We tried to like the Honda CRV but over the week
the initial niggles grew into active annoyances: the car did not grow better
with familiarity. In part that’s because while the competition has improved, the
new CRV is – apart from much enhanced safety – in many ways more of the same,
only five years on.
A bigger and heavier vehicle than the previous
car, the CRV is powered by a tweaked version of the same 2.4 litre four cylinder
engine. A typically refined and Honda-sophisticated design, complete with dual
balance shafts and i-VTEC variable cam timing and lift, the engine develops
125kW at 5800 rpm and 218Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. The engine has a silky smooth
idle and a progressive power curve. But with a car mass of 1620kg, performance
is never more than adequate. Loading the CRV with a family going on holiday
would result in overtaking and hill-climbing performance becoming marginal.
The CRV is rated to tow a braked trailer of 1500kg
and an unbraked 600kg, both with a maximum tongue downforce of 150kg. However,
the powertrain of the CRV would really struggle with any trailer approaching
The 5-speed auto transmission doesn’t allow the
driver to easily make the most of the available performance. No manual
sequential select mode is provided – only a 3rd gear button that locks out 4th
and 5th. That might have been OK five years ago but these days, especially when
a car is not overly endowed with performance, drivers need and expect to easily
access the gears – even in an automatic. But why not just put your foot down and
let the gearbox think for you? That approach works well when encountering small
grades or needing only a little more performance – in fact, in those situations,
the transmission is very nicely calibrated to drop down a gear or two. However,
when the hills get really steep, the transmission hunts between gears and can be
reluctant to kick down. The trans also makes a slightly jerky down-change when
slowing, for example when approaching a red light.
However, the saving grace of the engine/trans
combination – and it’s a big one – is that fuel economy is quite good. The
official test is 10 litres/100km and in a mix of urban and many rural
kilometres, we achieved very close to that. The fuel tank is 58 litres.
Inside the cabin again it’s a mix of good and bad.
The instruments directly in front of the driver are superb. They comprise clear
analog dials for speed and revs, and digital bar-graph displays for coolant temp
and fuel level. The other displays can be switched but we found the most
effective mode was average and instantaneous fuel consumptions. However, the
centre dash displays – those for the sound system and climate control – are
difficult to read in sunshine when wearing sunglasses. Any dust on these shiny
plastic surfaces makes visibility even worse.
The controls, including an extensive number of
buttons on the steering wheel for cruise and sound system, work well and are
clearly labelled in function.
The leather seats are rather hard and
uncomfortable; the front passenger especially complaining. The driver gets
electric controls but the passenger makes do with a manual seat that doesn’t
allow the base to be tilted – the front seat feels flat and lacking in
under-thigh support. Lumbar adjustment – these days a basic – is not available
on either seat. Both front seats feature inner fold-down armrests that are not
height or angle adjustable.
Rear seat room is excellent in all directions. The
rear doors open very wide so entry and egress are easy. The rear seat design is
practical and effective. The seat can be folded on a 40/20/40 basis - the ‘20’
being the centre section which can be separately folded, ski-port style. In
addition, the folded components can then be tumbled forward, giving an excellent
floor space (although slightly stepped in height). The rear seat backs are also
variable in backrest angle. Rear tie-down hooks are provided and under the
floor, the spare wheel is a full-size alloy wearing a proper tyre.
Although the twin glove-boxes are small, there are
plenty of other large and practical storage spaces. A foot-operated parking
brake is fitted and the gearlever sprouts from the dashboard – these design
features allow the centre console bins to be especially large.
On the road the height and reach-adjustable
steering is light and lacks feedback. The tyres – 225/65 Bridgestone Dueller HT
on 17 inch alloys – have adequate grip but the CRV is certainly no sporty
handler. Stability control is standard and with the automatic on-demand
all-wheel drive system, slippery conditions should be fine (we didn’t encounter
rain or snow or mud in our drive). The handling would lead you to expect a cushy
ride but the ride is in fact rather firm, especially over short, sharp
The air conditioning is absolutely hopeless – the
worst of any car we’ve ever tested in summer. On 28 degree, sunny days, we had
it continuously running at maximum. That’s with the fan speed fully up and the
temps set at their lowest – for hour after hour. It made no difference if the
system was set to auto or manually switched. Leave the car parked in the
sunshine while going shopping and on return, the air con is simply awesomely
inadequate. No rear vents are provided and while the air con is struggling, rear
passengers are cooking. Perhaps the air con in the test car was defective – the
mind boggles at how the CRV would cope in 40-degree Outback conditions.
The build quality of this Thailand-manufactured
car was poor. The bonnet panel margins (gaps between adjoining panels) were
uneven down one side and the rear bumper margin varied from zero to being
noticeable – but the most astounding quality aspect was the tailgate. If you
open it and grasp each corner, you can literally twist it like it’s made of
cardboard. Click on the video to see the door flexing like you wouldn’t believe.
We have never seen such a weak door: even pulling
down on the side handle causes the door to visibly deflect as it’s being closed.
To put these points in context, Honda says the
tailgate uses a “reinforced perimeter (box type)” frame, and that: Hondas
have always been synonymous with outstanding fit and finish. This attention to
detail is evident in the minute sizes of gaps between body panels and interior
components. The CR-V features what is known as a “zero” gap for the front and
rear bumpers, or less than a single millimetre.
We suggest potential buyers have a good look at
the body quality for themselves – and don’t forget to twist that rear door when
On this Luxury model you’ll find leather seats, a
sunroof and electric seat warmers. A 6-stack in-dash CD radio is fitted – the
design is MP3 compatible and sounds excellent, especially on CD.
Importantly, the CRV has scored a 5-star rating
(that’s the highest) in independent crash testing. In Luxury configuration it
has six airbags, front-seat active head restraints and a body design said to be
optimised to absorb crash energy while protecting the occupants.
On the road the CRV Luxury feels like a $37,000
car, tops. But Honda will ask from you $41,990 (plus on-road costs) – and that’s
simply way too much. Perhaps the base model auto at $33,990 would be more
justifiable – you miss out on the sunroof, leather, electric driver’s seat,
6-stacker and, much more significantly, side curtain airbags. But even then we’d
look at the flexing tailgate, lack of sequential manual control of the auto and
hope for much better air conditioning...
Honda CRV was made available for this test by Honda Australia.