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The Honda CR-V is up against some of the stiffest competition in the Australian new car market.
The current (fourth-generation) CR-V went on sale in Australia in November 2012 and is set to be facelifted in the coming months. But with sales down 30 per cent in 2014, there are undoubtedly bargains to be had in Honda showrooms around the country.
The range kicks off from $27,490 for the front-drive manual 2.0-litre CR-V, while the all-wheel-drive petrol variants have a larger 2.4-litre engine, with prices kicking off from $32,790 (for the VTi model tested here with a standard automatic transmission). A diesel version was added earlier this year, priced from $38,290.
The 2.4-litre engine requires revs to get the best of out it, with a lack of low-down torque that makes it feel smaller than its size below 4000rpm. Indeed, its peak torque (of 222Nm) doesn’t arrive until 4400rpm, while its 144kW peak power output isn’t hit until 7000rpm. In the interests of testing, we attempted to hit 7000rpm on the open road, but the gearbox refused to allow the engine to rev past about 6400rpm.
However, despite the apparent lack of low-down punch, it is a tractable, free-revving petrol engine that operates well in the daily grind and coasts comfortably enough at highway speeds.
The automatic gearbox shifts through its five gears with smoothness and accuracy, holding gears well for hills – which helps with the lack of torque – and it is best left in D rather than S, which doesn’t have a profound impact on the effectiveness of the transmission other than making the engine hold higher revs for longer. The engine isn’t noisy, but in S mode it can be.
That high-revving nature has an impact on the CR-V’s fuel use, and over several hundred kilometres of urban, highway and country driving, we saw an average of 10.0 litres per 100 kilometres. Official fuel use is claimed at 8.7L/100km.
On the road, the CR-V finds a nice balance between comfort and control. The steering lacks any meaning feel and can lack some mid-corner precision, but it is light and makes the car easy to manoeuvre around town, particularly when parking.
Through tighter twisties the CR-V can exhibit some body roll, but it feels light-footed and there is decent traction from the all-wheel drive system. The 255/65 17-inch Bridgestone Dueler tyres fitted to our test car would squeal at the slightest hint of spirited driving, though.
The variable road surfaces we encountered on country roads were dealt with well, with the suspension offering good bump absorption, but because of its softness it can be slightly bouncy. Still, the ride comfort for those up front and in the back is better than rivals such as the X-Trail, RAV4 and Sportage, with smaller, niggly inconsistencies disposed of particularly well.
The CR-V isn’t as quiet inside as some of its competitors, though even over coarse-chip surfaces it was still reasonably well cocooned.
Where the CR-V wins its biggest points is its superbly spacious cockpit.
There is ample room for front and rear occupants, with comfortable, broad seats. The rear seat is arguably the best in class for space, with plenty of headroom and legroom, aided by a flat floor.
Back row passengers will appreciate the rear air-vents, which are often – annoyingly – overlooked in this class, and it is one of the only cars in this segment with enough room to be able to fit three six-foot male occupants across the back.
For smaller passengers there are three top-tether child restraints but ISOFIX anchor points are only available in the European-built diesel CR-V (the petrol models are sourced from Thailand). However, parents will be impressed by the amount of boot space (556 litres) which is simple to access thanks to its large aperture and can be pushed to 1120L with the rear seats folded down. They drop 60:40, too.
Storage through the cabin is also top notch, with big door pockets and large cup holders up front, and decent rear door pockets with bottle caddies.
The interior is far more plain than most of its rivals, and the CR-V’s plastics are hard across the doors and dashboard. However, while it may not be inspiring, our test vehicle had superb fit and finish. And despite our test car having more than 40,000km on the odometer, there were no squeaks or rattles.
It is expected that Honda will add its new touchscreen media system to the updated CR-V, which includes a range of smartphone apps, including satellite navigation (which is currently only available on iPhone 5 or later). Given the all-new Jazz city car is fitted with the system - even in the $14,990 base model - this tech is a no-brainer for the facelifted CR-V.
That said, our car had the obligatory reverse-view camera (standard across all CR-V models in addition to six airbags) and although the media system was an old-school push button unit with a low-resolution dash-top screen, it was reasonably easy to use despite lacking the quality graphics and simple menu systems of some rivals (Hyundai and Kia have this nailed). The Bluetooth phone and audio streaming system in our car worked well, though connecting for the first time was fiddlier than expected.
Honda offers a five-year capped-price service program, with maintenance required every six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. Over the 60-month/100,000km coverage period, services average out at $635 per year – well above the likes of the Hyundai ix35 and Toyota RAV4. As with all Honda models, the CR-V has a three-year or 100,000km warranty.
In summary, the CR-V remains near the top of the pack in the SUV segment, and is arguably the most family-friendly offering out there. With ample space and a big boot, it ticks a lot of boxes – and given a newly refreshed model is on its way in the coming months, 2014-built examples could represent clever buying for the economically pragmatic.
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