Honda debuts its all-new mid-size SUV in an ultra-competitive segment...

Honda's CR-V has, at various times, been in the top tier of its class. Previous versions were multiple winners of CAR’s Top 12 Best Buys awards, and rightly so; the CR-V has had all the qualities that appeal as a family vehicle in its segment. Lessons learnt from the previous CR-V have led to Honda SA offering a streamlined range and there are just two engines to choose from: a 2,0-litre, naturally aspirated, inline-four; and the version tested here, a new 1,5-litre turbo. Both are petrol-fed units, with the former available only in front-wheel-drive guise and the latter only in all-wheel drive. Due to low demand, says Honda, there will be no turbo-diesels. Both engines are mated exclusively with CVT and the derivative on test here is the lower spec of the two turbo versions.

The previous CR-V was a well-rounded proposition, although we found the styling a bit middle of the road. The blocky rear-end, in particular, was a bit ungainly, but it did result in plenty of boot space. The design of this replacement model, on the other hand, is far from boring. The façade is dominated by lashings of chrome and oversized, rakish headlamps similar to those of its Civic sibling. To some members of the test team, this frontal view looks particularly American. In profile, it is far more cohesive than its predecessor, hiding its generous size with more balanced proportions and tidier lines. At the rear, there are L-shaped, wrap-around taillamps that sit proud of the bodywork – a unique execution in this segment – while black cladding on lower sections of the body add an air of ruggedness.

Inside the cabin, the new CR-V continues to impress. Soft-touch materials abound, including a padded rest on the transmission tunnel for the driver’s left knee, something that will be appreciated on longer trips. Vinyl and leather are the materials of choice, the latter covering the comfortable seats. Executive models have electric adjustment on both front chairs and, from these pews, the driver views a colour screen that serves as the primary information display. Included here is a bar-type rev counter, digital speed readout, remote audio info and trip computer. Another nice touch is a convex mirror inside the roof-mounted sunglasses case to help keep an eye on little ones on the rear bench.

The CR-V range boasts impressive standard specification, which includes dual-zone climate control, one-touch electric windows all-round, a multi-function steering wheel and cruise control. Executive derivatives add keyless entry and start, as well as a proximity locking function, a full-length panoramic sunroof with opening panel above the front passengers, LED headlamps and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment interface that features Android Auto and Apple Car- Play connectivity.

There is plenty of space for occupants seated in the front or rear. Rear passengers enjoy more than 750 mm of kneeroom, which is class-leading. Despite the aforementioned sunroof, headroom is also plentiful. As befitting a family car, there is an abundance of storage spaces, including cupholders, a deep storage bin between the front seats, and boot volume that is unrivalled at 408 litres, and that’s with a full-size spare wheel tucked under the floor. Utility space is a cavernous 1 328 litres, which should swallow a pair of mountain bikes quite easily with the rear seats stowed. There are also multiple power points for charging mobile phones and other electronic mobile devices along with four USB ports, two each for the front and rear.

The 1,5-litre turbopetrol motor performs well, both from standstill and on the move, although it isn’t quite as spritely as the 140 kW/240 N.m figures suggest. This is likely blunted by the 1,6-tonne mass, as well as the CVT (more about that later). Acceleration numbers were class-competitive, but braking times were exceptional. The best stop – 2,59 seconds – registered by our VBox data logger was as good as the best sportscars manage in testing and the average over 10 runs was under 2,8 seconds. As mentioned earlier, there is only one transmission on offer in the new range. A CVT is the CAR team’s least-favourite transmission type because of the pervasive sense of “clutch slip”. Small throttle openings send the revs soaring, which makes the engine feel strained, although there is good punch higher up in the range if you keep your foot buried long enough.

The CR-V’s ride quality, though, is generally excellent and, from the first bumps we encountered, it was clear Honda’s engineers have struck a commendable balance in the ride comfort stakes. Those high-profile tyres shoulder some of the credit and thankfully Honda has chosen not to fit oversized wheels wrapped in low-profile rubber that’s become the norm.

Although this version boasts all-wheel drive, we didn’t subject the new CR-V to any off-roading adventures. In rainy conditions experienced during the test period, we did find the four-wheel-drive system provided a welcome added safety net without calling on the ESC system to curb a loss of traction on slippery roads. On motorways, the loping ride quality makes for a relaxed driving experience, with occupants well isolated from the road surface. The sensation is highlighted by excellent NVH properties and a quiet cabin that registered one of the lowest in-cabin sound measurements at idle we’ve recorded.



TEST SUMMARY

The compact-SUV landscape has changed somewhat since the original CR-V debuted 20 years ago. During this time, Honda has managed to stay in tune with buyers' demands and the CR-V continues to perform near the top of the segment. However, there is strong competition from all comers, most notably the Far East in the shape of Mazda, Hyundai and Kia, as well as excellent propositions such as the VW Tiguan and newly facelifted Ford Kuga.

While the latest CR-V is a superb model and we came away from the test with positive feedback, we feel that the clumsy CVT and relatively high price leave it trailing the likes of Hyundai's similar Tucson and the more powerful Tiguan 2,0 TSI. Were the CR-V equally priced and had it featured a more conventional torque-converter or dual-clutch transmission, it would contend for class honours.

*From the September 2017 issue of CAR magazine

Original article from Car