HONDA had its work cut out with the new CR-V.
Since the launch of the third-generation model in 2007, the stakes in the SUV market were upped very high by its competitors, especially by Hyundai and Kia with the ix35 and Sportage, respectively. Case in point: you want a Sportage? You’ll reach the top of the waiting list in about eight months.
The all-new fourth-generation CR-V has now reached our shores and the news is good.
The cabin is of typical Honda quality, with not a single component out of place and not a rattle to be heard. All buttons are big, clearly marked and logically placed. Combined with a five-inch colour screen on top of the dash, it all makes make most functions easy to understand and use.
A glaring exception, though, was the CR-V’s Bluetooth. It took a while to find the function that connects car to phone, after which I thought I would be rewarded with a wonderful easy-to-use experience.
Not so. After phone and car had been paired, the connection was made automatically every time I started the ignition. That’s the good news.
The bad news was that it would stay connected for only a few seconds, after which it would disconnect and connect continuously. During the longest stretch it stayed connected, I managed to make a two-second phone call.
Other standard features on the Comfort model I drove are dual-zone climate control, CD/MP3/Aux/USB, cruise control and one-motion 60/40-split fold rear seats.
Honda did create a one-two-punch combination where it mattered most: comfort and ride. The seats are supremely comfortable, a fact made very apparent during my daily excursions in Jozi traffic.
Its second punch is its ride. Although not overly soft, it simply glides on the road, with obstacles such as speed bumps made little work of. NVH levels are fantastic, with only some road noise protruding into the cabin.
The 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine develops 114kW of power and 192Nm of torque. It doesn’t sound like much, especially considering that it has to drive a vehicle of just under two tonnes. Mated to a six-speed transmission, the engine actually feels quite punchy and you are rarely left wanting for more power. Honda claims a fuel-consumption figure of 7.2 litres/100km (with Co2 being 172g/km). I averaged around 8.7 litres/100km. The CR-V does have a major advantage over its Korean rivals here though: it betters the fuel consumption of the equivalent Sportage and ix35 by 1.5 litres/100km. In city driving, it may even be more.
The CR-V also comes equipped with an economy feature, as is the trend these days. Activating this mode changes the engine transmission performance to help achieve better fuel economy. I could, however, not discern any difference between normal- and economy modes. Gear-shift and economic-driving indicators are provided anyway, so I don’t see the point of having to look at a little green tree as well when in economy mode. The economic-driving indicators - in the form of 2 strips flanking the speedometer - are very tastefully done and actually sometimes amusing to see in action.
At the end of the day, the CR-V isn’t an entertaining or exciting car, because it isn’t supposed to be. What it is and should be is a comfortable, reasonably priced (at R299 900), quiet family SUV with fairly copious amount of luggage space, impeccable build quality and not likely to give you trouble and in that, Honda has thoroughly succeeded.
As mentioned above, the CR-V sits with two big – albeit external – problems, namely the Hyundai ix35 and Kia Sportage, for three reasons: they’re more attractive, their build quality is quickly catching up (though not on the Honda’s level yet) and probably most importantly, the equivalent models undercut the CR-V by R20 000 and R23 000, respectively.
Only time will tell whether consumers will be willing to trade their places on the Koreans’ waiting lists for the CR-V. Hopefully some will, because the CR-V deserves that.