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Honda CR-V 2019 review: Vi

EXPERT RATING
7
Honda's own research said it needed a CR-V costing under $30k. But have they stripped out too much to make it a good buy?

The Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail all have quite a bit in common.

They’re all SUVs, they are all similarly priced, and they all sold more than the Honda CR-V this year.

In fact, after those three (in that order) plus the Hyundai Tucson and Mitsubishi Outlander, the CR-V falls in fifth position on the pantheon of Australia’s highest selling SUVs. No doubt, Honda wold like to close that gap and edge back toward the podium, reclaiming its once proudly held spot among Australia’s top three selling SUVs.

So, Honda did some research and found customers wanted a CR-V for under $30k. A tough ask, considering most SUVs start at $30,500 plus, but not impossible, as Honda is now offering the car reviewed here.

It’s a Honda CR-V Vi, and it comes in at an impressive-sounding list-price of $28,290. But has Honda stripped too much out of the CR-V to get it under the magic $30k number? Read on to find out.

Honda CR-V 2019: Vi (2WD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$28,290

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

One thing you’ll notice immediately is that, at least from the outside, it’s genuinely hard to tell the CR-V Vi is a base-model. There are no steel wheels as you'll see on the RAV4 GX, no plastic hubcaps like the Tucson Go's, no naff black plastic doorhandles or wing-mirrors, The Vi greets you with almost all the visual splendour of a $16k more expensive top-spec VTi-LX.

The Vi looks like a lot more than a sub-$30k offering from the outside. The Vi looks like a lot more than a sub-$30k offering from the outside.

The Vi scores two-tone 17-inch alloy wheels, LED DRLs and all the chrome highlights and the nice red paint on our test car doesn’t cost you a cent extra.

From a design point of view, the inside isn’t bad at all either. The Vi scores pretty much the same visual treatment you’d get across the rest of the CR-V range, albeit with some significantly worse materials.

The Vi looks good on the inside too, but is let down by some average material choices. The Vi looks good on the inside too, but is let down by some average material choices.

The steering wheel for example is a cruddy plastic resin, which is a definite step down from the chunky leather-bound alternative available in the rest of the range, the seat material is made of a slightly abrasive synthetic weave which looked fine, but could be nicer to sit in. And the same material was used in the arm-rests of the doors, which became less than comfortable over the course of a long drive.

Thankfully (and inexplicably) the Vi maintained a plush leather insert for resting your knee on the inside of the transmission tunnel.  A welcome but odd refinement given the leather door trim was stripped out.

Aside from a sad looking 5.0-inch multimedia screen, the rest of the dash was made of the same good-looking and hard-wearing materials as the rest of the range.

No steel wheels or cheap black plastic fittings for handles or housings. The Vi looks impressive. No steel wheels or cheap black plastic fittings for handles or housings. The Vi looks impressive.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

Yes, the Vi is $2400 less than the next rung up in the range, the VTi, but there are a couple of good reasons why that difference would be money well spent.

The elephant in the… uh… cabin is the 5.0-inch multimedia screen. Tiny, controlled with dials and buttons, and not supporting Apple CarPlay or Android Auto it’s a blast from the past in the worst possible way. It may as well be black and white. It stands as by long and far one of the worst multimedia units I’ve used in a car built after 2015.

The multimedia screen is one of the biggest let-downs in the Vi. Especially since better units are available in base-model competitors. The multimedia screen is one of the biggest let-downs in the Vi. Especially since better units are available in base-model competitors.

It does have Bluetooth connectivity, although I couldn’t seem to get it to sync contacts from my phone, so it was only really good for receiving calls and useless for making them. Am I too coddled by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? Maybe. Should this system be idiot-proof anyway? Yes, definitely.

To contrast that, the Vi has a fantastic, entirely digital dash cluster with big legible fonts and dials as well as a good frame-rate, plus some other usually high-spec features like an electric parking brake with hill hold and a reversing camera. 

