If you’re in the market for a family-friendly SUV, the Honda CR-V should be pretty high on your list given it offers a solid package at a very reasonable price and with a great badge to boot, though it remains let down by its lack of standard active safety features.
Our test car here is what we think is the sweet spot in the range, the CR-V VTi-S, which has a very realistic starting price of $33,290 (plus on-roads) for the front-wheel drive and comes relatively well equipped. You can pay an extra $2200 for the benefit of AWD, but that’s not really necessary for most needs.
In the VTi-S grade you get 18-inch alloy wheels, an electric tailgate, inbuilt satellite navigation, front and rear parking sensors, and LaneWatch mirror-mounted camera technology and more. Full specifications and pricing on the Honda CR-V range can be found here.
From the outside, Honda’s CR-V is one of the more conventional-looking models from the brand of late. The Japanese company isn’t exactly known for its current designs setting the world on fire – one only has to look at the Civic Type R to know that – but the CR-V and its smaller brother, the HR-V, are both pretty inoffensive in their appearance. Angular and a little over-styled? Maybe, but otherwise relatively conservative.
The CR-V tends to blend into traffic rather nicely, but in the right colour it also stands out for the right reasons. It’s a relatively attractive SUV, and for its intended market it is one that will likely age gracefully.
Jump inside and it’s a similar story. There is a genuinely modern-looking interior that is centred around a (could-be-bigger) 7.0-inch infotainment system that comes standard with Apple CarPlay. Honda also offers a bunch of apps that you will probably never use because all you need is CarPlay these days. There are USB ports front and rear, which is a must for power-hungry iTouch-generation children.
Like other Honda models, the CR-V offers a neat feature whereby if you indicate left, the entire view of your blind spot is shown on the infotainment screen. There is a little camera in the mirror that does the work, and while it seems a little superfluous if you haven’t used it – because you can just shoulder-check for the same outcome – once you use it a few times, you start wondering why every other manufacturer doesn’t do the same thing.
The tech aside, it’s a nice place inside, with comfy seats up front that offer good back and side support, while the second row will accommodate two child seats with ease (ISOFIX and all), or take three average-sized passengers when the need arises. There are plenty of soft-touch plastics around the cabin, and the surfaces that will be touched frequently feel pretty high quality, and that tactile sensation emphasises why Honda as a brand is on a resurgence both in terms of product and sales.
We particularly liked the digital display that really helped it feel far more modern than some of its competitors. This grade comes with cloth seats instead of leather, which can be problematic for a family-hauler when it comes to cleaning that chocolate yoghurt off the back seat. But you will need to spend a few thousand more to upgrade to a higher grade if that’s going to prove an issue.
Luggage space is pretty reasonable for its size, coming in at 522 litres with the rear seats upright and 1084L when laid flat, though it’s down on the predecessor (556L and 1120L respectively). That will swallow a medium or large pram without too many hassles, and the boot entry sits low enough that putting things in the back while juggling kids isn’t that unpleasant.
The CR-V, like all new Honda models, is offered as standard with a five-year / unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing occurs at every 10,000km (the Australian average is around 15,000km each year), and costs at the time of publishing are $295 for every visit, not including the cost of consumables. Details can be found here.
Press the start button to the right of the steering wheel and the CR-V’s little heart comes to life. Powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, the CR-V may seem like it is running a downsized engine on paper, but with 140kW and 240Nm of torque, it’s a sensible offering given the medium SUV only weighs 1540kg (kerb).
The little turbo is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is the perfect way to suck the life out of a good engine – and it does that rather well. However, it gets the job done and helps bring the fuel economy down ever so slightly over a conventional torque converter automatic found in competitors like the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tuscon.
Honda claims fuel economy figures of around 7.3L/100km, but expect to be in the mid to high 8s in the real world given the little turbo has to rev pretty hard to get it going, and it’s unlikely any owner will keep it off boost to save fuel.
The engine actually shows itself to be gutsy, and we found it more than ideal for quick overtakes both at inner-city speeds and on the highway. Of course, the performance degrades rather quickly if you start loading up four large adults.
As a daily driver, we found the 18-inch wheels and the suspension on the CR-V to provide a very comfortable ride that not only worked on the highway, but also on second-rate roads around Brisbane’s never-ending line of roadworks.
Dynamically, the CR-V is not exactly the sportiest SUV on the market. Knowing what Honda can do, as has been shown by the Type-R, it’s evident the CR-V’s steering and dynamics are tuned with the family buyer in mind, so while it doesn’t exactly roll into corners or feel off-balance, we wouldn’t recommend it for its sporty feel alone.
So, while it provides an excellent overall package, there is one glaring omission from the majority of the Honda CR-V range that makes it a harder car to recommend than it really ought to be – that being the lack of active safety features.
Apart from the absolute top-of-the-range model (VTi-LX at $44,290), the rest of the range misses out on now critical active safety features such as autonomous emergency braking. Even as an option. So, while the CR-V scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating when it first came out, if it were to be retested in any other variant bar the top spec’ under today’s ANCAP rules, it would find it difficult to achieve the top mark.
Honda’s safety features for the VTi-LX include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, road departure mitigation system and lane keep assist. Of course, all variants still get six airbags and a driver-attention monitor that makes sure you’re alert, plus all the long-ago standard safety systems (ESC, ABS etc).
It would make a lot of sense if the Japanese brand just offered that as a package for its other CR-V variants, because then the SUV would become a no-brainer on the list of any shopper looking for a family friendly, high quality, and very capable option in this highly competitive segment.
Honda Australia isn't unaware of the concern around its safety package, though, and we're expecting to learn more on its plans for spec enhancements soon. When that day comes, the CR-V's appeal will be markedly improved.