HONDA CR-V

Driven - - Launched -

With re­ported sales of nine mil­lion units over the last two decades, and amid claims (by Honda) that the CR-V pi­o­neered the com­pact SUV seg­ment in South Africa as well as be­ing the world’s best sell­ing SUV, the CR-V has some stiff com­pe­ti­tion lo­cally. Toy­ota’s RAV, the VW Tiguan and Mit­subishi ASX, and com­plete model line­ups of Hyundai’s Tuc­son and the Kia Sportage have all played a role in lim­it­ing CR-V sales in South Africa. BERNARD HELLBERG dis­cov­ers whether the new CR-V can help the brand re­gain some of its lus­tre in the SUV seg­ment.

It seems to have taken a while for the penny to drop at Honda South Africa, that steadily di­min­ish­ing sales of their prod­ucts in the coun­try, bodes less well for the brand’s sur­vival in South Africa. Once a pow­er­house in the B- and C-seg­ments, Honda has steadily lost mar­ket share to more ag­gres­sively priced peers in re­cent years.

By adding four new mod­els to the CR-V lineup, Honda hopes to raise the stakes in the SUV seg­ment – where the CR-V once was the gold stan­dard for mid­size crossovers – where they hope to boost their of­fer­ing and re­cover mar­ket share.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

The new mod­els were launched with the en­try level 2.0-litre Com­fort with front wheel-drive bring­ing up the rear. Step­ping

up in the list, the cur­rent 2.0-litre El­e­gance re­ceives more in­te­rior fea­tures that in­clude leather up­hol­stery, a 7” dis­play in­ter­face and, at last, Ap­ple CarPlay with voice-con­trolled search ca­pa­bil­ity. There’s noth­ing en­try level about the in­crease in spec, how­ever, and brushed alu­minium roof rails, 17” al­loy wheels, and a four­s­peaker sound sys­tem with Blue­tooth will suit most tastes. Two 12V power sock­ets, a USB, and an Aux port also con­trib­ute to the sense of user-friend­li­ness.

Para­dox­i­cally, the smaller en­gined 1.5T Ex­ec­u­tive AWD has a more ‘im­pres­sive’ price tag than those men­tioned above, and comes in sec­ond place from the top, but adds 18” al­loys to the al­ready high level of spec. Head­lights are full LEDs, Ac­tive Noise Con­trol keeps the cabin quiet, and there’s a panoramic sun­roof, as well as key­less en­try and a stop-start but­ton.

The flag­ship of the range is the 1.5T Ex­clu­sive AWD with in­te­grated satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, an elec­tri­cally-op­er­ated tail­gate, and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing.

In keep­ing with its Top Dog sta­tus, the 1.5 Ex­clu­sive has a com­pre­hen­sive set of ad­vanced driver as­sist sys­tems (ADAS) which warn against for­ward col­li­sions, road de­par­ture moves, lane de­par­ture warn­ings, and adap­tive cruise con­trol.

THE IN­TE­RI­ORS

All four mod­els fea­ture tra­di­tion­ally com­fort­able and wel­com­ing Honda in­te­ri­ors with sup­port­ive seats, tonnes of legroom, and an el­e­vated seat­ing po­si­tion (per­fect for game view­ing). De­spite full sized spare wheels on real al­loy rims, boot space re­mains sig­nif­i­cant and speaks of bril­liant de­sign.

All con­trols make sense, but the dis­play screen may be too shiny for some, mak­ing read­ing in bright sun­light a prob­lem.

Some in­te­rior faux wood trim is some­what over the top and, while not teak ve­neer, would cer­tainly qual­ify as Ja­panese plas­teak. The de­sign­ers should rather have stuck to brushed alu­minium in their en­deav­our to brighten up the cabin.

All mod­els fea­ture prop­erly de­signed steer­ing wheels (fully ad­justable) and, de­pend­ing on the model, elec­tri­cally ad­justable seats.

ROAD MAN­NERS

Wind noise at speed is vir­tu­ally ab­sent, han­dling is sharp and pre­dictable with min­i­mal body roll. Brakes, all-discs on all mod­els, are con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing and un­der­line the CR-V’s qual­i­ties as a rea­son­ably eco­nom­i­cal long-dis­tance tourer. The 2.0-litre nor­mally as­pi­rated four-cylin­der mill, how­ever, felt lazy, while the CVT gear­box (fit­ted to all mod­els) didn’t im­prove mat­ters. In our opinion, the jury is still very much out on CVT gear­boxes be­ing a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to, for in­stance, a con­ven­tional dou­ble­clutch trans­mis­sion.

LAST WORD

Honda is be­ing very brave in launch­ing th­ese four new mod­els. All ex­cel­lent in their own way, they nev­er­the­less, do not ad­dress one ma­jor short­com­ing: price. With prices start­ing at (al­most) R423,000 and jump­ing ef­fort­lessly to R627,000, I can­not see buy­ers mi­grat­ing to­wards Honda SA in their hun­dreds when there are other, equally ex­cel­lent SUVs avail­able at lower price points. Honda has al­ways been a sought-af­ter brand, but in a mar­ket where buy­ers are strapped for cash, they will seek out more af­ford­able op­tions. Keep in mind, though, that th­ese rel­a­tively hefty prices in­clude a su­perb 5-year/200,000 km war­ranty, as well as a 5-year/90,000 km ser­vice plan. Po­ten­tial buy­ers of the top of the range 1.5 turbo mod­els will also take note of the fact that ser­vice in­ter­vals have shrunk to a deal­er­ship visit ev­ery 10,000 kilo­me­tres.

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