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Welcome to the latest iteration of our Range Review series, where we walk you through key members of an important new model range. No need to get off the couch and over to your nearest car dealer for that…

The candidate this time is the new Honda CR-V, the fifth generation to wear the badge since 1995. Once again sourced from the company’s manufacturing hub in Thailand, the new model is intended to carry on the momentum set in motion by the great new HR-V and Civic family.

Indeed, while the superseded and ageing Honda CR-V felt a little off the pace against the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan alongside functionally countless others, the signs this time around, are positive.

Always a paragon of practicality — as is the brand’s wont — the new CR-V instead brings improvements to the drivetrain, ride and handling, cabin design, and relative value. It also brings to the table a seven-seat option to rival the X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander and Skoda Kodiaq.

The question we want to explore is, which version is the pick of the range? As ever, we’re not advocating the CR-V as the sole choice in the bustling medium SUV segment — our inevitable comparison against key rivals is the forum for that — but are instead preaching to the converted.

Let’s break it down.


Honda CR-V VTi

  • VTi 2WD five-seat — $30,690

Four key features:

  • 7.0-inch colour touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Rear-view camera
  • Keyless entry with push-button start

Driving the CR-V VTi

This is the base level car in the CR-V range. Its price tag of $30,690 plus on-road costs exactly matches the equivalent Mazda CX-5 Maxx and is $200 more than a Nissan X-Trail ST.

Like those cars, and the base versions of all rivals bar the Forester, this version comes standard with front-wheel drive, making it a firmly city-focused car. But its engine, a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol, outshines most rivals at this price point.

The outputs of 140kW at 5600rpm and 240Nm between 2000 and 5000rpm are good, and we compliment Honda on shirking some anaemic, base, normally aspirated petrol offering.

It’s no firebrand, but the 0-100km/h time of just under 10sec will be fine for the target audience, and the mid-range gives sufficient rolling response for urban gap-hunting or overtaking. We’d like a diesel option further up the range, but it’s the 1.5 alone for now.

Claimed fuel consumption is a middling 7.0-7.4L/100km, though on our test we hovered around 9.0L/100km. Read the table at the bottom of the piece for all the tech specs.

Matched as standard to all variants is a CVT (short for Continuously Variable Transmission) automatic. Honda has not taken the easy option of having an eye-catching sub-$30k price-leader with a manual ‘box that nobody will actually buy.

The CVT is relatively refined for a ‘box of this type, with audible droning only present at high engine speeds. It also comes with artificially-programmed ratios to mimic stepped gear changes, aimed at people familiar with a conventional lock-up torque converter.

At this spec level, the powertrain channels torque to the front wheels, but higher grades come with an on-demand all-wheel drive (AWD) system.

Also standard is an electric parking brake with automatic brake hold to stop you creeping around town, as is an Active Noise Control system, kind of like noise-cancelling headphones that keeps out road and wind noise.

The VTi rolls on 17-inch wheels giving you plenty of rubber to add softness to the ride which, just like the new Civic small-car, is excellent for the class.

Over a mixture of urban and regional winding country roads, plus the odd gravel trail, the CR-V showed controlled body roll through corners, but also a generally excellent level of ride compliance.

Increased front and rear track widths, combined with refined front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension, flatten the body through corners, and there’s also a new electric power steering system, and more noise-deadening insulation/gap sealing.

Ergo, the suppression of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) is good for the class, while the steering has a very fast action. There’s now only 2.2 turns lock-to-lock (down a full revolution), meaning less arm-waving in town and quicker responses at speed.

The CR-V is not a corner-carver like a Tiguan or CX-5, but its ride quality is first rate, and the body control/handling is safe and predictable.

The level of equipment is acceptable for the most part. Standard fare includes 17-inch alloy wheels (with a rare full-size alloy spare), roof rails, LED daytime running lights (DRLs), keyless entry with push-button start, rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, and cloth seats.

Infotainment comes via a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen paired to eight speakers. There’s no integrated sat-nav but you get Bluetooth/USB, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring software.

