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Honda CR-V 2021 review: VTi-LX AWD off-road test

There’s a confusion of choice in the realm of mid-size SUVs with refreshed ranges becoming available almost as fast as the Prime MInister’s vaccine photo-ops.

The Honda CR-V VTi-LX all-wheel drive tops the model line-up and has a near-$50k price-tag to match – but is it worth that much? Read on.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The five-seater CR-V VTi-LX AWD has a Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $47,490 and that’s also its price as tested. That figure represents a $3200 increase over the previous version. 

Standard features include 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), leather seat trim, heated front seats, electrically-adjustable front seats, adaptive cruise control, panoramic sunroof, roof rails power tailgate, as well as a wireless phone charger, and 19-inch wheels.

Inside is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen. Inside is a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen.

It also has the Honda Sensing suite which includes forward collision warning and auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning

Exterior paint is Ignite Red (metallic) and that’s pretty fetching.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Call me a grumpy ol’ barstool but SUVs, small, medium and large, tend to all look the same – or at least they appear to be slight variations on the one theme. 

That’s not necessarily a bad thing – styling is simply a reflection of what people want, you’d assume – but when all SUVs look quite samey-samey, it does make finding your SUV in a carpark full of them a tad difficult.

The CR-V manages to land on the right side of pleasant. The CR-V manages to land on the right side of pleasant.

The CR-V does manage to land on the right side of pleasant, with a satisfactory exterior and a fresh-feeling interior.

The sunroof is a nice touch; guaranteed hours of fun for observant sky-watching children.

The VTi-LX scores a panoramic sunroof. The VTi-LX scores a panoramic sunroof.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The VTi-LX has the line-up’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine – producing 140kW at 5600rpm and 240Nm at 2000-5000rpm – and that’s matched to a CVT automatic transmission.

The 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo produces 140kW/240Nm. The 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo produces 140kW/240Nm.

That pairing is generally a rather agreeable combination. 

This top-of-the-range CR-V has all-wheel drive.

How practical is the space inside?

The CR-V is 4635mm long (with a 2660mm wheelbase), 1855mm wide, 1689mm high and it weighs 1636kg

The cabin is a nice space – with solid build quality and pleasing fit and finish – but, even with leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, as well as leather-appointed seat trim – it doesn’t quite feel as premium as you’d expect a top-spec vehicle’s interior to feel. 

The front seats are power-adjustable – eight-way driver’s seat, four-way passenger seat – and don’t forget the panoramic sunroof. Nice, if you’re into that sort of thing.

The cabin is a nice space to be in. The cabin is a nice space to be in.

The multimedia touchscreen is clear and colourful, but it’s still too small for my liking and, call me a Luddite, but I struggled with smooth operation of this unit as I did with a previous-gen CR-V. 

Otherwise, upfront there are ample storage spaces, including bottle holders in the doors, and cupholders in front of the centre console, and the centre console itself. 

There are two USB ports upfront, and a wireless phone charger.

The second-row seats are roomy enough and have three top tether points and two ISOFIX points. There is a fold-down arm-rest with are two cup holders, and there are two USB points and air-vent controls in the back of the centre console.

The back has a comfortable amount of head and legroom. The back has a comfortable amount of head and legroom.

I sat behind my driving position and had a comfortable amount of head, leg and knee room.

Rear seat passengers get two USB points and air-vent controls. Rear seat passengers get two USB points and air-vent controls.

Boot space is a claimed 522 litres with the second-row seats in use; that increases to 1658 litres if you load to the roof with those seats down. There is a power socket and tie-down points in the cargo area. 

The CR-V has a full-sized spare stored under the cargo area floor.

  • With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 522 litres. With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 522 litres.
  • Underneath the boot floor is a full-sized spare. Underneath the boot floor is a full-sized spare.

What's it like as a daily driver?

It is a tidy all-round drive with comfortable seating, a flexible engine-and-CVT combination, and not-too-firm suspension.

Steering is nicely weighted and suits a mid-sized SUV wagon which will likely spend the lion’s share of its time in the suburbs or the city.

It is consistent rather than dynamic, which is absolutely fine, and this CR-V has steering-wheel paddle shifters if you want to get energetic with your driving style. 

Ride and handling are rather well sorted with a reliable feel to it all.

The CR-V’s all-wheel-drive system is obviously well worth a mention because, on our wet and wild few days, it worked well on coarse country bitumen and loosely gravelled tracks, yielding a reliably consistent 

Other driver-assist tech, such as LaneWatch (which, when you use the left indicator, shows you what’s back along the left-hand side of the vehicle and which I have, in the past, initially disregarded as a novelty), actually comes in handy.

Otherwise, there is adequate visibility in every direction and when there’s not, you’ll likely be reversing and the rear view camera is sufficiently clear enough that you shouldn’t have any strife if you constantly refer to that as you reverse.

The CR-V rides on 19-inch Michelin Latitude Sport 3 Tyres (235/55R19) and, as mentioned, it has a full-sized alloy spare wheel in the rear. 

The VTi-LX wears 19-inch alloy wheels. The VTi-LX wears 19-inch alloy wheels.

What's it like for touring?

An all-wheel drive system can make or break a vehicle’s reputation. Sure, AWD in something like a CR-V is aimed at giving the driver improved traction in traction-challenged situations, such as on wet black top or rain-splattered gravel tracks, not at turning it into a hard-core rock-crawling beast – because that is certainly not achievable. 

But even a light-duty tourer such as this should have robust enough AWD to help handle slightly tougher conditions than those mentioned above, at a pinch.

And the CR-V does. 

As always, I reckon the owners of city-focussed SUVs would be quite surprised at just how capable their vehicles are – when driven sensibly. Not only is the AWD system fairly well sorted out, but the CR-V has 208mm of ground clearance, so if you have to work your way through some very shallow ruts and muddy potholes, you should be able to avoid smacking the CR-V’s underbody on the dirt.

It drove up and down our steep test hill – a disused section of busted-up bitumen – with low-speed ease, and that was in light rain.

Unbraked towing capacity is a claimed 600kg and braked towing capacity is 1500kg.

How much fuel does it consume?

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The CR-V has a five-star ANCAP rating, based on testing in 2017.

Safety gear includes six airbags (front, side, full-length curtain), two ISOFIX points, three top tether points and the Honda Sensing Suite, which incorporates AEB, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. It also has hill start assist, trailer stability assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, and more.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

It has a five-year unlimited km warranty, six-year rust perforation warranty, and servicing is scheduled at 12 month/10,000km intervals or when the engine oil monitor light illuminates (whichever comes first).

The Honda CR-V VTi-LX AWD is nice to drive, life-friendly and build quality is impressive. 

For a top-spec variant, it does lack some driver-assist tech, but perhaps that’s not a deal-breaking factor for a few of those shopping in this mid-sized SUV realm.

The all-wheel drive system adds some welcome sure-footedness to what is a tidy CR-V package.

$48,500

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Adventure score

3.5/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

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