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.
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.