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Honda CR-V 2020 review: VTi-L7

EXPERT RATING
7.4
The Honda CR-V range consists of many different options, and unlike some of its key rivals - namely the RAV4 and CX-5 - the CR-V comes with seven-seat options, too. But there are some caveats when choosing a seven-seat CR-V. And they could make you think twice about shelling out your hard-earned cash on one. Intrigued? Read the full detailed review!

The Honda CR-V range has been bolstered and renamed in recent times, and here we have our first interaction with the newly monikered CR-V VTi-L7.

It used to be called the VTi-L. But because it's a seven-seater, Honda decided it should show that in its name. The same is true for the VTi-E7, which is the more affordable version of a Honda seven seat CR-V.

This one is the plusher, more upmarket model. It comes in under forty grand, but there are some issues with the way this variant - and all CR-V models without all-wheel drive - are specced. Read on to find out more.

Honda CR-V 2020: VTi-L7 (2WD)
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$38,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The fact that Honda can somehow squeeze seven seats - with room for seven actual people - into a body this compact is a testament to the brand's clever packaging philosophy.

The CR-V dimensions don't chance whether you're buying the five-seat or seven-seat model. It measures 4596mm long (on a 2660mm wheelbase), 1855mm wide and 1679mm tall. For reference, the length of a CR-V is more than a ruler shorter than a Toyota Corolla sedan. That's truly amazing considering there are seven seats in here.

Of course that comes down to the tall, square body of the CR-V, which - unlike some competitors - is unashamedly focused on practicality.

  • The length of a CR-V is more than a ruler shorter than a Toyota Corolla sedan. That’s truly amazing considering there are seven seats in here. (image: Matt Campbell) The length of a CR-V is more than a ruler shorter than a Toyota Corolla sedan. That’s truly amazing considering there are seven seats in here. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • The tall, square body of the CR-V is unashamedly focused on practicality. (image: Matt Campbell) The tall, square body of the CR-V is unashamedly focused on practicality. (image: Matt Campbell)

The interior design is a key part of that focus, and the CR-V has some things are dreamy for parents and grandparents - like rear doors that open almost to right angles, allowing for very easy access to the back seats (but could also lead to unintended door dings in car parks if enthusiastic youngsters fling them open with force).

There are also five child seat attachment points for the rear five seats. The third-row features top-tether only points, which are off to the side of the boot so you still have usable cargo space with the rearmost seats in play.

But on the flipside, the top-tether points for the second row are located in the ceiling of the boot area, meaning you have to run straps through the head-space of the third row to secure the seats in place, essentially rendering that back row as unusable if the second-row is kitted out for kids seats. Of course there are dual ISOFIX outboard anchors as well, but Australian legislation requires top straps be fitted in addition to ISOFIX.

The interior design is a key part of that focus, and the CR-V has some things are dreamy for parents and grandparents. (image: Matt Campbell) The interior design is a key part of that focus, and the CR-V has some things are dreamy for parents and grandparents. (image: Matt Campbell)

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

I already covered off some of the third-row design considerations in that section, but how does that all translate to the space on offer?

I'm 182cm and I (just) fit in all three rows.

In the very back seats the headroom is the main issue. I struggled to fit in the back row sitting upright, my neck was cricked to the side in order to fit. But smaller adults or children shouldn't have too much of an issue back there, as the width, kneeroom and toe room was adequate for short trips. There are some bottle holders in the back, and there are rear air vents and a fan controller for those in the back.

The steering wheel is nice and neat, the driver info screen is a fully digital affair - there’s a digital speedometer, fuel readout, and trip computer. (image: Matt Campbell) The steering wheel is nice and neat, the driver info screen is a fully digital affair - there’s a digital speedometer, fuel readout, and trip computer. (image: Matt Campbell)

Third-row access is decent, as the middle-row seats flip and tumble forward (60:40 split, with the smaller section thankfully on the kerbside). They also slide to allow access, but that might be difficult if you have a child seat fitted.

I can't stress enough how much having the top-tether points in the roof section will annoy you if you regularly use the third row. Many competitors have the top tether anchor integrated into the back of the middle-row seat, and they also have sliding functionality which is, quite simply, a better way of doing it.

In the second row, there's decent leg room, toe room and head room, even with a large sunroof. Amenities are good, with dual map pockets, a pair of directional air vents, a flip down armrest with a pair of cup holders, and bottle holders in the doors too.

  • In the second row, there’s decent leg room, toe room and head room, even with a large sunroof. (image: Matt Campbell) In the second row, there’s decent leg room, toe room and head room, even with a large sunroof. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • I can’t stress enough how much having the top-tether points in the roof section will annoy you if you regularly use the third row. (image: Matt Campbell) I can’t stress enough how much having the top-tether points in the roof section will annoy you if you regularly use the third row. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • There are rear air vents and a fan controller for those in the back. (image: Matt Campbell) There are rear air vents and a fan controller for those in the back. (image: Matt Campbell)

And then up front there's exceptional practicality, with a huge centre console section with a secondary section below the cup holders. There's also a covered bin, plus another storage section in front of the cup holders below the high-mounted gear selector, big door pockets with bottle holders, and a pair of small storage slots either side of the gear selector box, too.

