Leading SUV keeps getting better
HONDA was one of the earliest players in the family SUV business and has an excellent reputation with existing owners.
Many of them have remained loyal and moved to each new generation as they have been launched. This is likely to be the case with the just introduced fifth generation Honda CR-V.
This CR-V moves up in size and is offered here for the first time with third row seats. One interesting feature is that ground clearance has been increased to 208mm from the 170mm of the just superseded model.
Thus Honda is signalling that the gen-five isn’t just a pretty station wagon, it can be used in semiserious off-road conditions. Centre humps on rough and ready bush tracks and firetraps shouldn’t hassle the Honda and it’s likely to cope with all but really soft sand at the beach.
The sophisticated all-wheeldrive system is set to bring the rear wheels into play within a few milliseconds of the fronts starting to slip. Something that’s useful in day-to-day driving on slippery bitumen, not just off-road.
Cleverly, the same ground clearance is retained on the two-wheeldrive (front wheels) models so that owners who have no intention of going off-road still get the tough look of the high rider.
Having said that, it’s likely the great majority of Honda CR-Vs will spend far more time on the harsh school-shops-tennis-football runs than exploring the wilds of Australia. So the gen-five not only offers another row of seats, but also has wider opening doors, easily adjustable seats and a virtually flat floor throughout.
I found there to be enough legroom in the seat behind the driver’s to get comfortable for long trips. My ageing knees weren’t too happy at getting into the rear-most seats, but lithe youngsters will welcome the chance to get back there as far as possible from mum and dad.
The cargo area is big in the fiveseater, at 522 litres, is well shaped and easy to load, the second and third rows of seats can be folded flat in various arrangements. As is common in this class of vehicle there is not a lot of space left if all seven seats are occupied.
Power comes from a high-tech turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine displacing a mere 1.5 litres. Before rolling your eyes upwards at this apparently tiny powerplant look at its outputs – 140kW of power and 240Nm of torque all the way from 2000-5000 revs.
Modern engine technology is stunning, with electronics keeping the engine at near to perfect levels by constantly retuning each cylinder in milliseconds. Thus eking out the use of fuel and the minimising pollutants.
The CR-V’s engine is ably assisted by a sophisticated CVT automatic transmission that doesn’t sound as frantic as some of the original units of its type. It may not please the revhead, but most drivers are unlikely to be aware it's a continuously variable transmission. The best news of all is that while prices have risen marginally, when compared spec to spec with the outgoing model it offers significantly better value.
On the road during a drive program organised by Honda for the media launch of the new CR-V we found it to be very smooth, quiet and unflustered.
The engine is smooth and responsive with a minimum of turbo lag. The transmission is always in the correct ratio - which is hardly a surprise given it has an infinite number of ‘gears’ and that ‘slipping-clutch’ noise has all but gone.
All-in-all the fifth generation Honda CR-V is a most impressive piece of machinery. It’s smooth, quiet, spacious and will make an excellent long distance family cruiser. And all at a pretty modest price.
Stylish outside and in, the latest Honda CR-V grabs plenty of attention.