The 2017 Honda CR-V is like the old dog in the boxing gym. Every sweat-soaked, dark and musty boxing gym has one – the cagey old-timer, who is well past his prime physically, but still retains enough skill and muscle memory to mix it up with the new wave.
In the hazy memory of a not-so-distant past, the CR-V was the top dog, the best in the business, the one with the effortless knockout punch, the best work rate, and the most efficient technique.
Seemingly in the blink of an eye, though, there’s younger pups in the gym, blessed with faster feet, quicker punches that sting a little more, a more efficient work rate, and better all-round techniques.
In reference to the revered Rocky fight films then, has the CR-V got what it takes to land one more knockout blow against the younger, hungrier Ivan Drago? Let’s find out…
On test here, we’ve got the Honda CR-V in range topping VTi-L with ADAS, which starts from $45,790 before the usual on-road costs. By way of comparison, a top-spec Mazda CX-5 Akera starts from $46,990, so the Honda punches a little above its weight if price is the main consideration. You’d struggle to believe that though, given the rampant sales success of the CX-5.
What’s ADAS, you ask? Good question. ADAS is Honda’s suite of adaptive safety electronics, which take the ageing CR-V close to the segment leaders, namely the aforementioned Mazda CX-5.
Due for replacement later this year, the CR-V needed Honda’s ‘Advanced Driver Assist System’ to properly take the fight up to the best in the medium SUV segment, where standard safety kit is now par for the course.
ADAS includes such useful – and some would argue vital – tech as forward collision warning, lane departure warning and high-beam support. Each feature has its own tangible benefit, and together they combine to make the CR-V as safe as it can be at a still-reasonable price point.
Styling is obviously subjective, but I think the CR-V continues to cut a striking figure in a segment of same-same SUVs that can often blend into each other.
The usual sharp Honda styling cues remain, and the exterior design has aged well. Our test CR-V’s colour is one of the more attractive in the palette, and the 18-inch alloy wheels look the goods too.
Arguably, it’s inside the cabin where the CR-V still delivers a flurry of straight-rights to the competition. While the pretenders to the CR-V’s belts have changed the styling and equipment game, the CR-V still delivers a spacious cabin that is big on clever, useful storage and comfort. We’ve always appreciated the way Honda executes cabin design, and the CR-V continues to impress.
Seats front and rear are excellent, and so is the general feeling of quality and insulation. The CR-V nails that rare brief of feeling more premium than the segment would demand, or you’d expect, for the outlay.
It’s a sense that’s evident in the plastics used, the quality of the carpet, and the amount of sound deadening that’s been added to the equation. Thud the CR-V’s door closed, and you’re cocooned in quiet.
Up front, driver and passenger get heated seats, there’s dual-zone air conditioning, an electric driver’s seat with memory function, automatic windscreen wipers and auto dimming rear-view mirrors. Easy folding rear seats liberate a cavernous luggage space, that will be more than enough for the family buyer.
Technology, on the other hand, lets the CR-V down somewhat. You can understand Honda not wanting to lavish this outgoing model with a host of infotainment upgrades before the arrival of the lauded, all-new variant. Regardless, in the absence of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, you’re left with what is an otherwise basic system.
The Bluetooth connection is excellent, though - one of the best in the business in terms of clarity, once connected. Likewise the steering wheel-mounted controls for the phone, which fall easily to hand and work well. Honda’s satellite navigation – standard in this grade – comes with Suna traffic updates and is reliable and accurate.
The screen itself is otherwise quite basic, slow to respond and looks decidedly old in a market where graphics packages and screen quality are getting better at a rapid pace.
The screen is at its best when displaying ‘Lane Watch’, a system that I absolutely love. Activate the left side indicator and a camera under the exterior rear-view mirror displays a quality image of what would have been a blind spot. First-time CR-V drivers might find it strange to begin with, but it’s excellent once you’re used to it.
The 4WD models are powered by a 2.4-litre, naturally-aspirated petrol engine, with no diesel available. It generates 140kW and 222Nm, and while those numbers don’t match some of the more power heavy segment leaders, they do translate to rapid enough performance around town.
More focused on family utility than outright speed, Honda has gambled on the quality of the drive experience, and the CR-V gets that job done very nicely indeed.
There’s an economy mode, but against an ADR fuel claim of 8.7L/100km, we used an indicated 10.5L/100km entirely around town and without the economy mode being used. That figure is as close to the claim as you’re ever likely to get for a petrol engine in traffic, so the CR-V is certainly efficient in the real world.
The four-banger is mated to a conventional five-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control. We found the gearbox to be smooth under all testing conditions, and Grade Logic according to Honda anyway, eliminates hunting on inclines by controlling the gear range on gradients. It seems to work well enough at that task, but it’s the around-town composure of the shifts which will be most noticeable to owners.
The CR-V is snappy off the line when you’re running around town solo, but will start to slow down as you add more bodies to the equation. With four or five adults on board, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as willing to get up to speed.
Ride insulation is excellent with only coarse-chip surfaces generating any tyre noise at all. Up to freeway speed, there’s very little wind noise, and on smoother surfaces, the tyres are quiet too. Around town, the CR-V soaks up nasty roads in the manner we’d like to see all SUVs do it, solidly but with compliance.
While there’s been a rush to seemingly nonsensical 2WD SUVs, the AWD system that underpins the CR-V adds a level of reassurance to the family commute that I’d recommend, especially in inclement weather or if you head onto unsealed country roads semi regularly. At this price point, AWD is a comparative bargain.
The CR-V is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, which can be extended through to five years/140,000km with five years of premium roadside assist.
While it’s obvious the CR-V is now very much the elder statesman in this middleweight SUV stoush, it’s still got a bit of fight left in it, evidenced by our high scoring for what is now an older vehicle.
It’s absolutely worth consideration if you want a spacious, well-built family SUV. One thing’s for sure: if the CR-V is still so competitive after so long, the new one is going to be worth waiting for.