The Honda CRV, a simply magical ride

Price: Honda CRV S - $33,990
Engine: Four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, 1998cc, 113kW, 189Nm, continuously variable automatic.
Fuel and economy: 7.6l / 100km
Dimensions: Length, 4596mm; width, 1855mm; height, 1679mm


Cars are always a great conversation starter.

The other day a former work colleague came into the office meeting up with old acquaintances. We had a bit of a chat and he asked me what I had driven lately, I responded, and then asked what he was driving.

He answered by saying he was in a company-supplied sport utility vehicle but was anxious that it would be replaced soon with a sedan. He said he liked the SUV and felt that a traditional sedan wouldn’t measure up – literally.

That’s part of the reason why the SUV market is so buoyant, they are practical, functional and mostly car-like to drive, it’s easy to become attached to that type of transport.

One of the models that kick-started the SUV revolution was Honda’s CRV, that was around 1996, and since then it has gone through several life-cycles and facelifts. The CRV has just been upgraded and there is now the choice of a seven-seat version which will excite the traditional CRV buyer who has occasionally craved for extra seats.

The CRV lands here in several variations – starting at $33,990 and ending at $48,990. Interestingly, the five-seat S model, as evaluated, gets a 2-litre, single-camshaft, naturally-aspirated engine, and while that’s not unusual in an SUV, what is surprising is that it is the only model in the range that doesn’t get Honda’s new turbocharged 1.5-litre engine that has gained quite a reputation in this part of the market.

As opposed to the four-wheel-drive system of its stablemates, the entry-level model is also front-drive only, yet that would suit me, I’m not big on off-the-seal travel, and if you treat it with respect it will provide most of the fundamentals mid-size SUV buyers are looking for.

As you would expect from the Honda manufacturing process, the CRV is clinical in terms of interior design, comfort and function. The trim elements are high grade and the specification level is high.

The CRV S is rated at 113kW and 189Nm. Honda also claims a 7.6-litre per 100km (37mpg) combined cycle fuel usage rating. That’s a healthy target and is indicative of the Honda goal of reducing fuel use. I saw that as a benchmark during my time with the test car, and instead of exploring power I concentrated on trying to meet that average fuel use figure. I couldn’t, but I did get close at 8.2l/100km (35mpg) with a 6l/100km (47mpg) figure sitting at 100km/h.

The engine is turning over at just 1800rpm at that speed, which isn’t working hard, and that contributes to the thrifty way in which it operates.

Drive is channelled through a continuously variable automatic transmission. It allows the engine to work at the area of maximum efficiency, it draws on as much torque as it can so that the engine isn’t loaded unnecessarily.

Of course, there are drive modes which the driver can choose for each given journey. The default mode is normal, but eco and sport modes can be selected at will.

As mentioned, I didn’t explore sport mode other than a short highway burst, and it will stimulate the engine so that it feels peaky and responsive. The opposite applies in eco mode, the throttle is numb and dull; however, if you are prepared for that, fuel savings in that mode are generous.

Cruising the long straight roads of the Canterbury Plains, the CRV feels lithe yet involving from behind the wheel. In S specification it rides on 235/65 x 17in Good Year tyres and they help contribute to the strong steering feel and accurate corner turn-in.

The CRV sits high at almost 1.7m so there is a bit of gravitational movement over the suspension, but as a by-product of having a four-wheel-drive option, even the front-drive CRV gets a fully independent set-up underneath, and that has both ride and handling benefits. Comfort levels are extraordinarily high, the suspension willingly absorbs bumps and ruts, just floating over uneven surfaces. This is one aspect that the CRV excels in, it simply has a magical ride.

Honda has had to work hard to keep the CRV a desirable purchase. There’s so much competition in the mid-size SUV market, but I’m pleased to report that it is still a front-runner and will constantly please those who relate to all that it represents.

-Ross Kiddie