Safety equipment is limited to six airbags and a Driver Attention Monitor that makes sure you’re alert, plus all the usual safety ‘acronyms’ (ESC, ABS et cetera). In an age where tech such as Autonomous Emergency Braking is become commonplace, Honda may have missed a trick here. You can’t even option it.

The cabin layout across all CR-V’s is generally excellent though, including the base VTi which, commendably, doesn’t feel cheap and nasty, cheap-feeling gear shifter aside.

It blends tasteful material quality with typical Honda virtues of space, practicality, tough build quality, and attention-to-detail.

Familiar Honda cues are here, including a floating tablet screen, space-age digital instruments that look tacky but do the job, nice material textures, thin A-pillars and frankly brilliant cabin storage solutions headlined by a glovebox that fits a large handbag.

The back seats are great, in terms of headroom, legroom, foot space, storage, amenities, ease of ISOFIX/tether access, entry/egress through the door aperture and outward visibility. The seats also recline.

Only the X-Trail, Renault Koleos and Tiguan can compete, really.

Commendably, every single CR-V variant also offers two rear USB points (for the kids to keep their iPads charged) and air vents, plus massive door pockets and a flip-down centre armrest.

Cargo space has dropped a smidgen but remains above the class average at 522 litres behind the second-row. The middle seats also fold flat, and can be made to do so via levers in the cargo area, liberating a 1.85m long flat space.

The cargo area is also well-lit, offers various hooks, a 12V socket, and has aforementioned full-size alloy spare wheel/tyre as standard, with a sturdy jack. Honda quality… There’s also a sliding cargo cover and various accessories.

The deftest trick the CR-V VTi pulls is making you feel like you’re not in a cheap entry car – even though you are.


Honda CR-V VTi-S

  • VTi-S 2WD five-seat — $33,290
    VTi-S AWD five-seat — $35,490

Four key additional features:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Electric tailgate with height adjustment
  • Satellite navigation with SUNA updates
  • LaneWatch camera

Driving the CR-V VTi-S

It’s not uncommon in this class for higher spec grades to get better engines than the base models, but that’s not the case here.

The 140kW/240Nm 1.5 turbo engine remains, as does the CVT. That said, there are cooler and larger 18-inch wheels that might, in some situations, take a smidgen away from the ride softness.

The big change is the availability of all-wheel drive (AWD) for a $2200 premium over the FWD version. Of course if you only ever potter around town with the odd freeway jaunt, then the latter is fine. But if you head to the snow, regularly drive down gravel tracks, or live somewhere wet and slippery, AWD is the go.

As is de rigeur for the class, the AWD is an ‘on-demand’ system that has a front wheel bias but is able to send engine torque to the back wheels when the fronts are slipping. There’s nothing to ‘engage’ – it just goes.

Additionally, while still firmly in the ‘soft-roader’ mould, it’s also worth pointing out the CR-V’s ground clearance is up substantially to 208mm, higher than most key rivals bar the (210mm) X-Trail.

The AWD system is quite clever. Uncommonly, the car can take off from the line in all-paw mode to maximise initial traction. It’s only at speed in nice conditions where the car reverts to FWD. The sensors on board re-send torque rearward (up to 40 per cent total) when slip up front is detected.

At $35,490 with AWD, the VTi-S remains outstanding value, given the extra equipment on offer – headlined by 18-inch alloys, an electric tailgate, satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic updates, and Honda’s cool LaneWatch camera.

This camera is Honda’s version of blind-spot monitoring. When you indicate left, a camera in the left-side mirror transits vision from behind you onto the touchscreen.

Other extras include parking sensors, dusk-sensing automatic headlights, electrically-retractable door mirrors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel that is a much nicer contact point than the one in the VTi.

It’s very easy to make a case for the VTi: a $2600 premium for 18-inch alloy wheels, electric tailgate with height adjustment, satellite navigation with SUNA updates, LaneWatch camera and a nicer steering wheel.

Honda naturally wants you to buy pricier models, but in this case it’s making an offer that’s hard to refuse.

Given you can also add AWD for $2200 more, the case stacks up further. Consider the fact that the AWD VTi-S is almost $4000 cheaper than the entry Tucson Elite with AWD, and $1900 cheaper than an equivalent CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD. Great get.


