After a month living with the Honda CR-V, we're only finding more reasons to enjoy its medium-SUV chops.
One month in, and we're only finding more reasons to recommend the 2019 Honda CR-V to medium-SUV buyers in what is a crowded, competitive and now increasingly value-packed segment.
Just as a quick refresher, our VTi-S AWD is our pick of the CR-V range and starts from $36,490 before on-road costs. Yep, that's a lot of family-friendly SUV and a lot of badge credibility for under 40 grand.
It needs to be, too, with the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Ford Escape, Holden Equinox, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan X-Trail and Subaru Forester to contend with. That's without taking into account the less traditional, more expensive European competition in the segment. So any manufacturer intending to compete for volume in this segment needs to offer a compelling value proposition.
This time we're taking a closer look at infotainment and connectivity, but first a quick note on fuel after a few weeks of driving. With just over 1000km in the first month behind the wheel, we've discovered the CR-V is pretty efficient in the real world.
Against the ADR combined claim of 7.3L/100km, we've seen an indicated average of 8.6L/100km over the first few weeks, almost entirely around town. That's not bad at all in the daily driving environment, given how much time you spend static going nowhere in traffic. We'll report back with the fuel figure on the highway in an update soon.
So, on to the infotainment and connectivity. For me, they're vital features in a new car purchase in 2019, given the way we interact with our cars. The street directory, for example, has gone the way of the dodo, so you need either a smartphone link or a decent on-board satellite navigation system to direct you in instances where you don't know your own way.
We no longer want just an analogue speedo, with a digital display a common request. The screen itself needs to be large enough and work responsively enough to not frustrate the owner. The car, as a technical evolution, is booming; something very different to what it was even a decade ago.
We love the modern appearance of the interior, and the sense of space the CR-V provides – it's one reason we think it's such a smart option for family buyers. The 7.0-inch screen that is the hub of the system could be larger, with 8.0-inch screens now a common feature.
It comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Honda offers a number of other apps that you can use if you want to, but if you have a smartphone connection that works well, I'd argue manufacturers don't need to bother with their own app system. There are the requisite HDMI (one) and USB (four) ports front and rear, which is exactly what the family buyer wants on longer road trips.
First up, then, the CR-V gets Garmin satellite navigation with SUNA traffic updates, and it works really well. Yes, the display isn't as modern as some, and the graphics themselves are a little basic, but so far as ease of use, accuracy and reliability, the on-board system is excellent. I find, even with a smartphone link, I often use the factory system, but not if it's fiddly, unreliable or glitchy.
The Garmin system (given mapping is its wheelhouse) works really well. Inputting an address is easy enough, but those of you infatuated with your smartphone will still find that system a little easier to use. I tend to use Waze quite a lot now, too, but in lieu of an app like that, the traffic updates in the Garmin system are also a clever way to save some time on the road.
Next, the smartphone link. Apple CarPlay works with Siri Eyes Free mode, and Android Auto gets Google Voice Search. I had an Android user test that system for me (I own an iPhone), and they reported back that it was as intuitive and easy to work out as using the phone itself. That's obviously the key here – we're encouraging all drivers to put their phones down and concentrate on the road, and that can only work when the system is easy to use.
I can report that Apple CarPlay works just as faultlessly. The connection is quick, once my phone was authorised it connected back every time I plugged it in, and the functionality was excellent. All the main systems – mapping, music streaming, text message via voice, and of course phone calls – worked beautifully.
Obviously, Bluetooth is not yet redundant as a technology, and I know plenty of people who prefer Bluetooth even when a smartphone link is available, but for me, a direct connection that also charges my phone at the same time is the way to go. Offering both Apple and Android capability is key, too, given cars often get shared among family members.
The VTi-S specification doesn't get DAB+, but that's not a deal-breaker for us considering the propensity these days for so many people to stream their own music or podcast material. A six-speaker audio system is more than adequate, and while not mind-blowingly powerful, its sound reproduction is as good as you'd expect and clear enough for you to enjoy your music . Again, using an app like Spotify through the smartphone connection is really easy for anyone already familiar with it.
On to driver technology, which is another area that is vital for family buyers. First up, there's the excellent blind-spot system that Honda uses, where when you indicate left, the entire blind spot is displayed on the central screen.
The camera that is positioned in the mirror projects the image and it's always clear. Yes, you can use an old-school head check to look for your blind spot, but the camera system works so well, you'll drive every other car wishing it had the same system.
There's a full suite of standard electronic safety aids as well including: ABS, Agile Handling Assist, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Emergency Stop Signal, High-beam Support, Hill Start Assist, Driver Attention Monitor and Electronic Brake Booster.
Then we move on to the 'Honda Sensing' pack, which includes: forward-collision warning, collision-mitigation braking system, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, road-departure mitigation system, adaptive cruise control, lane watch, vehicle-stability assist, trailer-stability assist, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. Crucially, the Honda CR-V in this grade now gets AEB as standard equipment, whereas it was previously only available on the range-topper.
You also get front and rear parking sensors, a multi-angle rear-view camera with three modes (normal, wide and top-down), and finally dynamic and fixed reversing guides. Now, while all those systems above are working away in the background to keep you safe on the road, the most obvious, most often, will be those associated with low-speed parking.
I love the way the multi-angle camera system works, and you find yourself using it more and more as you get familiar with it. Same goes for the parking sensors, which work well, but the really handy and useful additions are the rear parking guidelines. Plenty of systems have them fixed, but they don't go dynamic as you turn the wheels. The CR-V's do, and they are an excellent help when you're parking in tight spaces.
Issues over the first few weeks? None. Average fuel use is sitting at 8.6L/100km, and so far we're trucking along in medium-SUV nirvana. Next instalment, we'll take a look at cabin space – another traditional Honda CR-V strong point.
Hit our gallery for more photos of the CR-V's infotainment and driver technology systems.
2019 Honda CR-V VTi-S AWD
First odometer reading: 981km
Current odometer reading: 2031km
Distance travelled so far: 1050km
Average fuel use: 8.6L/100km