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Honda CR-V VTi-S AWD 2019 review

EXPERT RATING
7.8
The CR-V keeps on giving for Honda, so Honda has given this particular variant some necessary upgrades for 2019 that should keep it front of mind for family SUV buyers.

Honda’s CR-V is doing wonders to return the brand to some of the success it experienced during its last golden age in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.

Back then SUVs weren’t as big as they are now (both physically and in sales numbers) and the CR-V is one of those vehicles that’s helped Honda ride out the various financial storms which have buffeted the brand since the GFC.

The CR-V continues to deliver success for Honda, and as such the range is ever-expanding, now featuring a budget cut-price version as well as two seven seaters for an expanded range of six variants.

This one, the VTi-S AWD, is special though. We’ve been waiting for the 2019 version because it has some key improvements over last year's car which help make it our new pick of the CR-V range.

Read on to find out why.

Honda CR-V 2019: VTi-S (AWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$36,490

Is there anything interesting about its design?  7/10

The CR-V’s design is a lot of things, curvaceous or frumpy, angular or complicated, you can decide which interpretation to take, but the overall vibe is a bit busy. It has a more futuristic look (perhaps to a fault) over the Tucson or X-Trail, while not quite capturing the classy finish of the CX-5. 

Thanks to its swoopy angles and rear spoiler, I think it looks best when viewed from the side.

The side angle is one of the CR-V's better views. (image credit: Tom White) The side angle is one of the CR-V's better views. (image credit: Tom White)

On a side note, apart from a few small body-coloured and chrome trim bits its genuinely hard to tell most of the CR-V range apart. Good for base-model buyers, not so good when you’re several trims up, but points for consistency either way.

The CR-V looks absolutely gigantic from the rear. (image credit: Tom White) The CR-V looks absolutely gigantic from the rear. (image credit: Tom White)

The CR-V’s cabin is largely the same story. There’s a lot to like, from the commanding seating position to the leather-trimmed wheel, plus the dash is finished in a pleasing mix of textures and materials.

It’s quite ergonomic in terms of the driver having easy access to all the controls without having to reach, but the raised gearshift panel gives the dash a fussy, borderline chaotic look – especially when compared with slick euro-influenced competition like the Mazda CX-5.

The seats aren't the best in the segment, but the CR-V has an otherwise spacious and comfortable cockpit. (image credit: Tom White) The seats aren't the best in the segment, but the CR-V has an otherwise spacious and comfortable cockpit. (image credit: Tom White)

I’m not the biggest advocate of the CR-V’s cloth seat trim which could be more comfortable, but there are soft trimmings on the doors, centre console and even for your knee to increase overall cabin appeal significantly.

Thankfully, unlike some Honda models, the CR-V has not forgotten to give you a dial for the multimedia volume control, and – once you’ve figured out how to use it – the digital dash shows some useful info.

The CR-V hardly has a euro-styled cabin, but it doesn't lack for personality. (image credit: Tom White) The CR-V hardly has a euro-styled cabin, but it doesn't lack for personality. (image credit: Tom White)

The silver paint on our car didn’t exactly look cheap, but the CR-V is also available in a stunning red or blue shade at no extra cost. 

How practical is the space inside?  9/10

The CR-V has only grown over the years giving it imposing dimensions on the road. This dimensional growth has served it well, and as Honda’s largest SUV offering in Australia, has allowed it to have one foot in the large SUV camp, especially now with seven-seat offerings on the market.

As a result, the CR-V’s cabin is massive. You aren’t left wanting for room in the front where there’s plenty of leg, arm and headroom. You’ll also not be left without a place for storage with plenty of deep trenches and cavities in the doors and dash. The centre console box has a removable shelf and is almost as deep as the silly one in the Civic.

There's space and storage galore up front. (image credit: Tom White) There's space and storage galore up front. (image credit: Tom White)

The box also houses the USB ports, AUX port and a 12-volt power outlet, letting you store all your chargers and connectivity conveniently out of view. For extra family practicality there’s a wide-angle mirror which folds out of the sunglass holder for spying on back-seat occupants.

