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Honda CR-V 2020 review: VTi-LX AWD

EXPERT RATING
7
Honda's CR-V is approaching its mid-life crisis, but it's still got a few tricks up its sleeve, including a very spacious and hugely clever interior. On the downside, it is missing a few little safety features, but are those issues enough to knock it out of consideration?

The Honda CR-V is one of those cars that isn't always on my radar. It's been around so long it's almost become part of the automotive scenery.

This version of the CR-V has been in market for nearly three years now and it's the first time since its 2017 launch that I have driven one. Which is probably why it's not top-of-mind, and that's a shame because it's a very cleverly packaged car, even more so when in seven-seater guise.

Unfortunately, and strangely, at the top of the tree, the VTi-LX AWD, which comes with lots of gear and advanced safety, you can't have seven seats. Does that matter? Probably not. Does anyone actually buy the top-of-the-range CR-V? Probably not. Is there a reason for that? Let's find out.

Honda CR-V 2020: VTi-LX (AWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$44,290

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

At $44,290, the CR-V undercuts the top-spec Mazda CX-5 Akera and the next level down GT, wallops half the Volkswagen Tiguan range and matches (or very nearly does) a number of its mid-size competitors. It's also the same price as it was in 2017, which is pretty good going.

Your money gets you 18-inch alloys, an eight-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, front, side and reversing camera, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, electric front seats, fake leather interior (no shame in that), power tailgate, heated and folding rear vision mirrors and a full-size alloy spare wheel.

It comes with auto LED headlights. (image: Peter Anderson) It comes with auto LED headlights. (image: Peter Anderson)

Bizarrely, there are no parking sensors. At all.

The 7.0-inch, matte-finish touchscreen runs Honda's Tron-era graphics software, which works but isn't all that crash-hot to look at. The sat nav is reasonably easy to use but won't set your world alight. Luckily, the screen handles Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also score a tricky safety feature called LaneWatch, which you can read about in the safety section.

Your money gets you 18-inch alloys. (image: Peter Anderson) Your money gets you 18-inch alloys. (image: Peter Anderson)

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

This fifth generation is probably the best-looking CR-V to date, but that doesn't mean it's a pretty car. The wheels at least fill the arches here in the VTi-LX and the chrome guys weren't given too much latitude. This version is very tasteful and a lot less busy than the Doctor Who alien face of the old car. Walk around to the side and it's tall and slabby, but the panels have some nice shapes that disappear in the white of the test car. And the rear features the CR-V's trademark stacked taillights.

When I first drove this car a few years ago, I was impressed by the cabin and I still am. It's beautifully put together and while it isn't as clever as the Civic or HR-V's, it looks clean and modern. The screen is a bit small by today's standards, but that's not a deal breaker. The fake leather is quite nicely wrought and there has clearly been a lot of effort directed at making the interior interesting.

And the rear features the CR-V's trademark stacked taillights. (image: Peter Anderson) And the rear features the CR-V's trademark stacked taillights. (image: Peter Anderson)

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Astonishingly, the new CR-V isn't that much bigger than the first iteration from the mid-90s. It's got a load of room inside, though, for both passengers and gear.

The boot starts with a handy 522 litres - 40 more than a seven-seater with the third-row stowed, so that's a handy bonus, even with a full-size spare underneath. Drop the back seats and you get 1082 litres, which I still believe is a fairly conservative figure.

Rear-seat passengers have a tonne of room, with good space for heads, shoulders knees and toes. (image: Peter Anderson) Rear-seat passengers have a tonne of room, with good space for heads, shoulders knees and toes. (image: Peter Anderson)

Rear-seat passengers have a tonne of room, with good space for heads, shoulders knees and toes. The middle seat is actually usable, too, because the rear floor is close to completely flat, so there isn't a footwell. Honda is good at this sort of thing and all that's missing in the CR-V are the magic seats of the HR-V and Jazz. There are also two USB ports in the back, just under the air-con vents.

Front-seat passengers are also well accommodated, although the seats are a bit hard and over-stuffed. I think they'd come into their own on a long journey but I wasn't hugely enamoured with them. The centre console has a pair of cupholders and a clever sliding tray. When you slide the tray rearwards, it does eat the storage bin under the armrest but it uncovers a great place for your cables (as well as two more USB ports, another 12V and, mystifyingly, an HDMI port). It's quite clever and you can see how it works in the video.