The steering wheel is nice and neat, the driver info screen is a fully digital affair - there's a digital speedometer, fuel readout, and trip computer. It takes a bit of learning to get the controls down pat using the steering wheel buttons, but there's a bit going on.

The media screen is a 7.0-inch touch-capacitive unit, which is getting to be on the small side by today's standards. It has the stuff you'd expect, though, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, sat nav and digital radio all included. It's a bit of an old-school display and the menus are fine but not super intuitive, and the screen doubles as a display for the reversing camera and Honda's proprietary LaneWatch side-view system.

  • As for boot space or cargo capacity, there’s 150 litres (VDA) of luggage space with all the rear seats in play. (image: Matt Campbell) As for boot space or cargo capacity, there’s 150 litres (VDA) of luggage space with all the rear seats in play. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • That increases to 472L in five-seat layout. (image: Matt Campbell) That increases to 472L in five-seat layout. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • Fold down all the rear seats and you’ve got 967L of room to the window line. (image: Matt Campbell) Fold down all the rear seats and you’ve got 967L of room to the window line. (image: Matt Campbell)

If you're wondering about charging, there are four USB ports (two front, two rear) and there's even a HDMI input. The sound system has eight speakers, and the quality is pretty good, too.

As for boot space or cargo capacity, there's 150 litres (VDA) of luggage space with all the rear seats in play - or enough for school bags or some shopping - and that increases to 472L in five-seat layout (suitcases, sporting gear, a pram - and maybe even all at once!). Fold down all the rear seats and you've got 967L of room to the window line, and a lot more if you dare load up above that line.

There's a movable rear floor section that gives you a level playing field if you need it when storing long items, and under the boot floor (and the third-row seats) there's even a full-size alloy spare wheel. Neat!

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The Honda CR-V range - like most midsize SUVs - traverses a fairly broad price list. The cheapest CR-V you can get - the Vi five-seater - has a list price of just $28,290 (plus on-road costs), while the dearest is the VTi-LX five-seater at $44,290.

This model falls at the higher end of the range, with the VTi-L7 coming at a RRP/MSRP of $38,990 plus on-road costs.

So, what do you get for your money? The standard equipment list includes: a panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, auto headlights (halogen) with LED daytime running lights, dual zone climate control, electric driver's seat adjustment with memory settings, leather seat trim, paddle shifters, heated front seats, sat nav, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

It comes with 18-inch alloy wheels. (image: Matt Campbell) It comes with 18-inch alloy wheels. (image: Matt Campbell)

And look, you might be wondering if there is a cheaper seven-seat CR-V available - the answer is yes, and it's called VTi-E7. It costs $34,490 and is the only other seven seater in the CR-V range.

You still get all seven seats covered in leather-appointed trim, 18-inch wheels, electric driver's seat adjustment (no memory settings), the same media screen (but without navigation), and a manual boot lid, reversing camera and rear parking sensors. I'd recommend you buy the VTi-E7 spec if you really want a CR-V 7 seater, because the stuf the L7 adds is nice, but not really necessary.

Colour options include pearlescent finishes Passion Red, Platinum White and Crystal Black, as well as metallic options in Brilliant Sporty Blue, Lunar Silver and Modern Steel grey. The really good news is that all of the colour options (or color, if that's how you spell it where you're reading this) are free. Yep, $0!

The media screen is a 7.0-inch touch-capacitive unit, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, sat nav and digital radio all included. (image: Matt Campbell) The media screen is a 7.0-inch touch-capacitive unit, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, sat nav and digital radio all included. (image: Matt Campbell)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

This grade of Honda CR-V - like all but the base model - comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.

Want to know engine specs? The power output is 140kW (at 5600rpm) and the torque figure is 240Nm (at 2000-5000rpm). Not quite a horsepower hero, but better than adequate outputs nonetheless.

As with all CR-Vs the gearbox is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto, which isn't to all tastes but is a good pairing with this powerplant.

This grade of Honda CR-V - like all but the base model - comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. (image: Matt Campbell) This grade of Honda CR-V - like all but the base model - comes with a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. (image: Matt Campbell)

The model you choose in the CR-V range will determine if it comes in two-wheel drive (2WD)/front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). This one is a 2WD.

Towing capacity is 600kg for an unbraked trailer, and 1000kg for a braked trailer for all seven-seat CR-V models (and, according to Honda Australia's site, that figure is "with seven seats occupied" - but the onus is on the driver to ensure the gross combination mass, or GCM, doesn't exceed 3300kg). Five-seat CR-V models offer 600kg unbraked/1500kg braked towing capacity. 

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Claimed fuel consumption on the combined test cycle, according to Honda, is 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres. It has an eco mode (Econ, as Honda calls it) that dulls the throttle a bit and aims for better fuel use, and that mode was engaged the entire time for my test, as I didn't feel I needed extra engine grunt at all.

