Honda isn’t going to be left out of the main game.
The mid-size sport utility vehicle market is crowded and tempting models just keep getting added into the mix, Mazda’s new CX-30 has just landed, Toyota’s Rav4 is ever present and there’s a host of others from most mainstream manufacturers.
But Honda keeps ticking away with its CRV, and sales of it are healthy, which has a lot to do with the upgrades that have kept it fresh through the years and for 2021 there are further enhancements and refinements, along with a greater emphasis on safety across the range.
This evaluation focuses on the five-seater, range-topping Sport Premium that also has four-wheel-drive mechanicals. Interestingly, all CRV models now get the 1.5-litre turbocharged engine that was only available previously in a few select models. The naturally-aspirated 2-litre engine has been dropped, but that’s not a bad thing the 1498cc turbo is a beauty in terms of refinement and economy, and it has power outputs that match the concept of CRV.
Honda has also made some engineering alterations to make the CRV more driveable, notably steering response and stability, the latter contributing to a solid, secure feel on the road, the CRV feels well-attached and communicative.
More importantly, the majority of buyers will be interested in the user-friendly elements that have been built into the newcomer. There’s a increased focus on family travel and what we carry with us, the air conditioning system has been improved, the USB ports up-front are illuminated and relocated for convenience and are fast charging, while a wireless charging pad is now included.
You’d expect nothing less from Honda, it is a people-friendly car builder and the CRV’s reputation has made it a class leader for many years, today it is still commanding sales, keeping it near the top end of the leader board.
The Sport Premium model has all the kit you’d ever need, and at $51,000 it is extending to the price of premium models but it is part of a value range that starts at $39,990 and includes four choices. In-between there’s a Sport 7 (seven seats) at $47,990 and AWD Touring at $43,990.
The Sport Premium wants for nothing, it has full leather with electric front seats (also heated), satellite navigation, keyless entry and ignition, electric sunroof, electric tailgate, and 19in wheels, just to name some of the features that give you an indication of where it sits in the market.
Drive is through a seven-step continuously variable transmission, the engine and gearbox work seamlessly together, there is little to hinder engine power, and response to accelerator request is instant and fluid. There’s no suggestion of turbo lag anywhere, and movement is lively and unyielding.
In terms of performance the CRV is rated at 140kW and 240Nm, the latter figure available all of the way from 2000rpm to 5000rpm almost meeting the point of peak power at 5500rpm, they are the key ingredients when it comes to the constant supply of energy.
The CRVs is responsive and will fulfil all driving styles, it’s capable when required, easily capable of propelling through a highway overtake in 6sec, and promising a 8.7sec time to reach 100km/h from a standstill.
In Sport Premium form there are paddle-shifters which will offer the driver some input into how the CRV gains momentum, or for when speed needs to be chiselled off, they are a great way to enhance engine braking when slowing for a corner or a long descent through the hills.
The CRV is also a well-handling SUV, it feels encouraging from behind the wheel. That’s the benefit of what all-wheel-drive is all about, even though the CRV is effectively a front-driver, power is directed rearwards if grip is threatened or sensors dictate that power rearwards is demanded.
As well as my usual highway loop, I took the test car on a challenging incline and enjoyed its directional accuracy and feel in a corner. A lot of that has to do with the big wheels and new steering settings, it is quite noticeable, information is relayed back willingly to the steering wheel.
Nothing has been compromised in the area where Honda excels as a car maker – fuel usage.
The CRV is rated with a 7.4l/100km combined cycle average, that’s one of the benefits of having small displacement engines, and the turbocharging technique doesn’t jeopardise the way we look at economy in this age where fickle prices could soar at any time.
During my time with the test car it was constantly listing an 8.1/100km average with 5l/100km showing on the readout at a steady 100km/h, the engine largely unstressed working over at just 1900rpm.
Not only has Honda kept the CRV fresh mechanically, it has specification levels that will constantly tempt, there’s also a refresh cosmetically just to keep up with modern design trends. The latter aren’t quite so noticeable but they do enhance appeal.
That’s something Honda has been doing for 23 years with CRV, and it’s a formula that has been very successful and serves to prove that ideas and technology just keep advancing. Today’s CRV is state-of-the-art and represents all that a family car buyer would want.
Check out our full range of Honda vehicles available here.
- Ross Kiddie