  • The boot starts with a handy 522 litres - 40 more than a seven-seater with the third-row stowed. (image: Peter Anderson) The boot starts with a handy 522 litres - 40 more than a seven-seater with the third-row stowed. (image: Peter Anderson)
  • Drop the back seats and you get 1082 litres, which I still believe is a fairly conservative figure. (image: Peter Anderson) Drop the back seats and you get 1082 litres, which I still believe is a fairly conservative figure. (image: Peter Anderson)

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

Honda's excellent and near-ubiquitous 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo serves up 140kW and 240Nm, excellent numbers for a small engine. This is the kind of powerplant you expect from a Honda, not the weak-kneed 2.0-litre at the bottom of the range.

Sending power to all four wheels (although it's mostly a front-wheel-drive car) is Honda's better-than-average CVT. It's better than, say, the one in the Nissan/Renault cars and a damn sight better calibrated than Subaru's, yet it still doesn't really suit the engine.

Honda's excellent and near-ubiquitous 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo serves up 140kW and 240Nm. (image: Peter Anderson) Honda's excellent and near-ubiquitous 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo serves up 140kW and 240Nm. (image: Peter Anderson)

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

The CR-V's claimed drinking figure of 7.4L/100km seemed a distant possibility in my week with the car. We scored 12.4L/100km, which isn't what you'd call a good result, but at least it uses standard unleaded rather than the pricey premium stuff.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

Along with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, the VTi-LX features Honda Sensing. This adds forward collision warning, forward AEB, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, road-departure warning (lateral not vertical, one imagines) and LaneWatch.

That last feature is very clever - a camera on the left-hand wing mirrors fills in the blind spot for you. Hit the button on the stalk or just indicate left and the camera beams a live view of the left-hand side of the car in to the media screen. It's very clever and very useful.

It comes with a full-size alloy spare wheel. (image: Peter Anderson) It comes with a full-size alloy spare wheel. (image: Peter Anderson)

What isn't clever is the lack of blind-spot monitoring, reverse cross traffic alert and parking sensors.

ANCAP awarded the CR-V a five-star ANCAP rating in October 2017.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Honda has joined the five-year warranty club with unlimited kilometres, which is nice. Sometimes the company runs a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre promotion, so keep an eye out for that.

Honda's Tailored Servicing program is a remarkably consistent $312 per service for 10 services. There is tiny catch - service intervals weigh in at 12 months/10,000km, so 100,000km of servicing will set you back $3120. If you average around 15,000km, like most Australians, three years of servicing will be around $1248, plus a few extras like filters, diff fluid and so forth.

And really, the 100,000km service is never going to be $312 - Honda has the cheek to charge $274 of parts and labour to replace the spark plugs.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The CR-V is definitely a very American-feeling car. The suspension is soft and pliable, sailing over most of our crappy road network with the odd distant thunk for the worst of it. Those sharp rubber speed bumps upset it a little, but apart from that, there's little to fault.

Turn the mostly-dead wheel and the light steering assistance reinforces that US-inspired feel. And then you really know all about it as the body gently rolls into the corner. It's not terrible - not even slightly - but if you back-to-back the Honda with a CX-5 or a Tiguan or Kia Sportage, you'll notice it. All of those cars move the dial towards the middle of the ride and handling scale, while the Honda sticks closer to comfort.

So around the suburbs and ex-urbs, the Honda is very comfortable. Despite the engine outputs, the CVT and 1700-plus kilo kerb weight conspire against brisk progress. A flattened throttle sends the engine to the top third of the rev counter and the CVT gradually catches up with the idea you want it to get moving. It's the only time the car is anything other than composed and quiet.

It's not fair that I always forget the CR-V because it is a very decent mid-size SUV. (image: Peter Anderson) It's not fair that I always forget the CR-V because it is a very decent mid-size SUV. (image: Peter Anderson)

Whether it's in town or on the open road, the CR-V - as long as you're not asking too much of the engine - is super-quiet. Suspension, tyre and wind noise are all distant things, happening to other people. Part of the reason it's so quiet is that the cabin is one giant big pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

The CR-V has a really good driving position if you like feeling up high, but with a sedan-like feel to the relationship between pedals and wheel. I'm not entirely certain I ever got completely comfortable, as I needed a bit more telescopic travel and the seat itself was also a bit firm.

Verdict

It's not fair that I always forget the CR-V because it is a very decent mid-size SUV. It has acres of space, playing to a very city-centric audience. It packs a lot of room into a footprint barely larger than its own predecessors, let alone its competition.

The price is perhaps a little on the stiff side, so a quick check of the VTi-S AWD might make a bit more sense. But if you want all that space and are happy to sacrifice that for a few of life's little luxuries, there are worse choices to make.

Do the Honda CR-V's advantages outweigh its disadvantages?

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
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Safety7
Ownership7
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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