Why the left brain rules

The new Honda CR-V is a ve­hi­cle that il­lus­trates the tri­umph of the au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer over the au­to­mo­tive de­signer, and it’s not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing.

go! - - Food - BY PIERRE STEYN

In our fam­ily, the de­ci­sion about which car to buy has never been made on an emo­tional ba­sis. This prob­a­bly ex­plains the pre­pon­der­ance of Ja­panese ve­hi­cles in our garage over the years, in­clud­ing quite a few Hon­das. A Honda is a car that you buy us­ing your head (left brain), not your heart (right brain). My young friends, petrol­heads to the core, would shake their heads. “Come on, a Honda? That’s a car you buy just be­fore you die. It’s for Gramps and Grandma!” they would jeer. But to­wards the end of the pre­vi­ous cen­tury, I sold my Honda Accord (which I had bought sec­ond­hand) for more than I paid for it. And my friends? Well, they’re prob­a­bly still look­ing for buy­ers for their sexy Ital­ian cars. Of all Honda’s mod­els, the CR-V has proved to be one of the most pop­u­lar. My dad is still driv­ing a 10-year-old CR-V, which he bought sec­ond-hand. Honda claims it in­vented the SUV when it launched the CR-V more than 20 years ago, but it’s the same claim that al­most ev­ery other au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­turer makes. How­ever, it is a fact that roughly nine mil­lion CR-Vs have been sold in 150 coun­tries in the last four years, which makes this Honda the most pop­u­lar SUV in the world. It’s easy to see why: It’s de­pend­able, safe, cheap to main­tain, built to last and it has good re­sale value. En­ter the fifth-gen­er­a­tion model. Honda’s de­sign­ers have tried a more ex­tro­verted ap­proach with a con­toured bon­net, curved head­lights, and an­gu­lar rear lights, but it still doesn’t turn the CR-V into the Brad Pitt of the au­to­mo­tive world. No, rather think of the CR-V as Mielie Pitt, Brad’s long lost and slightly bor­ing cousin from Bloem, the guy with the mid­dle part­ing and the lit­tle boep. The side pan­els are fit­ted with pro­tec­tive cladding at the bot­tom, and bash plates at the front and rear pro­vide some pro­tec­tion when you tackle gravel roads, but steer clear of any heavy-duty rock crawl­ing. Even though the car isn’t much big­ger than its pre­de­ces­sor, the in­te­rior feels big­ger thanks to a slightly ex­tended wheel­base. This trans­lates into a bit more legroom for the pas­sen­gers in the rear and in­creased shoul­der room across the board. The rear seats can now fold com­pletely flat, which ef­fec­tively dou­bles the lug­gage space, from 522 litres to 1 084 litres. All the im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion the driver might need is dis­played on a dig­i­tal screen be­hind the steer­ing wheel. The days of ana­logue in­stru­men­ta­tion are gone for­ever. There’s an­other cen­trally lo­cated dig­i­tal dis­play, just above the gear lever, for the car’s en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem. It’s a cinch to con­nect your Ap­ple or An­droid smart­phone via Blue­tooth. In some­thing of a break­through, Honda has mounted a turbo-charged petrol en­gine in the CR-V for the first time, some­thing that they’ve been al­ler­gic to in the past. There’s a 1 498 cc turbo en­gine in the two most ex­pen­sive CR-Vs (the 1.5T Ex­ec­u­tive and the 1.5T Ex­clu­sive), and the car’s com­puter de­cides how much power the part-time four-wheel-drive sys­tem needs to al­lo­cate to the front and rear wheels re­spec­tively. The two en­try-level de­riv­a­tives, the 2.0-litre Comfort and Elegance, use the same four-cylin­der i-VTEC petrol en­gine found in the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. The trans­mis­sion is also a CVT in these mod­els, but both are only front-wheel drive. The CR-V is built on a brand­new chas­sis, and the sus­pen­sion has been re­fined to make the drive com­fort­able rather than ex­cit­ing. This shouldn’t be frowned upon in a safe fam­ily car. All the fac­tors that turned the first four gen­er­a­tions of the CR-V into a run­away sales suc­cess story have been pol­ished to a bright shine and the tech­nol­ogy in the car has been up­dated. It’s a win­ning recipe that Honda would be stupid to mess with. Mielie Pitt might not be the most at­trac­tive bloke in the park­ing lot, but he’s got a lot go­ing on be­tween the ears.

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