Em­brace the space age

SUVS are a dime a dozen. NEIL DOWL­ING goes through the coin col­lec­tion and finds Honda’s clever CR-V

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

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.

Pic­ture: PAUL HARMER PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

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

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