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28 July 2017

New Honda CR-V tested

Honda hopes to claw back lost ground — in the class it once led — with the all-new CR-V. Picture: Supplied.

HONDA was one of the pioneers of the soft-roader segment, introducing the original CR-V locally in 1997.

It even came with a fold-up plastic picnic table stowed under the boot floor.

Since then, however, other faux-wheel drives have eaten Honda’s lunch — and it’s had to fight for the crumbs. The picnic table is long gone.

Honda sold more CR-Vs in its first full year than it did last year, in an SUV market almost 10 times bigger than it was 20 years ago. Indeed, last year it barely made it into the Top 10 among its peers.

Now the CR-V has been given its biggest overhaul in six years. Bravely, the price of the five-model range has gone up — stretching from $33,590 drive-away to $48,535 drive-away — but Honda says it has loaded its family SUV with extra technology and equipment.

The cargo area is smaller than before but still one of the biggest in the class. Picture: Cristian Brunelli.

The cargo area is smaller than before but still one of the biggest in the class. Picture: Cristian Brunelli.Source:Supplied

Despite its familiar appearance, this fifth-generation CR-V is new from the ground up. The body is longer, wider, taller and roomier than before yet under the bonnet is the smallest engine to power the CR-V locally.

In place of the previous pair of petrol engines and a diesel, there is just one — a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo that can run on regular unleaded. It is matched with a continuously variable automatic transmission with front-drive or on-demand all-wheel drive.

There is a seven-seater for the first time, although it’s more of a five-seater “plus two” for transporting kids over short distances.

The second row seats fold to create one of the biggest cargo holds in the class. Picture: Supplied.

The second row seats fold to create one of the biggest cargo holds in the class. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

In the seven-seater, the curtain airbags cover all three rows of seats; in the five seater they extend to the second row.

The bigger cabin — thanks to the greater distance between the front and rear wheels — brings more room for heads, shoulders, knees and toes.

The boot is slightly smaller but still generous (522L versus 556L), second in the class behind the Nissan X-Trail (565) and ahead of Toyota’s RAV4 (506) and Mazda’s CX-5 (442).

Pleasingly, Honda has retained a full-size tyre — with matching alloy wheel — under the boot floor, even in the bulkier seven-seat version.

The rear bumper is still the lowest in the business, meaning you don’t need to lift heavy objects too high to get them in the back — and the dog will find it easier to leap inside as it approaches old age.

More room for the ‘family’: the new Honda CR-V is bigger than the model it replaces. Picture: Cristian Brunelli.

More room for the ‘family’: the new Honda CR-V is bigger than the model it replaces. Picture: Cristian Brunelli.Source:Supplied

The 60-40 split back seats with two Isofix mounts flip down via tabs on each outer cushion or via levers in the cargo hold.

For all of Honda’s cleverness, it still hasn’t thought out the child seat top tether mounts properly. Three mounting points for the second row seat are in the roof near the top of the tailgate, limiting cargo space in the five-seater and making the second row unusable for child seats if the third-row seats are in use.

In the sole seven-seater variant — a $43,000 drive-away luxury model — the third row can accommodate two child seats thanks to two other tether points in the boot floor.

Look familiar? Despite appearances, this model is new from the ground up. Picture: Supplied.

Look familiar? Despite appearances, this model is new from the ground up. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Between both front seats is a cavernous centre console with a clever sliding deck to hide valuables. It’s not quite as big as in earlier CR-Vs but it’s tall enough to stow a couple of large bottles or a handbag if you change the configuration. There are other large storage cubbies in the doors and glovebox.

For connectivity there are two 12V sockets and four USB charging ports, three of which are fast chargers.

The touchscreen has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (dearer models gain built-in navigation) but, best of all, Honda has reintroduced the volume knob. Hallelujah. Tapping a screen or a button on a steering wheel while on the move isn’t as easy as an old fashioned dial.

Here’s hoping more companies follow Honda’s lead and add a volume dial to their touchscreens. Picture: Supplied.

