Fam­ily rules

Hard to see how this CR-V could be bet­tered as an ur­ban SUV

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

SUVS are the best ex­cuse to have more kids. If you’re keen, ve­hi­cles such as the CR-V will im­me­di­ately en­ti­tle you to three chil­dren.

For those eas­ing off on in­creas­ing the fam­ily count, con­tem­plate that the Honda CR-V is re­mark­ably space-ef­fi­cient and will eas­ily stack two or three adult bi­cy­cles (with­out re­mov­ing any wheels), large items of fur­ni­ture or three chil­dren and their prams. It hon­ours the adage that your pos­ses­sions grow or di­min­ish in di­rect pro­por­tion to the avail­able stor­age space.

This is one of the class’s most ac­com­mo­dat­ing haulers (as is Mit­subishi’s Out­lander) but its flex­i­bil­ity in cart­ing peo­ple and more solid loads isn’t its only virtue. The CR-V is easy to drive, rel­a­tively cheap to own and if you pick the right model, good value for money.

VALUE

You don’t need the 4WD ver­sion that’s tested here. Chances of this mak­ing it through the dirt are slim and though there’s ben­e­fit for snow coun­try, the ex­tra $5300 over the 2WD prob­a­bly isn’t worth it even though the lat­ter has a smaller engine.

In fact, at $31,790, the VTi

Nav 2WD au­to­matic model is the pick. The 4WDtested in VTi-L trim costs $42,290. That’s a lot.

If you don’t need leather up­hol­stery and ex­tra baubles, think about the 2WD. In terms of space, few fam­ily ve­hi­cles come close at that price.

But the VTi-L 4WDis very well-equipped with kit in­clud­ing sat­nav, sun­roof, leather up­hol­stery, re­verse cam­era, 18-inch al­loy wheels and front and rear air­con­di­tion­ing.

The need for twice yearly ser­vic­ing with no capped price is off the in­dus­try pace. So too is the three-year war­ranty.

DE­SIGN

It’s an evo­lu­tion of pre­vi­ous CR-Vs and though it’s sub­stan­tially big­ger than ear­lier mod­els, is ac­tu­ally 20mm shorter than the out­go­ing ef­fort. How­ever, by mov­ing the wind­screen for­ward and low­er­ing the boot floor, Honda en­dows the cabin with Tardis­size space. On top of sheer vol­ume, there’s ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

The rear seats tum­ble and fold al­most flat, with spe­cial slots for the head re­straints, with one pull of a ny­lon loop. It’s so easy. The lift-up hatch is high and wide, the load area low. There’s even a full-size spare un­der the floor. Ex­pan­sive glass not only means it’s bright and airy but the low waist­line gives chil­dren a broad out­look. There’s room for three adults in the rear with plenty of head room and, thanks to the flat floor, legroom.

Dash de­sign is sim­ple yet easy to op­er­ate. Much as I dis­like foot-op­er­ated park brakes, I con­cede it re­moves much of the clut­ter in the cen­tre con­sole.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The 2.4-litre petrol engine, a Honda sta­ple, now de­liv­ers 140kW at 7000rpm and 222Nm at 4400 rpm. Th­ese fig­ures are men­tioned be­cause no owner is ever go­ing to sub­ject the engine to a scream­ing 7000rpm on the way to the shops.

So if you’re com­par­ing SUVs on a power out­put ba­sis, it’s mean­ing­less. Fuel use is a claimed 8.7L/100km (on test 9.7L), which is about right for this driv­e­line.

The lat­est CR-V’s body is tauter and stronger and the ride is smoother and qui­eter. There’s a ‘‘ econ’’ but­ton on the dash that changes engine map­ping to max­imise avail­able torque and min­imise fuel use. There’s also a ‘‘ eco as­sist’’ light on the dash that changes colour de­pend­ing on your driv­ing style.

SAFETY

The CR-V gets a five-star crash rat­ing, has six airbags— in­clud­ing full-length cur­tains — and all the elec­tronic aids. New for this model are up­rated pedes­trian safety, flash­ing emer­gency brake light, elec­tri­c­as­sist steer­ing with in­puts to keep the ve­hi­cle sta­ble, re­verse cam­era, full-size spare wheel and on-de­mand all-wheel drive. The VTi-L also has front and rear park sen­sors.

DRIV­ING

As driv­ing ma­chines, SUVs can be as lovable as hep­ati­tis. The CR-V isn’t quite that bad but the peak of its driv­ing thrills comes on reach­ing your des­ti­na­tion.

The engine is a mod­est per­former and the steer­ing is overly light, the han­dling is pre­dictable and the ride is sup­ple. It may not sparkle but it’s a com­pe­tent tourer with space for oc­cu­pants. It’s a car in which you never feel crowded and that’s a big bonus for chil­dren.

Hav­ing all-wheel drive (al­beit part-time) is prob­a­bly su­per­flu­ous and is a con­trib­u­tor to trim­ming back fuel econ­omy to near medium car-class thirst lev­els. But you own it with the thought that prac­ti­cally any ob­ject— ei­ther ca­pa­ble of move­ment or not— is likely to fit in its enor­mous cargo hold. And that pre­cious fac­tor adds more weight to its ar­gu­ment than win­ning a traf­fic light grand prix.

VER­DICT

Love the flex­i­bil­ity and ease of driv­ing. Per­for­mance is mod­est, fuel econ­omy isn’t great but the pack­age hits its tar­get. The top-notch model is prob­a­bly too ex­pen­sive for most buy­ers — the front-drive ver­sion is bet­ter value.

Tardis-like: Oc­cu­pants never feel crowded in the CR-V and ac­ces­si­bil­ity is an­other strong point

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