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If you’re on the hunt for a new SUV, you’ll know it can be overwhelming with the amount of choice, especially if your budget is around $30,000. We are spoilt in terms of the various options in Australia, but when there are around 50 SUVs and crossovers in this range, where do you start?
The 2019 Honda CR-V is one of our favourites at CarAdvice. Priced from $28,290 before on-road costs, the Vi is the most affordable CR-V you can get into. The five-seater is powered by a SOHC i-VTEC 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine and is paired with the economical continuously variable transmission (CVT).
In terms of tech, a three-angle rear-view camera, driver-attention monitor, and hill-start assist come standard, with rear parking sensors an option. It misses out on the Honda Sensing pack that includes lane tech and adaptive cruise control, and you’ll only find that on the top-range VTi-LX. Autonomous emergency braking is also an omission.
The styling could be accused of being a bit of a mixed bag at the front, with halogen headlights and LED daytime running lights, and at the back, LED tail-lights. You’ll have to step up once again to the VTi-LX to get LED headlights.
Honda is known for its cabin practicality, and even though its famous Magic Seats aren’t available in the CR-V, it’s still versatile, and you’ll find yourself losing items amongst the sheer amount of storage compartments. The gear selector and handbrake are placed high on the console, which frees up space for a sliding armrest, and a removable sliding tray that covers a compartment deep enough for four or five soft drink cans. We just need it to be an esky. Please, Honda, can we make it a thing?
When the two deep cupholders aren’t used, the bottles can easily fit into the glovebox too. The endless amount of storage doesn’t end there, though, with the incredibly long door pockets you can fit your forearm in. No joke.
There is a fair bit of hard plastic throughout the cabin, and the door trims are covered in a cloth pattern that mimics hard rubber. Clever and cheeky. The manually adjustable cloth driver's seat is a comfortable place to be. The armrests on both sides are at a great height, and the steering wheel feels good in the hand, with a nice place for the thumbs to sit.
Some handy family-friendly features are winners: a door unlock/lock button that is also on the front passenger side; four LED map lights front and rear; and a sunglasses holder in the roof that doubles as a conversation mirror, but really, it’s there to keep an eye on the kids in the back seat. There is one USB and auxiliary connection, and two 12-volt sockets. However, with the amount of storage on offer, perhaps an extra USB wouldn’t have gone astray.
A 5.0-inch screen is operated only via buttons, and is very basic, as it is only useful for reading the time, making audio selections and connecting your phone to Bluetooth. There is also Bluetooth audio streaming, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Without those phone platforms and built-in satellite navigation, it will make trips a challenge, especially if you're travelling solo.
The back doors open at a 90-degree angle, so it is easily accessible for a parent to strap bub in, using the three top tethers or two ISOFIX points. Plus, the side windows are large, so they will be able to see the world go by easily.
With no central floor hump, leg room is massive, head room is fantastic, and your feet can hide completely under the front seats. The seat base is long enough to keep an adult comfortable on a long drive too.
For the base-model CR-V, it’s nice to see rear ventilation and a fold-down armrest with cupholders. The 60:40 seats can be folded down via levers on top of the seats or accessed by the boot. They fold down into the floor and sit flat, no doubt taking some cues from the Magic Seat set-up, but they can be heavy to lift back into place.
The boot lid is long, but that also means the load lip is low, so hauling heavy items into the 522L boot is made all the easier. Two shallow open storage cubbies are on each side, and a full-size spare wheel is under the floor. For a family hauler that doubles as a grocery hauler, the lack of grocery hooks might frustrate some.
The CR-V’s 2.0-litre engine pumps out 113kW of power and 189Nm of torque. Those figures aren’t exactly mesmerising, and it showed as the car found it hard to keep up with traffic unless you are a lead foot. The throttle is sensitive, so gently pressing it is the way to go, otherwise your head will smash into the headrest. Honda’s combined fuel reading is 7.6L/100km, and we got close with 8.1L/100km at an average speed of 35km/h.
The gear selector is clunky, and you’ll find at times you’ll select the wrong gear position. While the aim of a CVT helps to reduce fuel economy, if you need to get going in a hurry, the engine can rev to 6000rpm, almost to the red line. The transmission also noticeably shudders when gently accelerating at around 1500rpm.
Tyre noise is present once you get up to freeway speed, and there would be a difference between this Vi spec and the VTi, as the latter has active noise control, which Honda says decreases cabin noise for greater comfort.
The 17-inch wheels look snazzy enough to belong on any VTi, and the multi-link and MacPherson strut suspension do well to soak up the bumps. In fact, it is that supple you could be mistaken for thinking the car is worth more money.
Vision isn’t fantastic for head checks, as the D-pillar is very thick. To keep an eye on the kids in your driveway, the rear-view camera provides three different angles in good quality, but you will need to be extra careful at the front as parking sensors are not available.
In 2017, the CR-V was ANCAP-tested and received a five-star safety rating, with an overall score of 35.76 out of 37. The CR-V comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, and servicing is every 10,000km at $295 a visit.
In short, you can barely go wrong with the Honda CR-V. While it lacks in standard safety, driver technology, and power, it is practical enough to accommodate the family comfortably, and even the family pet. If you want all the bells and whistles, then it is almost certainly worth stepping up to the VTi-LX.