Honda CR-V VTi-L

  • VTi-L 2WD seven-seat — $38,990

Four key additional features

  • Seven seats
  • Full length curtain airbag covering all three rows
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Leather-appointed seats

Driving the CR-V VTi-L

Here we arrive at the big news item in the CR-V range – the VTi-L seven-seater. It’s the first time a Honda CR-V has had three rows of seats, and gives it a great rival to the Nissan X-Trail ST-L and Mitsubishi Outlander LS, and even the Hyundai Santa Fe Active X and Skoda Kodiaq.

In theory, anyway.

There’s certainly lots of luxury in the cabin for the $38,990 price point, with extras over the five-seat VTi-S such as a panoramic sunroof, leather seats (heated up front, with eight-way adjustment, lumbar support and memory), and automatic rain-sensing wipers.

But don’t go thinking you’ve got a cheap Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger rival on your hands. The CR-V is – at best – a ‘5+2’ type SUV, with the third row strictly for kids only.

On the plus side, the cabin gets full length curtain airbag covering all three rows, and great third-row ceiling vents. The middle seats slide on rails, which is good. And the tilt/tumble mechanism to access the third row works well enough.

However, the latter feature alongside the roof vents and sunroof decimate headroom, meaning anyone over 180cm will feel squeezed in the middle seat row, even in the outboard seats, let alone the third row. The VTi-S’s middle seats have great headroom, which the VTi-L undoes.

The third-row seats also impact cargo space when folded, though Honda has provided a removable cargo floor that can be lifted up to give you a reduced, but flat, loading area.

Honda believes up to 20 per cent of buyers will be drawn to the flexibility of the VTi-L seven-seater, and while we can definitely see thee great value-for-money, we’d caution against it unless you’re only carrying kids or smaller adults in the second and third rows.

From a driving perspective, the 140kW/240Nm engine and CVT remain, while in typical class form the seven-seat body only comes with FWD. It’s also a touch heavier than the VTi-S, though not by enough to really impact engine response.


Honda CR-V VTi-LX

  • VTi-LX AWD five-seat — $44,290

Four key additional features

  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Full LED headlights with active cornering lights

Driving the CR-V VTi-LX

The VTi-LX is the range-topper. It’s only available with five seats, and AWD. Given that’s our favourite configuration, then it’s so far, so good.

At $44,290 it competes with the CX-5 GT ($44,390) and Tucson Highlander ($45,450), plus a performance outlier such as the Tiguan Highline 162TSI ($48,490), which offers a 162kW engine to make up for its price premium.

The VTi-LX offers the same 140kW/240Nm drivetrain as the rest of the CR-V family, and while it remains perfectly adequate, this is the price point where a diesel offering priced around $46,000 would come in handy. Something to really set it apart.

Can’t argue with the standard features much, though. For its price premium of about $9000 over the VTi-S AWD, it gets a panoramic sunroof, tinted privacy glass, full LED headlights with active cornering lights and a High-beam Support System (HSS), and leather-appointed seat trim.

You also get heated front seats and door mirrors, eight-way adjustable electric driver seat with lumbar support and seat-position memory, a four-way adjustable electric front passenger seat, reverse-tilt passenger door mirror, automatic rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming interior rearview mirror, and digital radio (DAB+) – oddly only available on the flagship car…

All the features are there, though the cabin lacks the premium, upmarket feel of the CX-5.

Then there’s the safety package, which we’d love to be made optional (or in part, standard) on lower grades. It includes ready-made acronyms such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation System and Lane Keep Assist.

Medium SUV = family. Family = safety. The formula is simple, and for many it’ll make the VTi-LX the one to buy.

The radar-guided cruise control works well enough, by mimicking the speed of the vehicle ahead in highway driving, and having AEB is reassuring. We’d like blind-spot monitoring though, and wouldn’t rely on the lane assist to be anything other than a last resort.

Then again, for $45k it’s a very affordable range-topping variant, that juggles the practicality with a X-Trail Ti AWD ($44,290 also, very non-coincidentally) with better driving dynamics and a more modern cabin execution.


Verdict

There’s a quick walk-through of the new CR-V family.