A fully digital dash is a welcome inclusion in an entry-level SUV. A fully digital dash is a welcome inclusion in an entry-level SUV.

It’s a strange blend of equipment in the cockpit for sure, but these features are standard across the rest of the CR-V range leading me to suspect it would have cost Honda more to put basic equipment in just one grade.

While the plastic steering wheel is less enjoyable to wrangle than its leather-bound counterparts in higher spec levels, it still maintains a slew of simple and useful buttons which control the functions of the multimedia system and digital dashboard.

The halogen headlights are okay in an SUV this price, but there's no auto function. Annoying in any 2018 car. The halogen headlights are okay in an SUV this price, but there's no auto function. Annoying in any 2018 car.

That’s about it really. It doesn’t have keyless entry or push-start, but most disappointingly, there isn’t even auto headlights function…  A nice addition, however, is the full-size matching alloy spare wheel under the boot floor.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Even in Vi spec, the CR-V is still one of the more practical SUVs in this class. As should be immediately apparent from the huge interior space.

The available boot volume is leagues above the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson at 522 litres (VDA), the boot floor folds completely flat despite the presence of a full-size spare and there are nifty seat release handles in the sidewalls, so you don’t have to reach across the length of it to put the seats down. 

The CR-V's boot is one of the largest in the class, despite offering an alloy spare. The CR-V's boot is one of the largest in the class, despite offering an alloy spare.

The Toyota RAV4 does best the CR-V on space, with 550L on offer, but only comes with a space-saver spare wheel.

The seats almost fold fully-flat offering a large, practical space suited to moving furniture. The seats almost fold fully-flat offering a large, practical space suited to moving furniture.

Up front there are some neat and weird practicality bits. The centre console, for example, is super deep much like the Civic’s, but features a removable platform so you can transform it into a two-tiered arrangement. It also houses a slew of ports, including two USB ports, a 12-volt and an auxiliary in socket.

There are also nicely-sized cupholders here which match the equally-well-shaped ones in the front and back doors.

These quick-release handles in the boot for lowering the back seat are one of the CR-Vs many family-friendly touches. These quick-release handles in the boot for lowering the back seat are one of the CR-Vs many family-friendly touches.

Thanks to the absence of a raised centre console, the storage continues underneath featuring a small trench under the air conditioning controls which is perfect for your phone or wallet.

In the roof there is a sunglass holder which also has a wide-angle mirror built into it for keeping a watchful spare eye on back seat occupants, a handy addition for family buyers.

The ample legroom and rear air-conditioning vents meant to complaints from my weekend passengers. The ample legroom and rear air-conditioning vents meant to complaints from my weekend passengers.

In terms of rear occupant space, there’s leagues of legroom behind my driving position, and I received no complaints from my passengers over the weekend. There are also two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points back there.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

Unlike the rest of the CR-V range which features a surprisingly punchy high-tech 1.5-litre turbo, the Vi makes do with a rather old-fashioned single-overhead cam 2.0-litre non-turbo. 

It produces a pretty average 113kW/189Nm which is less than most competitors (save for the lacklustre 2.0L engine in the base RAV4…) and is mated only to a Continuously Variable transmission (CVT).

While thrashy 2.0-litre engines are common in base-model mid-size SUVs like this, I felt more wanting for power in the CR-V than I have before in the Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5

The Vi is the only CR-V in the range with a 2.0-litre non-turbo. It doesn't feel as punchy as the 1.5-litre turbo. The Vi is the only CR-V in the range with a 2.0-litre non-turbo. It doesn't feel as punchy as the 1.5-litre turbo.

With only a few Nm of torque difference between them, the only difference that could tarnish the experience is the CVT. 

Both the CX-5 and Tucson benefit from six-speed torque converter transmissions, which seem to do a better job of extracting the best characteristics out of engines like this.

The Vi is front-wheel drive only.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Despite the 2.0L feeling a bit thrashy, over a week of truly combined usage – involving both the 9-5 traffic run and a 400km round-trip to Nowra on the freeway – I returned a fuel figure of 7.4L/100km.

