- CR-V now refined, cohesive
- Strong value for money
- Quiet and comfortable
- No AEB until $44k top trim
- Rear seat squab a bit short
- Needs more torque
Honda – who five years ago seemed consigned to the uncool basket – are well and truly reinvigorated and on a roll. First came the HR-V – a small SUV that revived a familiar badge from the early 2000s and has become a top seller in its class. Then came the new Civic: Honda’s well-known small car came in for a massive overhaul from stodgy to thoroughly modern. Now, it’s the CR-V’s turn. Like HR-V and Civic, the 2018 Honda CR-V has been entirely rethought, based around a new turbocharged engine, a more refined interior, and a strong value for money pitch.
The fifth-generation CR-V, Thai-built for Australia, arrives with a smartly designed product line-up of four models, spanning the competitive $30,000 to $44,000 price range. Honda are pitching the new CR-V as similar in quality, but with more features and therefore stronger value, than an equivalent Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan, or Hyundai Tucson. Keyless entry and start, two back-seat USB ports, and a digital driver gauges are all standard. But it’s the $33,290 VTi-S that really sucker punches its rivals, upping the specification to include an electric tailgate, navigation, and 18-inch wheels.
Swapping out the old model’s strained engines for Honda’s new 1.5-litre turbo also moves the CR-V’s powertrain into the 21st century. A healthy 140kW of power is more than class-competitive; a relatively modest 240Nm seems like a missed opportunity to make this car a bit more perky and fun. You can feel a decent chassis sitting underneath, even though the CR-V shares nothing, platform-wise, with Civic.
The CR-V is unabashedly a car designed for comfort and family practicality. Honda openly admits it has no sporting pretensions. This is backed up by the CR-V’s relaxed driving experience, with excellent ride quality, limited cabin noise intrusion and a few Skoda-esque clever features, like a handbag-swallowing centre console, four USB ports, and an easily-adjustable power tailgate that reveals a big boot.
This is the first seven-seat Honda CR-V – although you only get the extra seats in the second-from-top VTi-L model ($38,990). Choosing seven seats means foregoing all-wheel-drive, and some boot space. But while Honda concedes they are occasional seats, not really large enough for everyday use, a six-foot adult fits and short journeys would be fine. It’s about as spacious as the third row in the Skoda Kodiaq.
Honda are still struggling with advanced safety technology. The fact that Honda Sensing – the company’s full suite of safety tech – cannot be split into constituent parts is disappointing. It means that AEB is not standard fit on the CR-V; it is limited to the flagship $44,290 VTi-LX trim. It’s particularly in this regard that the 2018 Honda CR-V still trails the CX-5, which has forwards-and-backwards AEB, even in the base model.
Honda is in the midst of shifting from outdated naturally aspirated petrol engines to smaller, turbocharged units. The CR-V is the latest candidate for the swap, with the old car’s 114kW/190Nm 2.0-litre and 140kW/222Nm 2.4-litre petrols ditched in favour of a single new turbo four-cylinder.
The new engine, a 1.5-litre, is the same as that found in the new Civic, but with a larger turbocharger that increases power to 140kW and torque to 240Nm – the same power, and about 8% more torque than the old 2.4-litre. Larger turbos increase turbo lag, but Honda have cut the number of turbine blades from 11 to 9, effectively countering this effect.
Immediately, it’s clear that the new CR-V is a more refined performer than the old model; progress around town is slick and quiet, with peak torque arriving at just 2,000rpm. The CVT automatic is one of the best of its kind – though CVTs still trail a good torque converter or dual-clutch auto – and in the urban driving most owners will stick to, the new CR-V – firmly within its comfort zone – is a great partner. Driven sedately it can deliver decent economy of around 8L/100km.
But ask more of it on a country road, and the relatively modest 240Nm impedes rapid progress. A Skoda Kodiaq has 320Nm – a third more – as does the Volkswagen Tiguan; those cars have 2.0-litre engines. The Honda isn’t fast; the 0-100km/h sprint takes about ten seconds. On rural B-roads and highways, the CR-V prefers relaxed to frenetic driving.
It’s a similar story with the way the new CR-V handles. Back in its comfort zone – in the city and the ‘burbs – it’s wonderful. A supple ride quality and quiet cabin twin with light and direct steering that make manoeuvring the Honda a breeze. Visibility is very good, too. As city SUVs go, it’s one of the best.
