People often buy cars solely on space.
For some, a Kia Carnival is a necessity. Families of six and above will find themselves drawn to one based on a need, not a want. Throw kids' sport and family holidays into the mix, and you're most certainly going to need the internal space to survive.
For others, a Fiat 500 may be equally as ideal. Parking situations toward a major city can be troublesome, and a small car here can be the difference between a spot outside your terrace house or a spot around the corner. Physical space, or footprint, is what motivates this type of purchaser.
The 2021 Honda CR-V VTi L7 plays to both strengths. Not only does it offer space for seven occupants, but it's also the smallest mainstream seven-seat SUV out there in terms of bumper-to-bumper dimensions.
Has Honda created a packaging miracle? Let's find out.
|2021 Honda CR-V VTi L7|
|Engine||1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||140kW at 5600rpm, 240Nm at 2000–5000rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.3L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.3L/100km|
|Boot volume (7-seat/5-seat/2-seat)||150L/472L/1509L|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (tested 2017)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mitsubishi Outlander, Peugeot 5008, Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace|
|Price as tested (before on-roads)||$44,200|
The CR-V VTi L7 is one of two seven-seaters in the range. Ours is the top-of-the-line version, which starts from $44,200 before on-roads. Expect drive-away pricing to sit around the $48,000 mark.
The only other seven-seat option in the Honda CR-V range is the lower-grade VTi 7, which kicks off from $36,000 or about $40,000 flat drive-away.
End to end, the CR-V is the smallest of the bunch. It's also the widest, too, sharing similar overall proportions to Peugeot's 5008.
|Honda CR-V 7-seater||Mitsubishi Outlander 7-seater||Peugeot 5008||Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace|
Entry into the first row is a breeze thanks to a high hip point. It's great for those with tired joints, and who are wanting to avoid a low-slung car.
Once inside, you're greeted by a cabin that's also beginning to show its age. The 7.0-inch infotainment screen is now as small as they come, and features an old-school interface complete with low resolution and blocky graphics. Thankfully, the system redeems itself somewhat by featuring the expected tech suite of satellite navigation, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.
Directly in front of the driver is another screen, this time dedicated to presenting vehicle information. While a step ahead of conventional dials, Honda's digital instrument cluster isn't as sharp or as configurable as what's found in European products.
However, storage and conveniences are its strong suit. The front doors house deep, cleverly designed storage bins, both with an in-built bottle holder. As is Honda's style, the gear-shift mechanism has been moved onto the dash, which frees up space in the lower centre console area.
Alongside a wireless charging pad, two USB ports and a huge pair of bottle holders, there's also a well-thought-out storage tray. It's clever because you're able to slide backward and forward with stuff in it. What's underneath? Another cavernous storage space.
These are the sorts of smart touches that Honda has become well known for. Well-considered design that's aligned to any family's biggest desire – space. The centre armrest is huge, too, and easily large enough to house a change mat, nappies, wipes and sunscreen, with still space to spare.
Cabin controls are well laid out, with dedicated buttons remaining for critical vehicle functions. Air-conditioning controls can be found beneath the infotainment screen, which take all of five minutes to learn and use blindly.
For those who like to switch off driver-assistance aids depending on the conditions, there are plenty more switches to deactivate each function. Located to the right of the steering wheel are buttons that adjust lane-keeping assist, parking sensors and autonomous emergency braking. Some modern cars feature tech buried in sub-menus, which makes them tricky to manipulate.
At this grade, leather seats come as standard and feature electric adjustment, electric lumbar support that's also position adjustable, and two-position memory for the driver's side. They're comfortable, but do lack some bolstering and support.
The most luxurious item has to be the opening panoramic sunroof, which is a nice gesture in an awfully dark cabin.
The second row continues the theme of smart storage and space. The rear doors feature storage bins similar to the ones up front, which means they're happy to house a one-litre wattle bottle with no problems.
Occupant space is great. Behind my own driving position, I found there to be 5cm of knee room, stacks of head room, and enough foot room to comfortably extend under the seat ahead. The last point means you sit more naturally, and not with your legs all wound up.
The seats themselves are quite flat like the ones up front, but comfortable nonetheless. The lower seat base features extended thigh supports, and the seat back has large wings for your shoulders.
The whole second-row bench is adjustable, too. It's on sliders, so it can move fore and aft, and its back rest is also reclinable. Both of these have the potential to either make the second-row experience better or allow for more room with the third row in play.
