Embrace the space age
SUVS are a dime a dozen. NEIL DOWLING goes through the coin collection and finds Honda’s clever CR-V
SUVs are the best excuse to have more kids.
If you’re keen, vehicles like the CR-V will immediately entitle you to three children and even prompt you to look further to the seven-seat Odyssey.
For those easing off on increasing the family count, contemplate that the Honda CR-V is remarkably spaceefficient and will easily stack two or three adult bicycles — without removing any wheels — or 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 amount of available storage space and so allows you to enjoy hoarding.
This is one of the most accommodating haulers in its class — the Mitsubishi Outlander is the other — 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: Here’s the rub— you don’t need the 4WD version that was 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 model probably isn’t worth it even though the 2WD has a smaller engine.
In fact, at $31,790, the VTi Nav 2WD automatic model is the pick. The 4WD tested in VTi-L trim costs $42,290.
That’s a lot of money. 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 4WD is a very well-equipped unit with kit including sat-nav, sunroof, leather upholstery, reverse camera, 18-inch alloy wheels, and front and rear airconditioning.
DESIGN: It’s an evolution of previous CR-Vs and though it’s substantially bigger that earlier models, it’s actually 20mm shorter than the outgoing effort.
However, by moving the windscreen forward and lowering the boot floor, the cabin has Tardis-size space not only in sheer size, but 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 and the load area is low. There’s even a fullsize 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 and leg room. Dash design is simple yet easy to operate.
Much as I dislike footoperated park brakes, I concede it removes much of the clutter in the centre console.
TECHNOLOGY: The 2.4-litre petrol engine has been a Honda stablemate and now delivers 140kW at 7000rpm and 222Nm of torque at 4400rpm.
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 8.7 litres/100km with the test drive recording 9.7 litres/ 100km, which is about right for this engine/auto transmission combination.
The new CR-V’s body is tauter and stronger and the ride is smoother and quieter.
There’s an ‘‘econ’’ button on the dash that changes engine mapping to maximise available torque and minimise fuel use.
There’s also an ‘‘eco assist’’ light on the dash that changes colour depending on driving style.
SAFETY: The CR-V gets a five-star crash rating, has six airbags— including fulllength curtain bags — and all the electronic aids.
New for this model is uprated pedestrian safety, a flashing emergency brake light, electric-assist 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 thrill of driving it peaks only when you reach your destination.
The engine is a modest performer and the steering is overly light, the handling is predictable and the ride comfort is supple.
But while it doesn’t win on any performance spar- kle, it is a competent tourer that delivers a sense of space to its occupants.
It’s a car in which you never feel crowded and that’s a big bonus for those with children.
Having all-wheel drive 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 trunk.
And that precious factor adds more weight to its argument than winning a traffic light grand.
VERDICT: I simply loved the flexibility and ease of driving this vehicle.
Performance is modest and fuel economy isn’t great, but the package hits its target market head on.
The top-notch model is probably too expensive for most buyers and the front-drive version is the better value.
The Honda CR-V has room for adults and children and dogs and bikes and just about anything else you’d like to load into it