Honda CR-V

Turbo power and new chassis bring marked improvements

TONY OíKANE

COMPACT Recreational Vehicle Ė thatís what CR-V stands for. And even though the scourge of Ďbracket creepí has seen cars grow longer, wider and taller in successive generations, the all-new fifth-generation CR-V stays true to its name. At 4596mm long itís just 66mm longer than the first-generation model that debuted in 1997, and among the key alternatives, itís shorter than the RAV4, Forester, Koleos, Outlander and X-Trail.

This helps the CR-V feel wieldy and manageable, and yet this new model has grown in a vital area Ė on the inside. A 40mm wheelbase stretch and 35mm wider hips help deliver that, and also makes room for a third row of seats for the first time (VTi-L grade only).

A high-mounted gear selector should feel familiar to those currently piloting a fourth-gen CR-V, but the new carís textures, materials and design impart a FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE more premium aura. That said, the base VTiís bare urethane steering wheel is a letdown.

Another negative are the roofmounted Ė rather than backrestmounted Ė child seat top tether anchorages. Not a great issue in the five-seater, but in the sevenseat VTi-L grade it potentially renders the third-row seats useless. You canít put child seats in the rearmost row either, so forget about bringing gran, gramps, and the children along with you on your next family picnic.

The seven-seaterís second-row bench is also noticeably firmer, flatter and higher than that of the five-seater CR-V, compromising under-thigh support, headroom, and comfort. It takes some of the sheen off the CR-Vís otherwise spacious and well-arranged cabin.

At least thereís plenty of facelevel ventilation and a pair of backseat USB charging points to keep passengers content.

On the plus side, Honda has thoroughly modernised the CR-Vís mechanicals, slotting in the Civicís boosted 1.5-litre petrol and culling the atmo 2.4.

Based on the turbocharged petrol inline four that powers Civics from VTi-L grade and up, the CR-Vís sole powerplant boasts slightly larger muscles.

Mechanical tweaks, including a larger turbo, see power rise to 140kW and torque swell to 240Nm, making it the highestoutput version of Hondaís 1.5-litre ĎEarth Dreamsí engine Ė putting it on even pegging with its predecessorís 2.4-litre for power and 18Nm ahead for torque.

The old-tech five-speed auto has made way for a CVT that meshes well with the 1.5Lís respectable mid-range urge, and is a lot more willing and reactive than the continuously variable tranny in the rival Renault Koleos. Thereís also a Sports shift mode for perkier step-off and quicker reactions to the throttle, should you require.

As agreeable as the drivetrain combo is, itís in the areas of suspension composure and ride comfort that the CR-V shines.

Whether on 17-inch or 18-inch alloys, the fifth-gen CR-V delivers a pliant ride. Body control is better than before thanks to increased rebound damping that eliminates the wallowy ride of the outgoing model, and improves the overall sense of agility. A faster steering rack (with only 2.2 turns lockto- lock), an extra centimetre of tyre tread width (now 235mm), and a lower centre of gravity all contribute to the CR-Vís welcome dynamic advancement.

The outgoing CR-V was often a backmarker in Wheels tests, but its replacement shows promise.

The negatives are few, and the fundamentals have been sharpened to a level where the CR-V now boasts genuine appeal in a very competitive segment.

PLUS & MINUS

Roomy cabin; strong value; turbo engine; polished suspension Top tether intrusion on third row; big spend required for seven seats

SLIDER SNIPPED 01

Honda has dumped touchscreen volume sliders in favour of a conventional knob. Standard 7.0-inch infotainment also runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both pleasing alternatives to Hondaís own interface.

PILLAR TRIMMED 02

High-tensile steel allows slimmer A-pillars to aid vision around corners. Thin is a win. Though high-tensile metal usually means lower weight, the new CR-V is, like-for-like, generally heavier than the car it replaces.

CARGO CARRIER 03

Load space is 250mm longer than before when the rear seatbacks are dropped, but seats-up capacity shrinks slightly to 556L in the five-seater. The cavernous centre console can swallow a laptop, though, which is nifty.

Safety shortfall

Autonomous emergency braking is fast becoming a must-have piece of safety gear in the medium SUV segment, but Honda only equips the $44,290 CR-V VTi-LX flagship with the potentially life-saving tech.

Why? AEB is embedded into a suite of electronic driver aids called ĎHonda Sensingí Ė itís a package deal, and one that would add significant cost to lower-grade models. Honda is working on making Honda Sensing standard across the range, but right now AEB is only for top-end buyers.

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Volkswagen Tiguan 110TSI Comfortline $36,990

Tiguan oozes class and feels borderline luxurious in its presentation, but youíd hope so given the FWD 110TSI Comfortline costs more than the AWD CR-V.