That was all the more impressive as I did more than 600km in the CR-V, most of which was highway driving (including a loop west over the Blue Mountains and back!), and bettered that claim, with 7.0L/100km displayed on test.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

As mentioned above, my drive time was largely out of town - but I was impressed, as always, with the CR-V in all situations.

It's such a competent mid-size SUV, one that is perfectly suited to family buyers who want a comfortable car that's quiet and easy to live with. I really think it is one of the best in the class in terms of balancing comfort and control. It's arguably more comfortable than a CX-5, Tucson or RAV4, and more controlled than a Forester, X-Trail or Outlander.

The suspension is well sorted, with a ride quality that is very well resolved, very comfortable for both the driver and passengers, and yet it still handles quite nicely too, with direct and enjoyable steering that is both quick to respond, and easy to judge. Some people might find it's a little too darty, but you get used to it - trust me.

Up front there’s exceptional practicality. (image: Matt Campbell) Up front there’s exceptional practicality. (image: Matt Campbell)

The engine and transmission work well together, though the transmission can rob you of some of the joy of the turbo engine's thrust. The engine does offer a good dollop of grunt in Econ mode, you just need to get to the throttle detent (that section midway down the throttle travel where it goes from measured response to more urgent acceleration) to take advantage of it.

It's very refined, very quiet, and very impressive. I'd happily do long distance driving in a CR-V on a regular basis, and it's also adept at urban driving duties: it's easy to park, deals well with slow-speed bumps and lumps, and the drive experience is pretty relaxing overall.

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

Safety is where the 2WD versions of the CR-V fall down most dramatically. That's because no 2WD CR-V has any form of auto emergency braking, nor any of the clever advanced safety tech that you might expect for a family-focused SUV.

That might seem at odds with the car's ANCAP crash test score - it managed to get a maximum five-star rating back in 2017, when the criteria didn't require AEB to manage that feat.

As such, this 2WD CR-V (and all the other 2WD models in the range) are well behind the eight ball for active safety assistance. As mentioned, no AEB, no lane departure warning, no lane keeping assistance, no blind spot warning, no rear cross-traffic, no front cross-traffic, no rear AEB, no adaptive cruise control… the list of missing stuff is pretty long.

It has auto headlights (halogen) with LED daytime running lights. (image: Matt Campbell) It has auto headlights (halogen) with LED daytime running lights. (image: Matt Campbell)

You do get Honda's LaneWatch system, a camera-based left-side monitor that acts like blind-spot warning, but it doesn't warn you, rather it only shows what is in your blind spot on the media screen.

There is a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, electronic stability control, hill start assist, and six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain - including third-row coverage).

The thing is, if you don't need seven seats, then you could get a much safer CR-V. The all-wheel drive VTi-S model, for instance, is cheaper than this VTi-L7, and gets AEB, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, auto high-beam, and adaptive cruise. So you really need to consider whether seven seats is vital when making your decision.

The CR-V dimensions don’t chance whether you’re buying the five-seat or seven-seat model. (image: Matt Campbell) The CR-V dimensions don’t chance whether you’re buying the five-seat or seven-seat model. (image: Matt Campbell)

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

Honda covers all of its new models with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. That's par for the course these days, but the brand has dabbled in promotional seven-year warranty cover. Hit up the dealer to see if your purchase is eligible for this extended warranty.

And the company also has a capped price service plan, which runs out to up to 10 years. Service intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km, which is a bit more regular than most rivals (which have annual/15,000km intervals).

There’s a movable rear floor section, and under the boot floor (and the third-row seats) there’s even a full-size alloy spare wheel. (image: Matt Campbell) There’s a movable rear floor section, and under the boot floor (and the third-row seats) there’s even a full-size alloy spare wheel. (image: Matt Campbell)

The basic cost per maintenance visit is $312, which is pretty affordable for this class of vehicle, but that is before you factor in some additional consumables such as the cabin air filter ($45, every 24 months/30,000km), brake fluid ($58, every 36 months), transmission fluid ($172, every 36 months/40,000km), air cleaner element ($55, every 60,000km) and spark plugs ($274, every 100,000km).

When it comes to roadside assistance, Honda offers all new car buyers five years of coverage (or seven years if you get a seven-year warranty plan).

Verdict

The Honda CR-V VTi-L7 is a really nice midsize family SUV let down by a lack of active safety equipment. It has been disappointingly left behind its competitors on that front, and while it isn't “unsafe”, you need to know that rival SUVs offer considerably better safety gear than it, and that could be enough to sway your decision.

A shame, really. Because otherwise it's fairly brilliant.

Would a lack of safety gear rule out a particular model for you? Tell us what you think in the comments section 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*
50 YEARS EDITION 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $32,090 2020 Honda CR-V 2020 50 YEARS EDITION Pricing and Specs
Vi (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $28,290 2020 Honda CR-V 2020 Vi (2WD) Pricing and Specs
VTi (2WD) 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $30,690 2020 Honda CR-V 2020 VTi (2WD) Pricing and Specs
VTi-E7 (2WD) 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $34,490 2020 Honda CR-V 2020 VTi-E7 (2WD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.4
Design8
Practicality8
Price and features7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety6
Ownership8
Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

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