In the rear seats there’s awesome amounts of head, arm, and legroom - even compared to the Tucson and CX-5 - plus two air vents and two USB ports for charging.

The rear seat offers ridiculous amounts of room, decent storage, USB ports and a set of air-con vents. (image credit: Tom White) The rear seat offers ridiculous amounts of room, decent storage, USB ports and a set of air-con vents. (image credit: Tom White)

In terms of storage there are large bottle holders and trenches in the door and a drop-down center armrest with cupholders.

Then, there’s the boot. Thanks to those aforementioned expanded dimensions, the CR-V lays claim to one of the largest boots in the class at 522-litres, bested only by the Toyota RAV4’s 550L.

The CR-V lays down a tough gauntlet, with one of the largest boots in the mid-size SUV class. (image credit: Tom White) The CR-V lays down a tough gauntlet, with one of the largest boots in the mid-size SUV class. (image credit: Tom White)

It does have some neat touches, with quick release handles in the side-walls for dropping the passenger seats and allowing easy and instant access to the fully-flat 1084L max space. It’s also rare to see a fully electric tailgate on a non-top-spec car, a must-have when wrangling kids/dogs/shopping.

Even the spare is easy to access, with the boot floor popping into an upright position when lifted. Brilliant.

Quick-release handles for folding the 60/40 second row are a genius family touch. (image credit: Tom White) Quick-release handles for folding the 60/40 second row are a genius family touch. (image credit: Tom White)

The VTi-S AWD has a braked towing capacity of 1500kg and an unbraked towing capacity of 600kg. This is not one of its strong suits. Most competitors can tow at least a few hundred more kegs.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  8/10

The all-wheel drive VTi-S comes in at $36,490 before on-road costs, an increase of $1000 over the 2018 car, although this cost is sunk into the inclusion of critical active safety items which were previously only available on the top-spec VTi-LX.

That pricing places it square against some tough competition, like the $36,050 Hyundai Tucson Active X, $38,590 Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport (AWD), and $35,990 Nissan X-Trail TS AWD.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen is a tad clumsy in its operation, but supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Tom White) The 7.0-inch touchscreen is a tad clumsy in its operation, but supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Tom White)

For the money you get 18-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as built-in sat nav, an electric tailgate, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry with push-start, leather-bound steering wheel, cloth seats and halogen headlights.

While non-LED headlights are a let-down in any grade, they aren’t unusual at this price for most of the mid-size SUV competition. 

There’s also the very nice add of a digital dashboard with a fast frame-rate which none of the CR-V’s competitors get at this price.

The CR-V's digital dashboard is swish, and a great spec addition. (image credit: Tom White) The CR-V's digital dashboard is swish, and a great spec addition. (image credit: Tom White)

It must be said that while the CR-V’s multimedia screen has most of the expected features and is reasonably (but not entirely) glare-free, the operating system on it is slow, clunky and poorly laid out. 

Thankfully you can use your phone’s homescreen to make it more user-friendly, but the UX in the CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson is vastly superior.

As always, props to Honda for making a full-size spare standard across the CR-V range. A big win for long-distance travelling in Australia.

Full marks for a full-size spare. (image credit: Tom White) Full marks for a full-size spare. (image credit: Tom White)

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

The Honda has a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine (producing 140kW/240Nm) mated exclusively to a continuously variable transmission.

Immediately, warning flags are thrown up. Less than 2.0 litres to propel a circa-1600kg block of SUV?

The CR-V shares its 1.5-litre engine with the Civic sedan & hatch, but in a more powerful state of tune. (image credit: Tom White) The CR-V shares its 1.5-litre engine with the Civic sedan & hatch, but in a more powerful state of tune. (image credit: Tom White)

Honda’s little engine is a performer though, and with its 240Nm max torque arriving from just 2000rpm, it seldom feels underpowered. This engine is just right for this car, even with passengers, but might struggle if you were to introduce a lot of luggage or towing into the equation.

