2008 Honda CR-V review

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2008 Honda CR-V Luxury review

CarAdvice rating: (4.25)

Priced from: $31,990 to $41,990 (as tested)

Options: Metallic Paint $300

By: Matt Brogan

Honda, broadly speaking, is about three things in the eye of their loyal buyers. They are popular, reputable and reliable.

According to VFACTS statistics, Honda’s CR-V was the number one seller in its class for years 1999 to 2002 and again in 2006, taking out an impressive 13% of all sales in its segment for that year. But do sales figures truly indicate a car’s worth?

It's all well and good to have sold a mountain of cars in times gone by, a feat which CR-V has achieved in droves. With some 2.5 million examples sold in 160 countries, the little lugger’s popularity certainly can’t be questioned.

Though popularity, generally an indication of merit, is one thing, is it purely the CR-V’s popularity that keeps punters coming back time and again? Perhaps it’s the manufacturer’s solid reputation?

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Reputation accounts for a great deal in the minds of the consumer, but in these fickle times of mass production and smooth marketing, reputation does not necessarily ensure the succeeding model is as good as the one it replaces. After all some manufacturers have a habit of resting on their laurels. So just how does the new CR-V stack up to the gauntlet of this reviewer's cynicism?

The third generation CR-V adheres closely to the recipe that has so successfully secured Honda’s authoritative hold over the market share of this hotly contended category. It’s well built, has tight tolerances and uses quality materials and production methods to ensure you’re getting value from every last cent of your purchase.

I crawled over this car, determined to find something awry with the now Thai built vehicle. But after a week of looking, driving, poking and prodding my search went unfulfilled.

Now I know, it’s not perfect, after all it’s built for a price. But when you consider the overall value therein and the quality of the package as a whole when compared to that of its competitors, it’s pretty hard to beat. I’d even go as far as to say it sets the benchmark for which all other contenders should be measured.

For my review I was fortunate enough to have the top of the line CR-V Luxury model. Boasting a veritable plethora of standard features, Luxury sits atop the line up with the Sport and Base models respectively at its feet.

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From the outset, CR-V presents a smooth, clean silhouette all the way from its double split grille, through the arched side windows and rearward to an all new top hinged tailgate.

The tailgate, which incidentally has lost the ungainly spare tyre (now found under the cargo area reducing overall vehicle length by 79mm to a total of 4520mm bumper to bumper), also has its sheet metal pressed with a subtle hexagonal shape, the theme of which is carried through several elements of the car, most noticeably on the wing mirrors.

A fluid side-on presence sits on 17-inch alloys, with a standard tilt/slide sunroof and deep, rich paint work only add to the overall neat, tight finish of a car who’s bold looks combine style with practicality, something notably lacking from the others who maintain their ‘boxy is good’ philosophy.

Projector style front headlamps hint at a more aggressive frontal stance whilst the rear lights are stacked vertically on the D pillar. Not dissimilar to previous models or indeed those of CR-V’s rivals.

Once inside, Honda’s quality is again on show with a fantastic array of gadgets and features sure to please even the most discerning of compact SUV shopper. The heated leather seats are first rate, in fact I was a little surprised at their quality given this is a soft-roader.

Seating height has been reduced from CR-V’s predecessor meaning that from the ground it is now level with an adult's hip height making for easier entry and egress. The seating is remarkably comfortable and supportive, and the driving position is easily adaptable thanks to the eight-way electric adjustment.

Honda’s audio systems always seem to be a step above the rest, and CR-V is no exception. The integrated six stack CD unit boasts a clarity and depth of sound unexpected from an SUV and with iPod/auxiliary audio plug standard on all models, music portability is not an issue.

An adjustable leather wrapped steering wheel, which shares styling ques from the front grille, also has cruise and audio controls within a thumbs reach, and to grip feels both elegant and sporty at the same time.