No less than four air vents, two roof-mounted and two on the back of the centre console, keep you chilled. Two USB ports also feature for good measure.
There's plenty of space for a child support seat, whether it be forward or rearward facing. Those clever aforementioned roof air vents would be excellent at keeping bub cool in a capsule.
However, one downside with using child seats in a Honda CR-V is that their installation causes issues for the third row. The mandatory top-tether straps latch onto the roof, not onto the seats themselves. This creates a scenario where the straps impede on the third row. If you have one child seat in play, you can only use one extra seat. If you plan to fit two child seats, both seats six and seven become useless.
Accessing the third row in an official manner is tricky and requires adult supervision. The seat first folds, slides forward, then folds back up again, revealing a decently large aperture to climb through. Although the seat is supported by gas struts, it's still fairly heavy to lift.
There's a safety strap you need to also latch, which ensures the seat does not fall on occupants. Another good point to note here is that third-row passengers must be aware of the couplings on the floor. If feet are misplaced, and you lower the seat, you will most certainly cause some pain.
The other unofficial method of third-row ingress is to climb over the seat base when it's flat.
Out in the third row, space is fairly decent for the segment. At my height, I found there to be just enough room, and enjoyed an hour-long drive up through Sydney's Blue Mountains from the back. My knees were just grazing on the second-row seat back, but ample shoulder and elbow room made the experience manageable.
Conveniences back here include another pair of roof-mounted air vents with fan-speed control, a nifty cut-out grip to help extract yourself, two more cupholders, and two more storage bins.
As is the case with medium-SUV seven-seaters, occupants in the third row reside over the rear axle, which means they feel the suspension's every move. Some competitors in this space feature taut suspension, which makes their third rows uncomfortable.
The Honda features a more supple ride, which benefits those greatly in the back. This quality alone goes a long way in making the experience as pleasant as possible.
With all three rows up, there's 150L of boot space to play with. It's more than enough to slot in a pair of kid's school bags, and your own work or gym bag. As an alternative form of measurement, I just about squeezed in a week's worth of groceries with some clever adjustments and stacking.
Despite sounding small, the space is well managed. A small shelf is able to be raised to divide the space, which was handy during a trip to Bunnings. I placed all of my paint rollers, trays and other sensitive items underneath, and the heavy, bulky items above, so as to not cause damage during transit.
With the third row down, space extends from 150L to a respectable 472L, and with all seats down again to 1509L.
Moving all of this wonderful versatility is a 1.5-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 140kW of power and 240Nm of torque. Power is fed into a CVT transmission, and is passed to the front wheels only.
The powertrain can feel lazy, even though it features a turbocharger to boost torque delivery. More the culprit of dulling the engine is the CVT transmission. They have the tendency to sap more power than a regular auto, which feels to be the case here.
Regardless, it's smooth, quiet, and easy to become accustomed to. For those who plan to bomb around the suburbs in stop-start school traffic, you'll appreciate the way it behaves. There's no juddering or delay as found with some dual-clutch-type automatics.
Using the paddle shifters to engage a pseudo-manual model is pointless, as you're better off sticking the transmission in S for sport and just pinning the throttle instead. This gifts the best response from the engine, instead of tapping the paddles and waiting for the car to begin emulating a regular automatic transmission.
Fully loaded, you do find yourself diving deep into the throttle pedal, especially on steeper, faster sections of road. With some RPM thrown at it, the engine can become noisy and chattery, which can be heard from inside the cabin.
Overall, its downfalls do not outweigh its upsides. What are more important to the general user of such an SUV are smoothness and ease of use. The CVT transmission promotes both of those matters, although not faultlessly.
The CR-V's ride quality is great. I spoke earlier to the car being soft, which promotes third-row occupancy. From the front row, little gets in the way of the rather laid-back experience it offers. Steering weighting is excellent, too, and feels trustworthy at high speeds.
Over the course of the loan, the Honda CR-V used 8.3L/100km, which is exactly one litre over the manufacturer's claim of 7.3L/100km. It also wears an official ANCAP five-star safety rating and was tested under 2017 criteria.
Internal space can be had with small external dimensions, it seems. The CR-V VTi L7 is a great, well-packaged SUV that uses Honda smarts to shove in as much storage and conveniences as possible.
The third row is sizable, too, and is big enough to home young adults. The issue of child seat tethers making the third row useless may be enough to turn some away, but if your kids are coming close to exiting seats, then you'll have no issue here.
The VTi L7 is also the model to have, as its extra features are well worth the spend over the entry-level version.