Here’s hoping more companies follow Honda’s lead and add a volume dial to their touchscreens. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Meanwhile the volume tab on the steering wheel responds to pressing, as a button, or swiping your thumb across the grooves for a faster response to adjust volume.

All models come with a sensor key for the door and push-button start. The car will lock or unlock automatically if you touch the grooves on the exterior door handles.

It means you can leave the key in your pocket and the CR-V will unlock itself. It will also lock itself as soon as you’re 2.5 metres away from the car.

There’s Honda’s new widescreen digital dashboard, first seen on the new Civic. The CR-V’s is larger, the figures are bigger and it gives the car an up-market appearance and an edge on rivals.

The biggest disappointment: automatic emergency braking, which is standard on key rivals such as the Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan — and crucial to a five-star safety rating — is available only on the dearest variant.

It is bundled with radar cruise control and lane keeping assistance and is not available as an option on the other four models.

Speaking of safety, Honda confirmed the new CR-V is not equipped with Takata airbags; it now uses a different supplier.

ON THE ROAD

Detractors will dismiss the turbo 1.5, given the class is dominated by 2.0-litre engines or larger.

But the new engine has more grunt than the previous CR-V’s 2.0-litre and the same amount of power (but more torque) than its 2.4-litre.

The CVT keeps the engine in its peak power band but not everyone is a fan of the whining that sounds like the gears are slipping. That said, it’s one of the better examples of the genre and does a reasonable job of mimicking the feel of a conventional auto.

Comfort over bumps is good and the steering is light and, with fewer turns lock to lock, more direct than before.

Honda says the new CR-V has noise-suppression technology — but it’s still noisy, especially at highway cruising speeds. Picture: Supplied.

Honda says the new CR-V has noise-suppression technology — but it’s still noisy, especially at highway cruising speeds. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Despite the larger footprint, the turning circle is the same (11 metres, pretty good but not best in class). Towing capacity for the five-seater is 1500kg and the seven-seater, 1000kg.

The brakes are bigger than before and share some of the technology (namely the electronic brake booster design) with the Honda NSX supercar. The result is a super-responsive brake pedal feel.

You can feel the CR-V lean a little in corners, due in part to a taller ride height — it has more ground clearance than its predecessor, for tackling terrain more arduous than a gravel driveway.

It still feels secure on a winding road and in roundabouts.

At freeway speeds road noise from the tyres seems louder than its peers. At suburban speeds on smooth roads the tyres are quieter but then you hear engine racket. Some extra sound deadening wouldn’t have gone astray.

Thicker and heavier noise-proofing material was probably one of the sacrifices made at the final hurdle. The new CR-V is between 49kg and 107kg heavier than the model it replaces — at a time when most other brands are saving weight.

VERDICT

Three and a half stars

The new CR-V marks a welcome return to form for Honda.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling

Fast facts: Fifth-generation Honda CR-V

PRICE $33,590 drive-away to $48,535 drive-away (not cheap)

WARRANTY 5 years/unlimited km (good)

CAPPED SERVICING $1180 over 3 years (four visits every 10,000km at $295 each)

SERVICE INTERVAL 12 months/10,000km (below average distance)

SAFETY Six airbags, multi angle rear view camera. Not yet rated by ANCAP. Automatic emergency braking only available on dearest model (not so good)

ENGINE Turbo 1.5-litre 4-cyl, 140kW/240Nm (good)

TRANSMISSION CVT auto; 2WD or AWD

THIRST 7.0 to 7.4L/100km (depending on model grade and 2WD or AWD)

DIMENSIONS 4596mm (L), 1855mm (W), 1689mm (H), 2660mm (WB)

WEIGHT 1536kg to 1630kg

SPARE TYRE Full-size, alloy wheel (excellent)

0-100KM/H 8.4 secs (2WD, as tested)

TURNING CIRCLE 11m

TOWING 1500kg (five-seater), 1000kg (seven-seater)

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