Honda CR-V 2019 vti-s (awd)

2019 Honda CR-V VTi-S AWD long-term review: Urban driving

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We've walked you through the insides of our CR-V long-termer, from cabin comfort to infotainment and drive technology. But, how does it drive? Read on.
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Despite all the advertising guff (and associated imagery) surrounding what an SUV 'can' do, the reality is that most won't spend their time off-road adventuring or exploring the national parks that dot our wide, brown land. Rather, most will tackle the day-to-day mundane: making the school run, commuting to work, and heading to sporting grounds on the weekend – you know, the usual family stuff.

These are the reasons why SUVs have exploded in popularity, after all – if you listen to the various swathes of owners in city areas, who justify the purchase with a myriad reasons relating to family-friendliness.

As such, this month's update on our long-term 2019 Honda CR-V VTi-S AWD might be the most important for prospective buyers. Around-town behaviour and the user-friendly nature of the CR-V are going to determine whether the medium-SUV target market will take a close look at the Honda when it comes time to buy.

First, let's look at the turning circle. Medium SUVs – whether AWD or FWD – won't ever possess the turning circle of a small, RWD vehicle: think MX-5, for example. Those traditional rear drive, front-steer compact vehicles are still the best you can get in real-world terms. SUVs are getting better than they've ever been, but still can't match more nimble hatches and sedans. In their defence, though, I reckon most buyers go into the medium-SUV segment having a fair idea what they are going to get.

As such, the CR-V's 11.5m turning circle certainly isn't a negative. It's not the best in the segment, with the segment-favourite Mazda CX-5 requiring 11.2m, for example. Still, an extra 300mm in the overall scheme of things is no deal-breaker.

What works well with the physical turning circle itself, though, is the steering rack and the feel you get through the wheel. It's sharp, precise, light at low speed, and meaty enough at higher speed so it doesn't feel floaty or vague. You'd assume that Honda's experience with hot hatches and fast performance cars helps here. A manufacturer that can roll Type Rs off the line with ease knows what it's doing.

The steering is a positive all round really. There's no rack rattle, and a genuine feeling that the tyres are directly connected to the movement you're inputing through the hands. It might sound like an obvious comment to make, but not all steering systems are created equal. If you drive two vehicles back to back and one feels wobbly or uncertain through the wheel, you'll notice the difference. The CR-V is at the top of the pile when it comes to this assessment in the medium-SUV segment.

On the subject of being sharp, the 1.5-litre four-pot might seem undersized on paper, but that would be to underrate the ability of modern turbocharging technology and efficient power generation. The figures bear that out, too: 140kW and 240Nm push the 1540kg CR-V along enthusiastically around town. You can zip into and out of lane-changing space, pull out across traffic from side streets safely, and roll on to freeway speed from 40km/h up easily.

One thing we will say is that the CVT does feel like it dulls the willingness of the engine just a little, but I always use the proviso that it's only really driving enthusiasts who will notice. For the average buyer, where smoothness, insulation and fuel use count most, the CVT does the job asked of it well.

On that note, we averaged 8.6L/100km purely around town in traffic, against a claim of 7.3L/100km on the combined cycle. Around town, I tried to be as smooth as possible to find out how efficient I could get the CR-V if you were as prudent as you could be. Even up to 9.0L/100km would be more than acceptable for the segment in stop/start traffic.

To really pile on the speed and get cranking, you need to work the little 1.5 right up to redline, and despite the CVT not rewarding the way a conventional auto does in terms of fun factor, the engine does sound pretty good as the revs rise. It certainly never feels like it is screaming, put it that way. Once you're moving, there's more than enough meat in the middle of the range from that 240Nm figure to punch the CR-V along.

For mine, the most important factor with any SUV, especially an urban-based example, is ride – ride quality specifically. I've sat in European SUVs (as a driver and passenger) that ride harsher than a sports car, and if you're buying an SUV, I'd wager comfort and composure are more valuable to you than outright handling at the limit. Plenty of manufacturers have lost touch with that recently, though.

Here, then, the CR-V shines. Rolling on 18-inch wheels and 225/60 tyres, Sydney's sub-par inner urban road network is no match for the Honda's composure and suspension compliance. The 60-series sidewalls bring plenty to the table, too, eschewing the liquorice-strip tendency you see almost everywhere in 2019.

Crucially, the CR-V doesn't just absorb the initial hit with ease, it also works efficiently to settle quickly, too, and doesn't feel spongy or like it has a tendency to pogo for a few seconds. The chassis reacts effortlessly to raised speed humps and potholes, no matter how sharp the edge, and consistent ruts or washouts through a corner won't unsettle the front end either. The same remains true in the rain, where the CR-V never puts a tyre wrong.

The counterargument to that point above is that if you actually want a sporty SUV in this segment, the CR-V isn't the one to buy. Compliance and ride comfort usually come at the cost of outright handling, and while the CR-V is hardly a wallower, it's not an SUV you want to punt hard on a country road. I, for one, couldn't care less about that, though, and the CR-V will deliver proper family comfort around town. While it's as comfortable and refined as it is, it also feels taut in the cabin, and perhaps more than you might expect given its SUV underpinnings.

So, it's not all perfection. Some of you won't love the CV-T. I do like it, though, and that's saying something because I generally look for reasons to hate them. However, the CR-V's is one of the best I've tested from any manufacturer. There are also some minor blind-spot annoyances around town where visibility might be more limited, but that's more to do with the thick pillars than anything else. Still, it's a factor worth noting. Rear three-quarter is the bigger one, while the front pillars are pretty chunky when you're looking through corners occasionally.

Aside from those two things, though, there really is precious little to complain about in regard to living with the Honda CR-V around town. Some CA staffers – not part of our editorial team – didn't believe it had a 1.5-litre engine, such was the unfussy nature of the way it gets to work.

2019 Honda CR-V VTi-S AWD

First odometer reading: 981km
Current odometer reading: 4164km
Distance travelled so far: 3183km
Average fuel use: 8.6L/100km

MORE: Long-term report one: Introduction
MORE: Long-term report two: Infotainment and driver tech

MORE: Long-term report three: Cabin space and comfort
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