At higher speeds, the well-judged damping and comfortable ride never go away but the CR-V fights back when punted too enthusiastically down a backroad. There’s more body lean than a Kodiaq; while the steering does weight up, it loses a degree of predictability.
Not that this is a major problem; Honda Australia public relations manager Neil McDonald was happy to admit the CR-V’s focus, unlike the Mazda CX-5, is on comfort – there are no sporting pretensions here. The CR-V is, indeed, built for comfort and not for speed. It meets that goal skilfully. The ride is better than the Tiguan-Kodiaq set; it’s also more supple than the Mazda, or the Ford Escape.
One surprise from our generous 300km drive on the CR-V’s national launch outside Canberra is the car’s playful dynamics on gravel roads. The Honda has a new hydraulic coupling sending drive to the rear wheels when they’re required – but enthusiastically tip the CR-V into a fast corner on gravel and it will allow a safely contained slide before subtly correcting your line. Nicely done!
And the all-wheel-drive system actually starts the CR-V from a standstill in AWD mode, cutting the rear axle only if slip is not detected. Use case: if you’re on a slippery hill, you don’t get a gut-wrenching second of slipping before assistance arrives. The Honda’s 208mm ground clearance isn’t bad, but behind the class’s highest-rider, the 230mm Subaru Forester.
Finally, back on tarmac, the CR-V leaves you short-changed when it comes to advanced safety technology. You do get a blind spot camera, but Honda’s failure to chisel autonomous emergency braking out of their sophisticated Honda Sensing package and into a standalone feature is disappointing. AEB, like active cruise control and lane keep assist, are limited to the top-shelf $44,290 CR-V VTi-LX. A base model Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan, or Skoda Kodiaq all feature at least AEB.
Up front, the CR-V feels like it’s been built to be driven all day. This is a comfortable car to spend time in, with supportive seats, natural ergonomics, and soft material in the right places.
The plush, heated leather seats of the VTi-L ($38,990) and VTi-LX ($44,290) grades give the CR-V an upmarket feel. The eight-way electric adjustment for the driver on the leather seats will be tempting for fussy drivers like me – but in truth the manually-adjustable cloth seats in lower models are supportive enough for long miles, too. A direct comparison with the Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport ($34,390) revealed the cloth-trimmed CR-V VTi-S ($33,290) to have both a more comfortable seat, and a more natural driving position. The Honda’s adjustable-position armrest is a great inclusion, matching the Volkswagen Tiguan and Skoda Kodiaq.
Like the Tiguan, the CR-V’s steering wheel is angled slightly upwards, minivan-style, but the Honda happily avoids the Tiguan’s odd seating position that makes you feel like you are tipping forward. Another minivan cue is the internal mirror built in to the roof console, allowing mum or dad to keep an eye on the kids in the second row. But you don’t get the Kodiaq’s hilarious steering wheel microphone that amplifies strict parenting voices into the back row’s speakers.
A seven-inch touchscreen is standard across the range, and the matte slate presentation of the display looks premium. Honda’s own software continues to significantly trail most competitors for usability, and the in-built Garmin navigation looks cheesy. Thankfully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, and you’ll want to use them. In an ergonomic concession, a real rotary volume knob is included – recent Hondas eschewed this in favour of awkward touch buttons.
The CR-V’s interior materials look nice, but touching various points around the cabin reveals the plastics to be harder than expected – with a thin layer of soft material stretched over a hard backing. The dash and doors certainly aren’t as plush as the benchmark Mazda. The exception is the Honda’s soft pads located where front occupant knees come to rest.
It’s very spacious in the back of the CR-V – both in terms of outright room, and the perception of space, thanks to big side windows that afford a good view out. With the driver’s seat adjusted for six-foot me, I had excellent legroom and toe room. But if your kids are particularly tall – and you like sunroofs – you’ll need to test-drive the car, because the panoramic roof of the VTi-L and VTi-LX robs precious inches of headroom in the back.
The back seat is comfortable enough. The backrest reclines a little, but the seat squab is really too flat and short to give long-legged back seat passengers the support they need over long distances. There is also fore-aft adjustment of the back row, but only if you get the seven seat model, in order to make room for those in the back. Five-seat cars miss out on this adjustment.
