I’ve been in an out of the Honda dealer’s showroom frequently in the past few weeks, picking up and dropping off evaluation cars.
There’s a certain feeling you get when a business is busy, it feels vibrant and, for lack of better words, somewhat exciting.
It doesn’t surprise me that Honda are drawing in the public at the moment, several new models have launched close to each other and that generally lures in new buyers, and also those who are just curious.
Importantly for Honda, a new CRV has just landed and the popular sport utility vehicle arrives hard on the heels of the new Civic hatchback and Civic Type R, the latter an eagerly-awaited hot-hatch.
The reason why I mention Civic in this evaluation of the CRV sport utility vehicle, is because some Civic models share the same engine; yes, the four-cylinder, 1.5-litre turbocharged unit which powers Civic RS and RS Sport is the same mechanical element that powers the CRV, albeit the latter gets a crank up in power, it is rated with 141kW and 240Nm against the Civic’s 127kW and 220Nm.
Before there’s any thought that a 1498cc engine in an SUV just doesn’t cut it, think again, recent generation CRVs have always had an engine with power outputs of around 148kW, the new unit is far from distant.
It also uses a lot less fuel than ever before. Honda rates it with a 7.4-litre per 100km (38mpg) combined cycle average, which is a lot better than the previous generation model at 8.7l/100km (32mpg). During my testing time the new CRV was constantly providing an 8.8l/100km display along with a 6l/100km (47mpg) instantaneous figure at 100km/h on the highway, the new engine just loping over at 2000rpm.
Therein lies another secret, the turbocharged unit provides maximum torque all of the way from 2000rpm to 5000rpm, that’s a broad spread and allows for solid response to throttle request no matter the speed.
If you also add into the equation the seamless supply of gearing you get from a continuously variable automatic transmission, you have a driveline that is remarkably responsive and cohesive.
There are four new CRV variants, they start at $32,900 for an entry-level two-wheel-drive model, topping out at $47,900 for the four-wheel-drive Sport Sensing, the car this evaluation focuses on.
As its name suggests, Sensing incorporates a raft of safety systems which use crash avoidance sensors and features to remind the driver of traffic or objects which surround the vehicle.
While the CRV is generally known as a capable four-wheel-drive vehicle in loose surface environments, it must be remembered it can’t conquer everything. The test car was showing just 300km on the odometer when I picked it up, for fear of getting it dirty I didn’t put it to the test away from the seal.
However, on the media launch for the model I was set loose on roads south of Auckland, and together with a large section of rutted roadworks and getting lost on some shingle back roads, I can report the CRV has suspension which absorbs well hits from uneven surfaces, and the driveline is engineered so that the tyres maintain their tenure on the road surface.
The spring and damper settings are also structured for comfort and that is a compromise not all car engineers get right, especially in an SUV. However, the CRV cocoons all occupants, and having grown into an SUV that is definitely medium-size there is a wealth of onboard space which adds to that feel.
In terms of on-road handling, the big Michelin tyres (235/60 x 18in) have a wide contact with the road surface and provide purposeful information back to the driver. On-road grip is high, and even though the CRV sits tall at almost 1.7m there is little body lurch over the suspension. The CRV’s handling manners are exquisite for an SUV.
Add to that a solid response from under the bonnet and you have a vehicle which feels feisty and capable when the
high country back roads beckon.
Honda has a special way in which it does its interiors. The CRV is plush with leather trim and there is a cockpit layout that is complex yet intuitive.
Even at almost $48k the new CRV can be described as a value purchase, it gets a high level of kit, and as I’ve eluded to many times in the past, the way Honda’s designers can squeeze space out of its interiors is just amazing, the CRV has cargo carrying capacity to burn, along with a practical, functional occupant area.
The new CRV builds on success and epitomises Honda’s focus on family-friendly vehicles. Nothing has been left to chance.
Price – Honda CRV Sport, $47,900
Dimensions – Length, 4596mm; width, 1855mm; height, 1689mm
Configuration – Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 1498cc, 141kW, 240Nm, continuously variable automatic
Fuel usage – 7.4l/100km