The dashboard is clean, functional and upmarket, both texturally and aesthetically with a blue/white backlit instrument cluster lending even more sophistication to what’s already a purposeful and presentable cluster of stylish yet easily read displays.

Dual zone climate maintains comfortable cabin temperature with ease whilst at the same time being quiet enough not to arouse any bother. Visibility is excellent, even through the shorter rear third window would seemingly indicate to the contrary, and with standard reverse park assist means even average parkers look like pros.

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The cargo area is versatile and utilitarian whilst loosing none of the cabin’s attention to detail. A handy split level shelving system, 40/20/40 rear seating and retractable cargo blind all ensure this SUV maintains the practicality so sought after in this type of vehicle. The obligatory 12V outlet has not been forgotten, for those planning on taking the fridge, and as if all that cargo space isn’t enough, CR-V can tow up to 1500kg (braked).

Driving SUVs is usually an awkward and top heavy experience full of drumming tyre noise, body roll, wind whistles and sluggish handling. CR-V presents none of these qualities.

Increased noise and vibration dampening in key areas has somewhat solved road noise issues in the CR-V though it is still noticeable, especially on coarsely sealed roads. Thanks to well sorted aerodynamics wind noise is non-existent, the sum total of which also achieves better fuel economy, but more on that later.

CR-V’s handling is agile and more sedan-like thanks to a more rigid ACE (Advanced Compatibility Engineering) body which coincidentally employs high strength steel in strategic areas to improve crash safety.

Scoring an unbeatable five stars in stringent NHTSA tests, CR-V is among the safest SUVs on the market featuring front and side airbags across the range with curtain airbags standard on Sport and Luxury variants.

CR-V’s ride is lithe and sinuous maintaining its composure even on unsealed country roads and gravel verges. The VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist - incorporates Traction Control) is delightfully well tuned maintaining on-road equanimity whilst at the same time providing a delayed threshold for soft-roading competence.

Braking is very positive and with tight, sure pedal feedback instilling confidence inspiring stopping not too disimilar to that of a small hatch back.

Anti-squat rear suspension assists FWD traction under initial acceleration which can be further assisted by the on-demand Real Time 4WD system sending drive to the rear wheels as required. It’s an ingenious system which provides ample traction for light off-road capabilities which realistically are all any SUV with a 185mm ground clearance is ever likely to face.

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Under the bonnet CR-V’s 2.4 litre i-VTEC engine produces 125kW and 218Nm which carries a broader, flatter torque curve than the out-going model, as well as gaining an additional 7kW.

It’s a linear, subtle kind of power which whilst by no means lacking, is a little gentle in its approach to sudden or rapid acceleration requirements feeling perhaps slightly challenged by the brawny 1620kg tare weight. Fortunately the drive-by-wire throttle works harmoniously with the five speed auto to keep things moving along swiftly (a six speed manual is also available).

The advanced nature of all the electronic wizardry on board not only grants smoother gear shifts, but also achieves leaner fuel economy with CR-V managing to extract a claimed 10.0 litres / 100km (combined).

This is where things get interesting. You see claimed fuel economy stats are usually no more an accurate a representation of real world consumption figures than I am the Stig, but I was staggered to find my figures came in well under the claimed stats – twice!

Not convinced the first time, believing I'd miscalculated, I again drove the fully refuelled car until empty over the same course the following day, achieving the same result.

Through combined city/highway driving (roughly 40:60) I achieved an amazing 8.9 litres / 100km on the first tank and 9.1 litres / 100km on the second, bringing the average combined consumption down by an impressive whole litre!

So if a compact SUV is on your wish list, I practically guarantee the CR-V will ensure years of contented motoring and will sustain those warm gushy feelings long after the novelty of owning a new car has subsided.

It’s a pleasure to drive, is both practical and stylish and to be frank, leaves its competitors floundering in the past (and before you comment, no I am not on Honda’s pay roll). With a bit more punch under the hood, the CR-V would have come very close to five stars, but for now it’s as close as an SUV gets.