Dan DeGasperi’s Honda CR-V Vi 2019 Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Ownership, Safety, and Verdict.

In a nutshell: The Honda CR-V ducks under $30,000 for the first time in this new generation, but is the Vi very impressive?

2019 Honda CR-V Vi Specifications

Price $28,290+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder Power 113kW at 6500rpm Torque 189Nm at 4300rpm Transmission automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4596mm (L) 1855mm (W) 1679mm (H) 2660mm (WB) Kerb Weight 1504kg Towing Capacity 1500kg Spare full-size alloy Fuel Tank 57L Thirst 7.6L/100km claimed, 10.0L/100km tested

WHEN a car brand removes letters from the model grade designation within its line-up, you can bet that a vehicle is about to get a lot cheaper than before. And so it transpires with the newly released Honda CR-V Vi. Previously the VTi was the entry-level model grade at a lick over $30,000 plus on-road costs.

Removing the ‘T’ from the designation signifies more than a stripping of equipment, and a lowering of the pricetag to now just $28,290+ORC. What it also does is represent the removal of the ‘Turbocharged’ power that until now has motivated not only VTi, but VTi-S, VTi-L and VTi-LX all the way to around $50,000+ORC.

Honda CR-V Vi 2019 Review

So it is 140kW 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol out, and 113kW 2.0-litre non-turbo four-cylinder petrol in for this CR-V Vi. The question now is whether that’s really enough in a five-seat medium SUV?

What’s The Price And What Do You Get? Priced from $28,290+ORC, the Vi is $2400 more affordable than the VTi. They both share 17-inch alloy wheels with a full-size spare tyre mounted on an alloy, plus electric-folding door mirrors. But this new starter pack loses front foglights, as well as keyless auto-entry with push-button start – replaced by a twist-turn key.

Honda CR-V Vi 2019 Review

It’s a similar story inside. Cloth trim, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, a colour driver display and even rear-seat air vents remain; but dual-zone climate control is gone for manual air-conditioning, and the 7.0-inch touchscreen is downsized to a 5.0in unit display screen that misses out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard on all other CR-Vs. It’s rare these days for a brand to subtract connectivity on any model grade, regardless of price, given that even a sub-$15K Kia Picanto boasts CarPlay and Android connectivity. Honda also makes the reversing camera smaller, given the smaller screen, and there are no rear parking sensors, no blind-spot monitoring, no lane-departure warning, no autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and no adaptive cruise control. Most of those items are standard on both the Mazda CX-5 Maxx and Toyota RAV4 GX rivals, to be clear from the off. Ah, but the CR-V Vi does have a big – literally – ace up its sleeve. Best read on…

What’s the cabin like? It may not be feature-packed compared with rivals, but no other medium SUV is this roomy or well-built for near this price. The CR-V boasts an outstanding cabin, with soft-touch plastics up front that extend all the way to the door tops, generous cloth inserts in every door, enormous storage cavities including a huge split-centre console bin and pockets, plus superb seats with nice cloth.

Honda CR-V Vi 2019 Review

Many rivals can do some of these aspects well, but very few – if any – possess the perfect fit and finish, and immaculate damping, of every fitting and fixture. Only a CX-5 and Subaru Forester come close, while a RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail feel cheaper, and a Ford Escape and Holden Equinox seem comparatively poor.

Take, for example, the way the manual air-con controls tightly rotate, the way bin lids are softly damped then subtly click closed, the way the doors thunk, the power windows softly shut – it says that long beyond kids vomiting on doors and the five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty expires, you’ll still have a tight SUV.

What are the front seats like? The front seats are nice and comfortable with good adjustment and it’s easy to get in and out of them. They lack a little support and you move around a bit in corners but this is an SUV for pottering rather than corner carving.

Honda CR-V Vi 2019 Review

What’s the back seat like? The rear seat, is, by some margin, the roomiest in the segment. Legroom is genuinely more limousine than mid-SUV, while headroom is plentiful, there are individual map lights, fold-down armrest with cupholders, door bottle-holders, air vents and a comfy backrest that reclines…

Honda CR-V Vi 2019 Review

What’s the boot like?…Speaking of the backrest, it’s split 60:40 and via a simple tug of a lever (positioned on either side of the boot area) each portion instantly drops and folds flat into the floor, expanding an already best-in-class boot. The Vi shares a 522-litre boot volume with the other five-seat model grades in the range, and while few offer larger spaces, fewer include such a low loading lip combined with a full-size spare underfloor. For Ikea-carting, the maximum load area of 1084L is double and then some; positively huge.

