2017 Honda CR-V VTi-LX – $44,290
(3.5 / 5)
There are plenty of words you could use to describe the Honda CR-V over the years. Reliable, well-built, spacious – all admirable qualities. But one word that has eluded descriptions of Honda’s staple SUV is “attractive”.
The first CR-V wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t anything the write home about. The second iteration was too dowdy and then each successive version has become less and less good looking.
Ugly’s probably too strong a word, but we’re getting close.
So, when the latest version rocked up and we were handed the keys, we were interested to take a closer look at how it fares under the aesthetic microscope.
While it’s got nothing on the double-chinned CR-V of a few years ago, it’s still just a bit too busy. However, the consensus is that, overall, it’s much easier on the eye.
Let’s have a look inside
As the old saying goes, if you’re inside you don’t have to look at the outside, so let’s step in and see what’s what.
The cabin follows Honda’s current form of angular presentation with quite a few different finishes and some strange ways of doing things.
Witness the fuel and temperature gauges which are simply a backlit band that filters through a slatted slot.
It looks a bit like the lenticular images you see on kids rulers and smacks of cost cutting. Strangely the middle of the instrument cluster is fully digital (and appears to be modelled on a McLaren cluster) so why the gauges couldn’t be something similar is beyond us. That’s the bad.
Here’s what’s good
The build quality is excellent (as you would expect from Honda) and the materials used are mostly all high quality; a few plastics in the lower half are a bit hard, but that’s it.
The soft-touch dashboard with its leatherette finish looks and feels great and even though the infotainment screen appears to sit on top it doesn’t look tacked on.
There’s also enough silver to break up the grey and black monotony.
The seats are wide and quite flat, so smaller folk may feel like they’re floating a bit, but the padding is excellent, and the presentation is very good.
The back seats are likewise wide and flat but the legroom and headroom is outstanding. Compared with the first gen CR-V, this new model is massive.
The boot space is impressive, too. At 522 litres, it’s plenty for loading most cargo, but you have to remember that ours was a five seat model (the VTi-LX only comes with five seats). Seven seat versions lose around 100 litres of that thanks to the extra pews sitting in the boot.
Is it practical?
With the amount of space available, you’d have to say yes, but then you find all the little hidden conveniences.
There’s a binnacle at the bottom of the dash, large cupholders and a huge lidded bin in the centre console that could hold 1.25-litre bottles or wallets, phones, tablets, and just about anything else you want to stash.
You’ll find 12 volt and USB points in the front and two USB outlets in the rear for kids to recharge their mobile devices.
The VTi-LX we tested is also well stocked with other kit. Automated emergency braking (only available on this model, and not others lower down the pecking order), forward collision and lane departure warnings are standard and there’s also a panoramic sunroof, digital radio and LED headlights.
And for those wanting to mirror their smartphones, yes it has Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
How it drives
It has everything everyone wants inside, but how does it drive? Surprisingly very well.
Yes, it has a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which feels like a rubber band when accelerating, but in everyday driving, it does its job well.
What is a surprise is the engine.
It’s a four-cylinder turbo, as you’d expect these days, but unlike Hondas of old, this one is tiny.
At 1.5-litres, it punches way above its weight, making 140kW and 240Nm – outputs unheard of a few years ago.
While there’s is a bit of lag as it builds steam, when called upon to move, the little motor buzzes away and gets the job done.
It accelerates a lot quicker than you’d expect but remember that this is a large car, despite being classified as a medium SUV – there are limits to how quick it will go.
And fuel use? Well, that’s listed at 7.4-litres/100km, but you can expect to consume at least a litre more than that for running around the city.
Thankfully the steering is solid and it turns in well, but again physics dictates that you can’t throw it around like a sports car.
Here’s the deal
If it’s dependable, safe, spacious and modern transport that you want, and you don’t care about acceleration, handling or any other dynamic qualities, then you can’t go too far wrong.
Honda may make some visually “interesting” cars, but they will never, ever let you down. They just get the job done with minimal fuss. Transportation at its simplest.
And at least this CR-V is a bit easier on the eye than its forebears.
Can you take the CR-V off road?
Not really. It’s more designed as city transportation and not as a bush basher. Its all wheel drive system keeps you safe on slippery surfaces, but best stick to flat bitumen and enjoy the drive.