Impressively, the floor is flat in the back, even in the all-wheel-drive models. The lack of an awkward driveshaft hump, paired with the additional 35 mm of width over the old CR-V, mean it’s entirely possible to seat three people side-by-side in the back with few complaints. They’ll be kept cool, too, as air vents are standard – as are two USB ports for the second row.
But what about the third row in the VTi-L? Access is particularly good – better than a Kodiaq – because the kerbside back seat tumbles forward and right out of the way, revealing a hard-plastic step and a sizeable gap through which to step into the third row seat. It’s been well thought-out.
Once you’re in the back, there’s enough room for occasional use. For me as a six footer, I had just enough headroom and legroom to travel a short distance. Honda openly admit the third row won’t be sufficient for families that need it every day; public relations manager Neil McDonald told Chasing Cars the CR-V is best thought of as a 5+2. But you can imagine the convenience if you’ve got two kids, with each wanting to bring a friend. The presence of that third row makes that possible. Impressively, there are roof-mounted air vents for the sixth and seventh passengers.
Ample space for a 6-footer in the third row, for short journeys.
A power tailgate is standard from the $33,290 VTi-S upwards, and it opens to reveal a sizeable boot. At 522 litres it’s bigger than a Tucson, and a lot bigger than a Mazda CX-5. It trails the Tiguan for boot space, which has 615 litres, but to get that much in the VW you have to slide the back seats forward, limiting legroom for people back there.
Importantly, the CR-V’s boot gets smaller if you have seven seats. The last row just doesn’t sit flush with the boot floor – this is visible in our video review. With seven seats, you get 150 litres of space with all seats up – not bad – but 472 litres of space with five seats in use. The key rival in the seven-seat space, the Skoda Kodiaq, has a huge 630 litre boot in this situation, as its seats fold flat. The Skoda a ten centimetre longer vehicle, however.
The CR-V's boot space when configured as a five-seater.
And interestingly, the Honda’s boot has actually decreased in size over the outgoing fourth-generation CR-V, which had 556 litres in play. We’re told this decision was made in order to give back seat passenger more legroom – explains why it’s so big back there.
Once you’re back in the car, you can make use of a variety of cleverly-designed storage solutions. The highlight is the centre console storage up front. There are three levels of storage under the driver’s armrest. A shallow setting is a phone tray, while the deepest setting will allow you to slide a laptop or handbag in.
There’s also a phone tray behind the high-set gear shifter, a good-size damped glovebox, two medium-size cupholders, and very large door bins.
The CR-V's boot space when configured as a seven-seater VTi-L.
In the back, the CR-V’s standard-fit centre armrest has two cupholders – a Mazda’s armrest has a storage space as well. However, the Honda comes out on top with the same huge door bins as what you get up front, with space for a big bottle. Third row passengers have cupholders as well.
Silver roof bars are standard and run the length of the vehicle, providing a base for mounting roof storage options. There are two accessory packs offered with the car to take easy advantage of this. The Adventures Pack ($1,998 fitted) includes a choice of a bike, kayak, surfboard or ski/snowboard rack and a cross bar set – plus side steps, a protector tray for the boot and a carpet or rubber mat set. The further Adventures Plus Pack ($2,378) swaps out the sports attachments for a roof box.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
Honda CR-V servicing costs
For the new CR-V, Honda have upped the servicing intervals from 6 months or 10,000 kilometres to 12 months … and 10,000 kilometres. Some rivals offer convenient 15,000 kilometre intervals, but if you don’t drive a massive amount, the Honda shouldn't get in the way. If you drive the Australian average of 14,000 kilometres a year, you will have to service about every nine months, so the new schedule is a marginal improvement.
Servicing the Honda is cheap, however. If you do the average mileage you’ll need four services in three years, which works out at $1,180. That compares to $1,256 in the Mazda, $1,336 in the Volkswagen, or $1,380 in the Skoda.
Hondas are now covered by an impressive five year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Honda CR-V fuel economy
Honda claim that the new CR-V will achieve very competitive fuel economy. It varies slightly model-by-model but the VTi-S is rated at 7.3L/100km on the combined cycle.
Our launch drive was all-rural so we will test for an accurate figure at a later date, but manufacturer claims are usually optimistic; based on limited readings I would expect a figure in the eights may be achievable with sedate driving.
