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Honda CR-V VTi-S 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.6
The Honda CR-V's popularity may have been usurped by younger competitors from many corners, but it's an old, experienced hand in this segment, and its latest iteration shows it's still got talent.

Think of the Honda CR-V as Britney Spears. Initially endearing, it only started to run out of puff in the popularity stakes once younger competitors started coming on stream. Fortunately, unlike Britney, the Honda isn't about to fade thankfully from view just yet.

The old CR-V, the fourth generation, was solid if uninspiring, with that key Honda trait of a clever, spacious interior and that other, tone-deaf Honda trait from the early 2010s of dull engine and transmission combinations.

Now in its 20th year on sale, the new CR-V is here to revive its fortunes in a far more complex and busy marketplace than its great-great-grandfather could have contemplated (if cars could contemplate at all). And with a new turbo engine singing a new tune, it might even be a bit more exciting. Here's hoping.

Honda CR-V 2017: VTi-S (2WD)
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$29,800

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

The CR-V comes in a number of flavours, more than ever, in fact, with the snazzy new seven-seat option. The range opens with a front-wheel-drive VTi at $30,690, and continues through the VTi-S to the VTi-S AWD for $35,490. The VTi-L is the first to sprout a third row (big news for the new CR-V and for the segment). The VTi-L loses AWD, before it reappears on the seven-seat VTi-LX at $44,290.

Mine for the week was the five-seater VTi-S front-wheel driver at $33,290. For that you'll receive Honda's mid-sizer rolling on 18-inch alloys, with an eight-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, LaneWatch camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, sat nav, auto headlights and wipers, leather steering wheel, electric tailgate, power everything and a full-size spare.

All seven colours are available gratis (hooray) and there are no factory options.

The media system is controlled through a touchscreen that features a pretty frustrating set of of blocky, mid-90s graphics that are little short of daggy. Things aren't particularly well-grouped and it's all fairly amateur. Thankfully, it doesn't matter, because the crystal-clear screen can also run Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A series of shortcut buttons down the side of the Audi-like panel mean you never really need to use the base software if you don't want to. And glory be, there's a proper volume control knob. Another very clever feature is that when you activate Siri to ask it to do something, the fan speed drops to get out of your voice's way. I don't know why that tickled me so, but it's pretty cool, and clever.

  • Everything you touch feels soft and inviting and looks good. Everything you touch feels soft and inviting and looks good.
  • The 2017 CR-V VTi-S comes with auto headlights. The 2017 CR-V VTi-S comes with auto headlights.
  • The crystal-clear touchscreen can run Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The crystal-clear touchscreen can run Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • The full-size spare on the 2017 CR-V VTi-S. The full-size spare on the 2017 CR-V VTi-S.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The fourth-generation was one of a long line of almost-but-not-quite styling efforts. The front was a wild jungle of angles and chrome and more lines than a Shakespeare tragedy, all crammed into a busy nose with gigantic cartoon headlights. It got quieter and more considered as you travelled down the car, but a looker it was not.

Sadly, although predictably for Honda, it still isn't, but now in its fifth iteration, it is at least more cohesive. The front is much cleaner and things are more in proportion, although there are a couple of moments where the eraser would have been the better part of valour for the designers. 

You can't deny it has presence, though, and is less mad scientist than it was. The profile is familiar in a "didn't that used to be shorter?" way, while the signature arrowhead shape of the rear quarter window has filled out a little to accommodate more glass.

And longer it is, but only by a relatively tiddling 11mm. It looks lower, but height is actually up 6mm in this front-wheel drive version. It's also wider (35mm) but the real reason it looks longer is an extra 40mm of wheelbase, visually lengthening the body. Curiously, the ground clearance is also up by 28mm.

Inside the CR-V really is quite lovely. There has been a palpable lift in both presentation and materials. Like VW's excellent Tiguan, the cloth seats are preferable to the leather examples and are comfortable to boot. Everything you touch feels soft and inviting and looks good. 

I'll edge carefully towards the word brilliant but in a market with quality offerings from Mazda and VW, you have to bring your A-game and, my word, Honda has done just that.

  • The signature arrowhead shape of the rear quarter window has filled out a little to accommodate more glass. The signature arrowhead shape of the rear quarter window has filled out a little to accommodate more glass.
  • The cloth seats are preferable to the leather examples and are comfortable to boot. The cloth seats are preferable to the leather examples and are comfortable to boot.

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

The slabby exterior brings with it a metric tonne of interior space. Starting at the back there's a CX-5 walloping 522 litres (the new CX-5 is only a small improvement on its predecessor at 442 litres) but comparatively fewer with the seats down, at 1084 litres. Either side of the boot are two recessed trays that exactly fitted my DSLR camera case and stopped it from sliding around the boot.

Either side of the 522 litre boot are two recessed trays that exactly fitted my DSLR camera case and stopped it from sliding around. Either side of the 522 litre boot are two recessed trays that exactly fitted my DSLR camera case and stopped it from sliding around.

As with the HR-V and Civic, the CR-V's interior is full of cleverness. What at first looks like a rather complex arrangement between the front seats turns out to be quite useful. Beneath the sliding armrest is a deep bin with another sliding element, an L-shaped tray that stops things falling back into the bin when in its forward-most position. Beneath that are the two front USB ports (there are two more in the back) and Honda's weird insistence on sticking with an HDMI-in port continues. 

There are also two front cupholders and two more in the centre rear armrest for a total of four, matching the bottle-holder count in the doors. The door pockets are also generous, fitted around the bottle holders.

