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By Charl Bosch

Motoring Journalist


Price casts shadow on new Honda CR-V’s willing desire to shine

Long awaited sixth generation has the willingness to retain its previous form, but requires final polishing and a few zeros knocked-off its sticker.


The Honda CR-V has been a long time coming for South Africa, especially as it went it on-sale in its most important global market, the United States, almost two years ago.

Addressing the obvious

Intrigue and hype of the sixth generation CR-V quickly descended into exasperated gasps and dropped jaws though when Honda disclosed its flagship SUV’s sticker price in early February of more than a R1-million for the range-topping Exclusive driven here.

A fundamental aspect that has blighted it ever since, and more so given the eschewing of all-wheel-drive the previous Exclusive offered, the CR-V has been subjected to extensive panning even before the first test units arrived.

Its price of R1 041 300 making it not the only first R1-million Honda, but also more expensive than the new Civic Type R that has since also breached the million Rand mark, the Passport-styled CR-V’s fitting of seven-seat didn’t quieten the backlash either to a model that has traditionally been a five-seater.

ALSO READ: Wait over as Honda slaps pricey sticker on new CR-V

Although loaded with features, which the company’s automated AI bot continues to repeat on social media whenever reference is made to the price, the prospect of the CR-V regaining any past form has, sadly, been negated as a result of not only the price, but also certain packaging issues.

In fact, a thought lingered throughout the seven-days many will continue to ask today, “Who is going to buy a front-wheel-drive Honda SUV, with a CVT, that costs more than a R1-million, when you could buy something a lot cheaper?”

Honda CR-V South Africa road test
Rear has been redesigned and now resembles the two generations ago Honda Accord Tourer. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

Even more disappointing is the fact that behind the price, the CR-V is decently accomplished and yes, well equipped with enough ability to rival the RAV4, Tiguan, Sportage, Tucson and incoming Territory with ease.

As much as the Meteoroid Grey Metallic paint option of our tester failed to do the CR-V any additional favours stylistically, however, strengths did emerge, the biggest being the ergonomically accomplished interior up front layout and workings of the touchscreen infotainment system we will get to later.

Looking American

Its predecessor having been the recipient of an aggressive update towards the end of its lifecycle, omitting the grey and opting for a darker hue found on seven colour spanning chart, the CR-V’s styling is anything but radical, but rather a refinement of its predecessor without being over-the-top.

As per its relation with the Passport, the CR-V has a longer bonnet and front overhang, a gloss black finish around the lower air intake, thinner LED headlights and a distinctly American gloss black grille.

Honda CR-V South Africa road test
Exclusive gets sporty 19-inch alloy wheels as standard. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

The retention of the orange side reflectors on the wheel arches upping its Americana factor – in spite of the South African model originating from Thailand – the Exclusive gets sporty 19-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust outlets plus widened bumpers and door sills not available on the entry-level Executive.

Its rear-end styling less controversial before in that the vertical light cluster are smaller, the chrome detailing dispensed with and the bootlid itself now resembling the Accord Tourer of two generations ago, the CR-V still ticks the “stylish” box, albeit now more than so than before with the hue factored out.

Old school simplicity

Stepping inside reveals the most welcome aspect of the CR-V; an interior made more functional and easier to decipher than previously.

Honda's new flagship SUV driven
Interior is a ergonomic A+ with a premium feel, though slightly spoiled by the imitation plastic wood trim. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

Sharing its platform with the Civic means the the same design and layout, spoiled slightly by the gaudy plastic wood on the dashboard and doors that looks out of place against a backdrop of beautify soft-touch plastics, leather and just the right amount of piano key black applique.

In addition to the centre console being no longer “split” into sections as on the old CR-V, Honda has also resisted the temptation of replacing any physical switchgear with touch-sensitive items, or relocating most of the functions to the infotainment system.

Honda's new CR-V driven
Exclusive also gets a surround-view camera system as standard. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

As mentioned, the result is a button and dial orientated cabin that looks smart, modern and makes finding one’s way almost immediate.

What’s more, the 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster’s ability to be customised via the steering wheel is just as easy, while the nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system – first sampled on the Civic RS – rates as the proverbial cherry on the tech cake by being a doddle to use.

Honda's new CR-V driven
Front seats are heated, electric and supremely supportive. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

Inclusive of wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, embedded satellite navigation and physical shortcuts buttons plus a traditional volume knob, the setup further serves as display for the 360-degree surround-view camera system, and the LaneWatch camera that activates when turning to the left.