The VTi-S as tested here is all-wheel drive but can also be had as a 2WD at a saving of $3200. The 2WD misses out on active safety though, so buyer beware.

How much fuel does it consume?  8/10

The CR-V VTi-S AWD has a claimed fuel usage figure of 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle, and against that figure I scored 8.1L/100km during my week, which was truly 'combined' by spending decent time on freeways over the weekend, so take that as a good real-world indicator.

As a huge running cost bonus, and despite this little engine’s gymnastic ability, the CR-V runs on 91RON base-grade unleaded petrol.

What's it like to drive?  7/10

What I most like about the CR-V’s drive experience is how honest it is. It doesn’t emulate the feel of a giant hatchback like some competitors, and the comfort from behind the wheel benefits as a result.

The CR-V has spongy suspension and big tyres, which do a great job of insulating the cabin from even some of the worst road surfaces.

Honda has made the clear decision to go full comfort over driver engagement. (image credit: Tom White) Honda has made the clear decision to go full comfort over driver engagement. (image credit: Tom White)

Sure, it won’t be as balanced or spritely in the corners as a CX-5 or Tucson, but does it need to be? Honda has decided to commit to family comfort rather than sporting intent.

The steering is light, while maintaining decent feedback, and the CR-V’s sheer weight and AWD system lend it a nice solid feel on the road, with the downside of it feeling less agile or maneuverable in tight city streets.

The 1.5-litre is surprisingly strong and moves the big SUV along with little complaint. It’s far better than most larger capacity engines on the market.

The CVT it’s mated to gets the job done but is probably one of the least enjoyable elements of the drive experience. It lends the accelerator that signature rubbery feel and occasionally won’t let you stick around the revs you’d like to keep it at.

On the freeway the CR-V is a pleasure, with active cruise control taking the pressure off and minimal noise infiltrating the cabin. While it’s much bigger than the Civic which sits below it, the CR-V is also more refined at high speeds.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  8/10

Honda has finally seen the light and stopped holding its full ‘Honda Sensing’ active safety suite hostage, previously available only on the top-spec VTi-LX.

This is the crucial decider which really makes the updated VTi-S AWD as tested here the pick of the range by a country mile.

The all-important camera suite which could make a world of difference to owners (image credit: Tom White) The all-important camera suite which could make a world of difference to owners (image credit: Tom White)

Included in the suite is auto emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning, lane departure warning (LDW) with lane keep assist (LKAS), active cruise control and driver attention alert.

Also included in the safety spec is Honda’s rather odd alternative to blind spot monitoring – the ‘LaneWatch’ camera suite which displays a wide-angle camera view of your blind spot on the media system when you’re indicating. Some find this a pointless gimmick, others might end up liking it. Either way it takes about a week to get used to.

The CR-V comes with the usual electronic stability controls, suite of airbags, reversing camera and ISOFIX points in the rear seats for a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating since 2017.

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

Honda offers an industry-standard five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty which is far better than the three-year warranties of recent memory.

Honda is offering an up-to-date warranty and relatively good pricing. (image credit: Tom White) Honda is offering an up-to-date warranty and relatively good pricing. (image credit: Tom White)

The CR-V requires servicing every 10,000km or whenever the computer says so, and base service pricing is locked at $295 per service for the first 10 services/100,000km.

There are extras not included in this price, but they are not outrageously priced (rear differential fluid, which needs to be changed every 24 months, comes at a cost of just $48, for example.)

Honda’s service program is transparent, long and relatively well priced but does leave you at the mercy of the computer which could realistically see you in the shop more than once a year.

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
Vi (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $28,290 2019 Honda CR-V 2019 Vi (2WD) 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
7.8
Price and features8
Design7
Practicality9
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Driving7
Safety8
Ownership8

“The CR-V might just look like any other SUV, but it’s commitment to comfort and practicality lets it stand out as a family hauler compared to the similarly priced competition.”

What’s more important to you when considering a family SUV? Is it practicality, comfort, or the drive experience? Tell us what you think in the comments below.