is a four-speaker CD system with the usual connectivity.
Front seats are nicely supportive while those in the rear will enjoy spacious leg-room which is on the top shelf for vehicles in this segment. Honda persists in mounting the child seat tether straps in the roof behind the rear seats – does get cumbersome when manipulating large cargo loads and children.
Out back is good luggage room – 556-litres with the rear seat in-place or 1648-litres when folded.
Overall though, Honda CR-V succeeds inside with slick design, thoughtful/practical features and the expected Honda quality in material choices and manufacturing quality.
The previous generation CR-V was a tad plain in the looks department and in that context Honda’s stylists get a big green tick for their excellent work in delivering the all-new model with its much more substantial on-road presence. More athletic, more dynamic and more aerodynamic, the latest CR-V is nonetheless a bit evolutionary with its hallmark vertical rear lights and sharply angled D-pillar/third side window.
At the front, a much bolder grille gets things started – then you notice the large ‘wrap-around’ headlights, sculptured bonnet and prominent waistline folds…all much more athletic than the previous Honda CR-V.
Only the range-topping 2.4-litre AWD VTi-L model scores the great-looking 18-inch alloy wheels – all the rest (including our 2WD VTi test car) run 17-inch alloys.
Immediately after we collected our Honda CR-V test car we headed straight to the hills and Car Showroom’s high-speed test route.
CR-V rides on a MacPherson strut front suspension, a multi-link rear and, in the case of our 2WD model, 17-inch alloy wheels with 226/65 R17 tyres. That set-up combines with a calibration which is distinctly firmer/sportier than the previous model.
So even in 2WD form, the all-new Honda CR-V is no marshmallow in the twisty stuff, although naturally the expected understeer arrives fairly early – but very predictable and with good feel from the electronic power steering. We wouldn’t mind a bit less body roll and, as we’ve said, more urge when accelerating out of corners would be handy.
And, curiously, our Honda CR-V test car exhibited some noticeable tyre noise on some the of the crook bitumen roads we use on our test route. We say curiously because on some other coarse chip bitumen surfaces, the CR-V was actually noticeably quiet.
Around town, as per the previous Honda CR-V, the new model’s excellent all-round visibility made for easy work. Although the 11.36-metres turning circle was surprisingly large.
The 2.0-litre Honda CR-V loses points in the same way as the 2.0-litre petrol Mazda CX-5 – they both need a bit more performance. Yes we know, they’re tuned for optimized fuel consumption, but….
And, given the importance of the all-new CR-V in Honda’s global plans, we’re disappointed a six or seven-speed automatic transmission isn’t part of the package.
Yes folks, Honda CR-V is back to its best. We’re in love with the exterior styling –CRV’s tilt towards the North American market has delivered a much more substantial on-road presence – and there’s no denying rear seat space is amongst the very best in this league.
The rear-seat occupiers of the family will appreciate that space and families of all sizes will be glad Honda CR-V has lost none of its practicality with lots of cargo and storage space.
Everywhere Honda’s quality stands-out and the all-new CR-V is a slick performer on-road.
The segment benchmark is the Mazda CX-5 ($27,880 in 2WD Max or $33,620 for Maxx Sport). CR-V is ahead for rear seat space, but the CX-5 still has the edge for driving dynamics.
We’ve just driven the 2013 Subaru Forester and we’re super-keen. Obviously AWD (our Honda CR-V test car was 2WD), but the all-new Forester oozes the hallmark Subaru quality, practicality and driving dynamics so you must check it out.
Also just launched is the all-new Mitsubishi Outlander. Much better looking than its predecessor, significantly upgraded inside and very sharply priced, the Outlander is definitely in the mix (unlike its dowdy old model) but we reckon the Honda edges ahead on-road.
And of course, there is the all-new Toyota RAV4 in 2WD versions priced from $28,990 for manual add $2,500 for the six-speed auto.
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