Road test of new Honda CR-V
Nice-to-have LaneWatch camera activates when turning left only. Image: Andre-Neil Burger.

Spacious up front with the seats being heated and a Head-Up Display projected onto the windscreen being another standard feature, the CR-V’s spec sheet is, as the AI bot states, extensive as it also includes dual-zone climate control, an eight-speaker sound system, wireless smartphone charger and the Sensing array of safety and driver assistance systems.

A questions of space

Honda's new CR-V driven
One of the biggest drawbacks is rear headroom, with the opposite applying to legroom. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

For all the accomplishments up front, the interior’s biggest let-down not only involves the third row, but a chronic lack of rear passenger room in the second, mostly as a result of the dual-pane panoramic sunroof.

While without doubt a nice to have, passengers over 1.8 metres tall will resort to either lowering their heads, or become structurally integral to the body as a result of the sunroof cavity encroaching on space.

Honda's new flagship SUV driven
As means of boosting boot space, a removable shelf clicks into place for a dual storage area with all seven seats up. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

Although privy to legroom that won’t cause any bother, rear air-conditioning vents and a pair of type-C USB ports each, the lack of space is a disappointment that renders the CR-V not family friendly for all.

As for the third-row, the inherent belief of being suited to small children hit a snag when putting it to the test.

While suited to toddlers, a basic test using a 13-year old saw a resounding thumbs down being given. What’s more, getting into the third presents another challenge as the second row only slides forwards instead of tumbling.

Honda's new flagship SUV driven
In five-seat guise, the CR-V boot can swallow 840-litres, with the shelf resulting in a completely flat surface. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

Adjustable in a 60/40 split, sliding the second forward individually does aid third room space, but at the expense of those already pressed for movement in the second.

Admittedly, most of the CR-V’s running will involve the third row being folded away, which again questions the need for two additional seats in a segment standardised to five.

Honda's new flagship SUV driven
With the second and third rows down, space tops out at 1 488-litres. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

Niftier though is Honda’ handling of the boot in the fitting of a removable shelf stored either at the base of the floor, or prompted-up to create a flat surface.

With all seven-seats in use, this results in a dual loading area with the final capacity being 150-litres. In five-seat guise, space increases to 840-litres and to 1 488-litres with the second row also folded.

On the move

On the move, the sluggishness experienced in the previous generation CR-V has been negated, most likely due to drive now going to the front wheels only, but only slightly as a result of Honda having stuck with the existing powertrain.

Producing 140kW/240Nm, the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine’s response is more linear than instant, with the expected surge only arriving in small dollops.

Although not underpowered, the engine still feels on the breathless side at times – not only due to the 1 747 kg kerb mass, but due to the irksome CVT.

Road test of new Honda CR-V
Thin gearlever is ideally placed and badly warrants the inclusion of a clutch pedal. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

As is common with the belt and pulley design, the ‘box goes about its business without hassle and in a slick fashion around town.

Requiring more grunt though sends its on its characteristic droning spree that becomes irritating to the extent that any improvements in momentum feels difficult to notice.

Road test of new Honda CR-V
Configurable 10.2-inch instrument cluster simple and easy to understand. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

Resorting to the paddle shifters also failed to wake the transmission quicker, a real pity given the on-point placing of the thin gear lever that falls so perfectly to hand, that the lack of clutch pedal was missed even more.

Once of the move, the CR-V is quiet and the ride soft without being unnerved by imperfections or sudden surface changes.

A trait carried over from the previous generation, the seats lacked for little on comfort front – up front that is – although fuel consumption fell short of Honda’s claim by exactly 1.0 L/100 km as after seven days and 546 km, the trip computer displayed an indicated best of 8.4 L/100 km.

Conclusion

As much as the skyrocketing prices of new cars are unavoidable, the reasoning behind Honda’s logic simply doesn’t make sense as part from its traditional rivals, the CR-V finds itself in the company of step-up offerings such as the Volvo XC60, BMW X1, Lexus NX and even “purpose-built” seven-seaters in the form of the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.

Honda CR-V South Africa road test
CR-V has been a key model for Honda over many years, however, appeal in South Africa has been dibbing due to a variety factors over the last decade. Image: Andre-Neil Burger

While likely to please staunch Honda die-hards, or buyers simply wanting something different and for whom pricing makes little sense, ultimately, the CR-V will remain a minor player unless realignment takes place or more accessible derivatives added prioritising value over luxury.

NOW READ: European suited Honda CR-V debuts as preview of SA model

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