Honda CR-V depreciation
If you keep a new CR-V VTi-S ($33,290) for three years and 40,000 kilometres – about average Australian mileage – Glass’s Guide data indicates that it should retain about 58% of its value, returning you about $19,300 on sale. That is middle of road for this class of car.
By comparison, a Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Comfortline will retain about 56% of its value, and the Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport around 61%.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Five models across four trim levels, spanning $30,690 to $44,290, make up the CR-V range.
The basic car, the $30,690 VTi, is front-wheel-drive only – but it’s well-equipped, with 17-inch alloys, keyless entry and go, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, the 7-inch touchscreen, an 8-speaker sound system, rear USB ports, front LED daytime running lights, tyre pressure monitoring, and driver fatigue detection; a plastic steering wheel detracts from the ambience.
The next step, the $33,290 VTi-S – $35,490 for a VTi-S AWD – adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, satellite navigation, front and rear parking sensors, a leather steering wheel, automatic headlights, and LaneWatch, Honda’s blind-spot reducing camera system.
Then it’s up to the more plush $38,990 VTi-L – the seven-seater of the range, which means two-wheel-drive only. It adds the third row, heated leather seats with 8-way power adjustment for the driver with memory, a panoramic sunroof, and automatic wipers.
The flagship VTi-LX ($44,290) loses the third row but adds AWD as standard, alongside Honda Sensing – which includes AEB, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, and active cruise control – plus cornering LED headlights, digital radio, and privacy glass on the rear windows.
Honda expects the VTi-S to be the volume seller of the range. At this level, the most direct rival is the Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.0-litre ($34,490). At this level, the Mazda has the advantage of forwards and reverse AEB, LED headlights, digital radio, softer interior trims and better infotainment. The Honda fights back with better-looking and bigger 18-inch alloys, a power tailgate, parking sensors, and an eight-speaker stereo (as opposed to six).
There are no options on the Honda, apart from the roof accessory packs. All paint colours are included, including the new hero colours of Passion Red and Midnight Forest.
Despite the great value of the VTi-S, our pick of the range is the $38,990 VTi-L. If you’re going to buy a high-riding SUV, you might as well get a practicality advantage over a better-driving station wagon. The VTi-L’s unique seven seat feature adds that extra practicality.
Skoda Kodiaq 132TSI ($42,990)
The CR-V’s biggest problem in seven-seat form is the Skoda Kodiaq. Sure, at $42,990, it’s $4,000 more expensive, but it feels $4,000 better than the Honda. The third row is only equally as large but crucially, it folds away properly in the boot, leaving a massive cargo space that is 33% bigger than the Honda’s. The Skoda’s 2.0-litre turbo is better, and it feels more special inside, with even more comfortable seats and nicer trims. The Kodiaq is also better to drive hard, although the ride quality is firmer and less cosseting than that in the CR-V. Read our Kodiaq review here.
Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport ($34,490)
If you can live without the seven seats, this CX-5 is the best rival for the CR-V VTi-S. The Mazda has underpowered petrol engines and a fantastic (but expensive) diesel. It’s better to drive, though, with nice steering and a similar ride quality; it’s quiet, too. The Mazda’s interior is better, with more sophisticated technology, though it misses out on smartphone mirroring. A small boot and a higher price offset those advantages, somewhat. Read our CX-5 review here.
Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Comfortline ($36,990)
The Volkswagen Tiguan is the premium choice in this bunch. Five-seat-only but well-packaged with a big boot and plenty of cabin space, the Tiguan looks and feels a touch more upmarket. Shame about the halogen headlights, though, which detract from the look. Inside, it’s the most expensive to touch. The Comfortline model’s fabric seats are good; the driving position is slightly awkward, however. All engines are excellent especially the petrols; it’s good to drive, feeling like an upsized Golf. Ride can be a bit firm, though. Read our Tiguan review here.
|Capacity||1.5 litres (1,498 cc)|
|Power||140kW at 5,600rpm|
|Torque||240Nm at 2,000-5,000rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||90.1kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||7.3L/100km|
|Fuel capacity||57 litres|
|Average range||781 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Gears||1 (7 simulated)|
|Drivetrain||Front wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1,540 kg|
|Cargo space (seats up)||522 litres|
|Cargo space (seats down)||1,084 litres|