To my surprise, this was actually below Honda’s combined estimate of 7.6L/100km. Sure, you might not be doing a 400km road trip every weekend but expect more like 8.0-9.0L/100km for fully suburban usage.

Not bad for a heavy SUV. For the record, the 1.5 turbo in higher grades will roughly match it. I returned 8.0L/100km on my recent test of the top-spec VTi-LX

The Vi happily drinks 91RON regular unleaded to fill its 57-litre tank.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

I’d describe the power delivery from the Vi’s 2.0L as smooth, if a little underwhelming.

While it sometimes feels like the engine is revving hard, the CVT does its best to smooth the experience from behind the wheel. As I said in the engine & transmission segment however, you can feel the small difference in pulling power between this car and some of its competitors.

In terms of ride quality, the CR-V has a softer ride than both the Tucson and CX-5. It’s not sporty at all, but it is really very comfortable even on some of Sydney’s worst road surfaces. The base Vi rides on 17-inch alloys and gigantic tyres, which helps with both ride and road noise.

The ride is more comfort-focused than sporty. The ride is more comfort-focused than sporty.

While you and your passengers might enjoy the comfort this offers, it feels more cumbersome than its key competitors in the corners. While the CX-5 feels light and nimble, you can really feel the full weight of the CR-V as it tilts into corners.

The steering is also light compared to both the CX-5 and Tucson, but still offers a decent amount of feel.

Its set-up is probably one of the best as solely a comfortable family hauler in the segment, but those looking for a little more engagement behind the wheel should at least try a CX-5 or Tucson.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

One of the biggest downsides on the Vi is the complete lack of expected active safety features.

While competitors are now offering at least auto emergency braking (AEB) across their ranges, Honda only offers now-essential items like AEB, blind spot monitoring (BSM), lane-keep assist (LKAS) rear cross traffic alert (RCTA) and active cruise control on the top-spec VTi-LX.

Like the rest of the CR-V range, the Vi carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, but the CR-V has not been tested to the current, more stringent ANCAP standards which expect the inclusion of active safety items.

Alongside the standard array of airbags and stability controls, the Vi does have the welcome inclusion of a reversing camera. It has a nice frame-rate, but the resolution is hampered by the terrible media screen.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Honda’s warranty now stands at five-years/unlimited kilometres which is miles better than Toyota’s ancient three-year offering, but about standard compared to other competitors apart from the Kia Sportage and its class-leading seven-year warranty.

Servicing is expected once a year or 10,000km and prices are fixed at just $295 a visit. There is a little extra to spend at 24 months to replace ‘HCF – 2 Fluid’ ($187) and at 100,000km you’ll need to replace the spark plugs ($271).

Verdict

The CR-V Vi is a great entry-level comfort-focused mid-size SUV… at least on the surface. Scratch a little deeper and its not hard to justify the extra spend to go a rung up to the VTi or start looking across at some very good competitors, especially if active safety is a high priority.

It does look amazing and offers all the practicality of the CR-V range - with cheap running costs to boot - but the lack of basic amenities such as auto lights and a decent multimedia screen are a real let down in a tough segment.

Does it matter that the CR-V Vi gets in under $30k, or are you willing to spend a little extra for a lot more? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$36,290
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$28,290
Highest Price
$44,290

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
+SPORT (2WD) 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $32,490 2019 Honda CR-V 2019 +SPORT (2WD) Pricing and Specs
50 YEARS EDITION 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $32,090 2019 Honda CR-V 2019 50 YEARS EDITION Pricing and Specs
Vi (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $28,290 2019 Honda CR-V 2019 Vi (2WD) Pricing and Specs
VTi (2WD) 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $30,690 2019 Honda CR-V 2019 VTi (2WD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Design8
Price and features6
Practicality8
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety6
Ownership8
Tom White
Journalist

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