Chasing the competition
Honda’s facelifted CR-V takes on the challengers, writes Neil McDonald
AQUICK glance at this year’s offroader sales figures reveals two things. They are going gangbusters and there are plenty of choices out there in buyer land. This is good news and bad news for Honda’s popular CR-V.
Honda has responded to the challenge from newer rivals by giving the CR-V a modest facelift for this year.
Though it has been around in various guises since 1997 and grown to be a formidable competitor, the CR-V faces fresh challenges.
The Mazda CX-7 and Volkswagen Tiguan have been edging the likable CR-V out of the sales limelight this year.
It also has to go head to head with the strong- selling Subaru Forester, Nissan X-Trail and Toyota RAV4. Other well-specified arrivals such as the Hyundai ix35 and repackaged Nissan Dualis will not make things easy for it either.
Honda Australia spokesman Mark Higgins says despite the competition the CR-V remains one of the company’s more popular core models, with a strong owner loyalty base, and it consistently ranks as one of the brand’s top-three sellers. ‘‘It’s essentially Mum and Dad’s taxi,’’ he says.
Higgins says the little off-roader wagon has a strong following among families because of its practicality and economical four-cylinder engine.
‘‘The loyalty rate for CR-V is very high. Owners tend to upgrade out of one into another,’’ he says.
As before, there are three models — a starter, mid-range Sport and range-topper Luxury. The Sport remains the bestseller, closely followed by the Luxury, Higgins says.
Prices kick off at $30,990, rising to $42,790 for a loaded Luxury. The Sport is $38,790.
Honda has improved the CR-V in several key areas, tweaking the steering, ride and handling.
The entry model also gets full-length curtain airbags as standard, and the Sport gets upgraded
seven-spoke alloys. The range-topper Luxury has new five-spoke alloys and automatic headlights and wipers.
Extra sound deadening has been added around the engine bay and in the cabin to reduce road and engine noise.
There are some cosmetic touches outside and inside, including new door handles and interior surfaces, upgraded fabrics and plastics that help create a premium finish.
The front end gets a new bumper and an updated grille.
Higgins says the feedback from buyers on the improvements has been favourable.
‘‘Many remark on how much quieter it is and the sedan-like ride,’’ he says.
All CR-V models share the same carryover 125/kW/218Nm 2.4-litre i-VTEC four-cylinder engine with either a six-speed manual or five- speed automatic. The auto is standard on the Luxury.
IT’S been a while since we’ve driven the CR-V. But friends who own them are committed CR-V owners and love them. We can see why.
It manages to master the dual roles of family duties around town and being a compact and economical off-roader if you want to go bush. A five-star crash rating also gives reassurance. The 2010 updates have delivered improvements to two specific areas, the steering and suspension.
The revised steering feels more direct and meatier, and the end result is it is more communicative. The suspension has also been massaged to improve the ride and handling. It works.
The CR-V no longer feels slightly floaty when swinging through roundabouts or driving through winding mountain roads. It’s more secure and that’s a big positive.
The 2.4-litre four-cylinder, mated to a fivespeed automatic in the Luxury, remains a sweet unit that has ample power and is reasonably economical. But some of its rivals are now opting for six-speed automatics over a five-speed.
The fully automatic ‘‘real-time’’ all-wheeldrive system remains.
It uses a multi-plate clutch to push power to the rear wheels only when needed.
In the past we’ve found it reacts too slowly when you hit soft gravel, but it will fulfil most light-duty off-roading needs.
The curvy design, a marked departure from the boxy look of previous CR-Vs, has grown on us, but the front-end still lacks visual presence.
As with all Hondas, the CR-V’s cabin is appealing and modern.
The switchgear has a quality feel, the dials and trip computer are easy to read and there’s plenty of room for passengers and luggage.
The neat twin-height luggage shelf is a bonus for families with small children.
You can pop a stroller under the luggage shelf and put groceries above it. It’s a neat trick and typical of Honda’s design thoroughness, just like the 40/20/40 split rear seats, which slide and tumble forward to increase the load area.
She says (with Lara Duff)
THE CR-V is a smart choice for parents who want a higher driving position without going to the extremes of something like a Prado.
It stows a lot of gear while carrying a family in passenger-car comfort.
The kids never complained of the wallowing that back-seat passengers sometimes have to cope with — and which can have children feeling sick in the first few curves.
The styling is perhaps the worst part about the Honda.
The family resemblance is there, but it lacks the visual impact of an Accord or Odyssey.
Inside, the materials feel high-quality and are easy to clean, which helps when the CR-V is capable of weekend camping and fishing trips.
The bottom line
THE Honda CR-V is still a formidable package, but its advantage is being eroded by fresher newcomers.
Upgrade: the CR-V’s steering is more direct and suspension tweaks improve ride and handling, which could explain why (right) Australian cyclist Rochelle Gilmore drives one when competing in Europe.