FIRST DRIVE: HONDA CR-V FIFTH GENERATION

Honda_CR-V_frontHonda was one of the earliest players in the family SUV business and has an excellent reputation amongst existing owners. Many of them have remained loyal and moved to each new generation as they’ve been launched. This is likely to be the case with the just introduced fifth generation Honda CR-V.

This CR-V moves up in size and is offered here for the first time with third row seats. One interesting feature is that ground clearance has been increased to 208 millimetres from the 170 mm of the just superseded model.

Thus Honda is signalling that the gen-five isn’t just a pretty station wagon, it can be used in semi-serious off-road conditions. Centre humps on rough and ready bush tracks and firetraps shouldn’t hassle the Honda and it’s likely to cope with all but really soft sand at the beach.

The sophisticated AWD system is set to bring the rear wheels into play within a few milliseconds of the fronts starting to slip. Something that’s useful in day-to-day driving on slippery bitumen, not just off-road.

Cleverly, the same ground clearance is retained on the 2WD (front wheels) models so that owners who have no intention of going off-road still get the tough look of the high rider.

Having said that, it’s likely the great majority of Honda CR-Vs will spend far more time on the harsh school-shops-tennis-football runs than exploring the wilds of Australia. So the gen-five not only offers another row of seats, but also has wider opening doors, easily adjustable seats and a virtually flat floor throughout.

I found there to be enough legroom in the seat behind the driver’s to get comfortable for long trips. My ageing knees weren’t too happy at getting into the rearmost seats, but lithe youngsters well welcome the chance to get back there as far as possible from Mum and Dad.

Honda_CR-V_rear

The cargo area is large in the five-seater, at 522 litres, is well shaped and easy to load, the second and third rows of seats can be folded flat in various arrangements. As is common in this class of vehicle there’s not a lot of space left if all seven seats are occupied.

Power comes from a high-tech turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine displacing a mere 1.5 litres. Before rolling your eyes upwards at this apparently tiny powerplant look at its outputs: 140 kW of power and 240 Nm of torque all the way from 2000 to 5000 revs. Big Aussie sixes didn’t have numbers like that only a few years back then – and used about twice as much petrol as the Honda unit.

Modern engine technology is stunning, with electronics keeping the engine at near to perfect levels by constantly retuning each cylinder in milliseconds. Thus eking out the use of fuel and the minimising pollutants.

The CR-V’s engine is ably assisted by a sophisticated CVT automatic transmission that doesn’t sound as frantic as some of the original units of its type. It may not please the revhead, but most drivers are unlikely to be aware it’s a continuously variable transmission.

The best news of all is that while prices have risen marginally, when compared spec to spec with the outgoing model it has it offers significantly better value.

Honda_CR-V_interior

DRIVING
On the road during a drive program organised by Honda for the media launch of the new CR-V we found it to be very smooth, quiet and unflustered. It may not be quite as capable in sporty cornering as the best of the very-expensive prestige German marques – but it comes surprisingly close.

Some coarse chip surfaces did produce quite a racket at times, but this was balanced out by near silence from the tyres on normal surfaces. Even the dirt sections we traversed didn’t increase sound levels overmuch.

The brakes have an interesting new electric-booster system. Frankly we couldn’t really feel any difference to a conventional booster which is probably something Honda’s engineers went to a lot of trouble to achieve. Having the booster computer able to ‘talk’ to the engine, transmission, ABS and ESP’s electronics will make the Honda SUV just that little bit safer.

The engine is smooth and responsive with a minimum of turbo lag. The transmission is always in the correct ratio – which is hardly a surprise given that it has an infinite number of ‘gears’ and that ugly ‘slipping-clutch’ noise has all but gone.

SUMMING UP
All-in-all the fifth generation Honda CR-V is almost impressive piece of machinery. It’s smooth, quiet, spacious and will make an excellent long distance family cruiser. And all at a pretty modest price.

The complete 2017 Honda CR-V range (added value over previous model in brackets) is:
VTi 2WD five-seat: $30,690 (+$2800)
VTi-S 2WD five-seat: $33,290 (+$2100)
VTi-S AWD five-seat: $35,490 (+$2400)
VTi-L 2WD seven-seat: $38,990 (+$4150)
VTi-LX AWD five-seat: $44,290 (+$5850)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Honda dealer for drive-away prices.

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