Honda CR-V Vi 2019 Review

What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like? The loss of Honda’s 7.0in touchscreen is a major mistake, and almost enough to rule out the Vi and head straight for the VTi. Especially now that CarPlay/A-Auto include apps such as Waze that monitor live traffic and police presence for navigation, its deletion for this base CR-V hurts.

The replacement 5.0in screen, sans touch capability, is a real blast from the past: there’s AM/FM but no digital radio, no built-in navigation, the surprising inclusion of one AUX input, but just one USB port for iPod connectivity (yep, that’s what comes up when you plug in your iPhone…)

Indeed the best thing that can be said about the controls is that they all work easily and intuitively for the basic functions. More, though, is required.

What’s The Performance Like? Best think of the CR-V Vi as the smoothest and most refined light hatchback you’ve ever driven, at least from a performance perspective. The VTi’s 1.5L turbo makes 140kW of power at 5600rpm and 240Nm of torque at 2000rpm; this 2.0L non-turbo makes 113kW at 6500rpm and a paltry 189Nm at over twice the engine speed – 4300rpm.

The 1504kg Vi does shed 32kg compared with the above cheapest turbo version, but that’s hardly enough to offset the engine-statistic shortfall. Foot flat and this four-cylinder does feel slow, and you will need to go ‘foot flat’ rather often even unladen. Yet the new base CR-V doesn’t feel any slower than a $15,000 light hatch auto, and yet its installation here is brimming with vibration-free quietude.

Honda CR-V Vi 2019 Review

The upshot is that drivability isn’t anywhere near as painful as the numbers suggest, and where the single-sliding-gear automatic – called a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) – can surge and sling like letting go of a pulled-tight rubber band in the turbo versions, it’s a whole lot calmer here. Economy and even Drive should be avoided, though; slip straight to Sport mode where the CVT responds more eagerly. It should be the standard mode, because why would you want the engine to rev less quickly when the throttle is pinned?

Unfortunately, a hard-working engine, even a smooth one, failed to deliver good economy on test. From a claimed combined-cycle 7.6 litres of regular unleaded per 100 kilometres, we saw 12L/100km in the city, dropping to 9.5L/100km beyond it. For the limited performance return, it isn’t brilliant.

What’s It Like On The Road? What is brilliant is the standard CR-V’s ride comfort and steering precision. Combining with the excellent refinement, the broad 65-aspect 17-inch tyres and quality suspension tune cement the Vi’s family focus.

This is no dynamic superstar, but nor is this medium SUV unenjoyable to drive. Rather it’s cosy and controlled, light and lag-free with its sharp turn-in to corners, yet as unfailingly assured as any good wagon is. Here, only a CX-5 gets close for comfort, although that Mazda has the sportier chassis (and engine) to more emphatically win over the driver. But where do you spend most of your time, climbing mountain passes or schlepping over speed bumps?

Honda CR-V Vi 2019 Review

Does It Have A Spare? Yes, and a full-sized alloy spare absent from several rivals that only include a space saver temporary spare limited to 80km/h.

Can You Tow With It? Yes, the CR-V Vi has a 1500kg braked towing capacity – but this is not the engine of choice to tow with, because it has enough of a challenge with its own 1504kg kerb weight. So, if you absolutely have to tow with it, stick with a box trailer.

What about ownership? There’s a five-year warranty, while servicing is on a yearly or 10,000km basis at a cost of $295 for each of the first 10 services until 10 years or 100,000km. It’s pricey, but consistent.

Also, the only major additional items are transmission fluid at two years or 30,000km ($187 extra) and then again at six years or 90,000km at the same cost; while spark plugs at 100,000km come in for a charge of $271 beyond the normal service quote above.

What safety features does it get? As mentioned, the CR-V Vi lacks AEB and other important driving aids. For that reason, we would pass over the CR-V VTi as well and go straight to the CR-V VTi-S all-wheel drive (AWD) at $36,490+ORC.

Expensive, yes, but not when you consider the standard equipment. And for a family car the package, dubbed HondaSensing, is a must – it incorporates forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warning with active lane-keep assistance.


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