Honda CR-V First Drive
Honda has done an admirable job making the CR-V look better, but a little more performance wouldn’t go a miss in the 2.0-litre versions, says Paul Murrell.
Back in the distant past, car designers had only one real objective: to make the cars they designed as attractive as possible. Mundane concerns such as aerodynamics, ergonomics and a whole raft of other sciences that we now take for granted were a long way down the list of desirable attributes.
And that probably goes a long way to explaining why cars used to have huge empty spaces where they weren’t needed (under the bonnet, for instance) and less valuable space where it could have been useful (in the cabin and boot). The old Jaguar XJ6 was a perfect case in point (but far from the only one). Externally, the car was quite large (a polite way of saying “huge”). But interior space was, to put it kindly, somewhat compromised.
Modern car designers have a much tougher job to do. Their remit is uncompromising: reduce weight, improve fuel consumption, reduce noxious emissions, increase interior space, reduce noise, vibration and harshness, improve safety (passive and active). The new fourth-generation Honda CR-V is a good case in point. It’s built on the same platform as its predecessor but it achieves 13% better fuel economy. Body rigidity has been improved by nine per cent. Despite having more standard features such as a reversing camera, full size spare and cruise control, it also weighs less.
There is a choice of two engines and both are delightful units, although the 2.0-litre struggles a little with the 2WD CR-V’s 1460kg – the 2.4-litre engine is definitely a happier combination. Carried over from the previous model, Honda engineers have managed to extract 140kW, or 12% more power. The all-wheel drive models are a little heavier at 1580kg, but still 20kg lighter than the previous generation. All-wheel drive is ‘on demand’ so the rear axle has an easy time of it until the front axle struggles for grip. One omission that rankles is the lack of a 4×4 lock button, something that both Korean rivals (Hyundai iX35 and Kia Sportage) offer.
Honda continues its reputation for interiors that are a step above the competition. The leather in the VTi-L model has a quality feel you’d normally associate with far more expensive vehicles. The interior plastics also exude a quality feel, although there is perhaps a little too much plastic than you’d like and still too many hard surfaces. Rear seat room is good and the new roof line delivers better head room. There’s plenty of boot space (100 litres more than before).
[quote_left]”A little designer trickery (pushing the A-pillars forward by 60mm) makes the CR-V feel larger than it did before”[/quote_left]The previous model had a sliding rear seat; this model features a flip-and-tumble operation that’s a lot easier to live with. There’s a new centre console (no more walk-through feature that some buyers will miss) and a central colour screen. A little designer trickery (pushing the A-pillars forward by 60mm) makes the CR-V feel larger than it did before. The electro-mechanical steering system feels a little less precise than the system in the previous model, but overall the CR-V is a fine handling car, particularly for a compact SUV, where enjoyable driving characteristics don’t usually rate very highly.
Standard equipment is generous, with cruise control, air conditioning which includes rear seat outlets, power windows, remote central locking, alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and multi-function trip computer. The VTi-L tops out with leather trim, heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, powered sunroof, proximity key with push-button start, front foglights and HID headlights that incorporate active cornering lights.
Safety also rates highly with the CR-V scoring a five-star ANCAP rating thanks to safety features including vehicle stability assist (ESP) and traction control, whiplash reducing front seats with active head restraints, three-point seat belts for all occupants, front seatbelt pretensioners, adjustable rear head restraints, airbags at front, side and curtain, hill start assist, reversing camera, and ABS brakes with brake force distribution and brake assist.
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS
The new Honda CR-V may not exactly get the blood pumping, but by every measure it offers more of what you want and need, and less of what you don’t. It’s a conjuring trick that Honda’s designers and engineers can be proud of.