The weak link is the VTi-L, on account of its cabin packaging. It’s barely even a 5+2, with pokey middle seats that surprised us. Sure, the $38,990 price is great, considering features such as leather seats and sunroof, but we’d look at a base Santa Fe or Kia Sorento instead.

The VTi makes a very strong case for itself as a base offering at $30,690, and we like that Honda hasn’t given entry buyers an inferior engine. Having a full-size spare and rear USB points is also a great selling point. That said, Hyundai sells Tucson Actives below $30k drive-away regularly, which Honda may struggle to match.

The VTi-LX is a lot of car and spec for under $45k before on-road costs, and while we’ll kick Honda for not offering much active safety tech on lower grades, this version comes loaded. If it had an engine option that set it apart from the others – like the CX-5’s and Tucson’s diesels – it’d be a legitimate Tiguan 162TSI rival.

This leaves the VTi-S, which we unanimously determined to be the strong point. It balances value, space, design and flexibility better than its range-mates, and most rivals, and offers the choice between AWD and FWD.

It’s the strong point in an already strong range, and we’d be pushing any friend or relative in the market towards a Honda dealer for a test drive.


Ownership

From an ownership perspective, the CR-V gets Honda’s new five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and capped-price servicing at 12-month/10,000km intervals.

You’ll pay a below-average $1475 over the first 50,000km or five years at current prices, whichever comes first.


Tech specs

VTi

VTi-S

VTi-L

VTi-LX

Price

$30,690

$33,290

$35,490

$38,990

$44,290

Drive

FWD

FWD

AWD

FWD

AWD

Seats

5

5

7

5

Engine

1.5 turbo

1.5 turbo 

1.5 turbo

1.5 turbo

Outputs

140kW

240Nm

140kW

240Nm

140kW

240Nm

140kW

240Nm

Fuel claim

7.3L/100km

7.3L/100km

7.4L/100km

7.3L/100km

7.4L/100km

Suspension

MacPherson

Multi-link

MacPherson

Multi-link

MacPherson

Multi-link

MacPherson

Multi-link

Transmission

CVT

CVT

CVT

CVT

Cargo space

522L

522L

472L

522L

Length

4585mm

4585mm

4585mm

4585mm

Width

1855mm

1855mm

1855mm

1855mm

Height

1685mm

1685mm

1685mm

1685mm

Wheelbase

2660mm

2660mm

2660mm

2660mm

Clearance

198mm

198mm

208mm

198mm

208mm

Weight

1536kg

1536kg

1597kg

1642kg

1630kg

Made in

Thailand

Thailand

Thailand

Thailand

 


Key features

VTi

VTi-S

VTi-L

VTi-LX

Screen

7.0-inch

7.0-inch

7.0-inch

7.0-inch

Apple CarPlay

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Android Auto

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

DAB+

No

No

No

Yes

Sat-nav

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Climate control

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Three-angle

reverse cam

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Front/rear

sensors

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

LaneWatch

camera

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Fwd Collision

Warning

No

No

No

Yes

AEB

No

No

No

Yes

Lane assist

No

No

No

Yes

Adaptive

cruise control

No

No

No

Yes

Seats

Cloth

Cloth

Leather

Leather

Seat heating

No

No

Yes

Yes

Electric adjust

No

No

Yes

Yes

Rear vents

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rear USB points

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Sunroof

No

No

Yes

Yes

Privacy glass

No

No

No

Yes

All-wheel drive

No

Option

No

Yes

Wheels

17”

18”

18”

18”

Spare

F/S alloy

F/S alloy

F/S alloy

F/S alloy

Roof rails

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Headlights

Halogen

Halogen

Halogen

LED

Tail lights

LED

LED

LED

LED

DRLs

LED

LED

LED

LED

Dusk sensors

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rain-sensing

wipers

No

No

Yes

Yes

Power tailgate

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Park brake

Electric

Electric

Electric

Electric

Proximity key

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Active Noise

Control

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tyre pressure

monitor

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Trailer ESC

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

 


Podcast

Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss the Honda CR-V below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.

 


Click the Photos tab for more images by Sam Venn

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