As for passenger space, it's a belter; rear-seat occupants get a load of headroom. CarsGuide's Resident notoriously tall man Richard Berry (191cm) fits comfortably behind his own driving position, so behind my four-inch shorter frame, he'd be laughing. 

Front-seat passengers are treated to a comfortable pair of chairs with a handy kneepad on the centre console. It's a terrific interior and especially roomy in this five-seat edition.

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

Somehow, someone at Honda thought the 1.5-litre turbo from the Civic was the right engine for the CR-V, and they were right. Developing a healthy 140kW and 240Nm, it's plenty to get the 1540kg SUV on the move without fuss. Power reaches the road via the front wheels and that least favourite transmission of mine, a CVT.

  • Developing a healthy 140kW and 240Nm, this engine plenty to get the 1540kg SUV on the move without fuss. Developing a healthy 140kW and 240Nm, this engine plenty to get the 1540kg SUV on the move without fuss.
  • Somehow, someone at Honda thought the 1.5-litre turbo from the Civic was the right engine for the CR-V, and they were right. Somehow, someone at Honda thought the 1.5-litre turbo from the Civic was the right engine for the CR-V, and they were right.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Honda claims a combined cycle figure of 7.3L/100km and I got 8.2L/100km in an easy 50/50 mix of suburban and highway running, which is pretty good going considering the CR-V hasn't got stop-start.

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

The CR-V arrives from Thailand with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, trailer sway control, brake emergency display, reversing camera and speed alert.

On top of that is the clever LaneWatch camera, which hangs off the left-hand rear-vision mirror, pointing down the side of the car towards the rear, so you can see if someone has scooted up your inside as you prepare to turn. Activated by the left-land indicator, it's enormously useful.

ANCAP is yet to award a safety rating, but it's unlikely to lose the previous generation's five-star score. As a side note, Honda says the CR-V is not fitted with Takata airbags.

A further side note - only the top-spec features the kinds of gear its chief rival, the CX-5 has. These include front and rear AEB and reverse cross-traffic alert. Even the bottom of the range CX-5 Maxx has forward AEB and LED headlights.

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?   8/10

Honda offers a very generous five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is capped for the first 10 services/fives years at $295, no matter which service. Unlike some of its rivals, Honda wants to see you every 12 months or 10,000km.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The new CR-V is a vastly better machine to drive than the one it replaces. Gone is the buzzy 2.4-litre that sounded like it wanted to be anywhere but under the bonnet of anything. The new engine is just 1.5-litres of turboed four-cylinder, but it's much more willing (with more power and torque) and goes without the aural histrionics.

The old five-speed auto was past its prime and down a gear to its rivals, which compounded the misery. The CVT replacing it is more at home in the CR-V than the Civic, but you do have to watch for flaring. It does take a while to realise you're asking for a bit of go, but once you've got it in the move, it's a reasonable if not especially responsive box. Lifting off, it whistles like jet engine winding down - it's a background noise, but it's annoying until you work out what it is.

What has lit my fire for the CR-V is the ride, handling and steering. While still no match for the CX-5, it's way closer than it was and given the choice between it and the other cars on the driveway, the CR-V won easily, all day every day. It's comfortable for everyone, super-quiet in the cruise (I mean, really quiet - even dodgy surfaces were a distant, rather than close roar). It's like someone who actually enjoys riding in cars rather than just using them as a carriage service thought, "We should make this pleasant." And they did.

The old car's ride was a bit lumpy, crashing and bashing through bumps and the steering either felt tight or loose but mainly, you had little idea of what was going on under the front wheels. Again, this problem has been sorted in a fairly minimalistic way, but with more grip and more feel comes a car you can be more confident in.

The CR-V is never going to be quite quick enough for me, but it more than stays with its competitors, which are (mostly) also not quite quick enough for me. The suspension could also be quieter, but the noises are distant thunks and some mild tyre slap rather than the racket of the old car.

  • Honda's mid-sizer rolls on 18-inch alloys. Honda's mid-sizer rolls on 18-inch alloys.
  • What has lit my fire for the CR-V is the ride, handling and steering. What has lit my fire for the CR-V is the ride, handling and steering.

Verdict

While the CR-V seven-seater is a bit of a no-brainer - nothing else in the segment is quite as good - the five-seater has a harder job convincing buyers. With X-Trail and CX-5 (not to mention Tucson, Sportage and Tiguan) all snapping at its tailgate, there are tons of choices, and good ones. In isolation, Honda's efforts to lift the CR-V to contender status is as impressive as the transformation of the Civic from boring box to genuine challenger. When up against the rest of the mid-size SUV crowd, the CR-V impresses with its new drivetrain, good ownership proposition and enviable space. It's not as fun to drive as the others, but it's certainly spacious, clever and good value.

The new CR-V is a big improvement in all areas. Are you okay with five seats or do you prefer the seven?

Pricing Guides

$33,790
Based on 95 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$23,990
Highest Price
$39,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
LE (4x2) 2.0L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $20,900 – 26,510 2017 HONDA CR-V 2017 LE (4x2) Pricing and Specs
LE (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $23,650 – 29,150 2017 HONDA CR-V 2017 LE (4x4) Pricing and Specs
VTi (2WD) 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $27,990 – 28,990 2017 HONDA CR-V 2017 VTi (2WD) Pricing and Specs
VTi (4x2) 2.0L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $23,990 – 26,895 2017 HONDA CR-V 2017 VTi (4x2) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality9
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Safety7
Ownership8
Driving8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$26,998

Lowest price, based on 17 car listings in the last 6 months

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