Shifting my family from our previous CX-5 Touring to the CR-V VTi-S reminded me of my toddler son’s unbridled enthusiasm for drinking water. I know it’s only because he’s yet to try any liquid with actual flavour, and it will only take one sip of apple juice to change his life forever.
Australia just loves the CX-5, having topped the overall SUV sales chart for the past five years, but after a couple of generations of ‘near enough’ CR-Vs, the new fifth-generation version represents tasty juice in quite a few ways compared to the CX-5.
Not that it’s fair to describe the CX-5 as water, but it’s definitely time to look past the most obvious choice if you’re in the market for a mid-size SUV.
Richard Berry arrived at this conclusion at the CR-V’s Australian launch last August, and a lot of Australian buyers agree. The proportion of CR-V to CX-5 sales has more than doubled in its first seven months on the market. It’s not like the CX-5’s success is waning either, with its own figures up 15.4 percent year to date.
We feel this gap should be narrower though, if only the CR-V could match the CX-5 for range-wide active safety equipment.
Only the $44,290 top-spec VTi-LX comes with the Honda Sensing suite comprised of Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System (AEB), Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keep Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation System, and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow. Honda Sensing is not even an option on the lesser VTi, VTi-S, or even the family-focused seven-seat VTi-L.
It’s also worth noting that this discrepancy didn’t stand in the way of the CR-V gaining the maximum five star safety rating from ANCAP, even against the latest 2017 criteria which demands AEB to achieve top marks.
In a nutshell, we’d like to see at least AEB across the CR-V range. It’s fair to say it’s still not a high priority for a lot of Australian buyers, but it should be. Even a basic city AEB system can prevent frontal collisions at slow speeds, which can still result in serious damage and inconvenience, but also lifelong injuries for all passengers. To quote the old Goodyear tyres slogan, “If it only saves you once a year, it’s a good year.”
Honda Australia is aware of this, and suggested at launch that the system would soon expand to more CR-V variants. Unfortunately this running change hasn’t arrived in time for our long-term test, however.
There are plenty of other new cars that miss out on the same safety gear as three out of the four CR-V trim levels, but it’s all the other things that make the new model so appealing that makes it such a shame in this case.
So I’ve begrudgingly relented on my usual ‘must have AEB in the family car’ policy this time around with the VTi-S, which Richard picked as the sweet spot of the range at its launch.
With a list price of $33,290, the front and rear parking sensors, power tailgate and 18-inch alloy wheels it brings over the base VTi may not feel like its worth the $2600 premium, but the former two are almost essential for the hustle and bustle of hardcore family life.
This is of course on top of the VTi’s welcome 7.0-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, multi-angle reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, eight-speaker sound system, and proximity unlocking.
The VTi-S is also available in all-wheel drive for an extra $2000, but I don’t consider it worth the extra investment for my near 100% tarmac, warm climate driving environment.
I also don’t find the extra $5700 needed for the VTi-L worthwhile because my one-child (for now) family simply doesn’t need its seven seats.
We can also do without the leather seats (no baby vomit scares to date, touch wood) with front heaters and electric driver’s adjustment, panoramic sunroof, but wouldn’t mind its auto wipers.
Two other big surprise bonuses are the fact that the engine will deliver its best on the significantly cheaper Regular 91 unleaded petrol, and there’s a full-size spare wheel beneath its cavernous 522-litre VDA boot.
Not only do the back doors open to a wider 90 degrees, but the opening is far larger and taller for reaching through with your increasingly heavy child.
This looks a bit old school at first, but the driver honestly can’t see the belt behind the rear armrest. It would get in the way if you were loading the boot to the ceiling, and would render the third row seat almost useless in the seven-seat VTi-L.
Five seat versions surprisingly miss out on the sliding second row seat of the VTi-L, but the CR-V’s ‘best I’ve experienced’ cabin packaging doesn’t need it. The excellent cabin length leaves ample room in the front seat ahead of a rearward facing child seat - unlike the CX-5 - and behind the back seat is the aforementioned cavernous boot.
Our first month also gave us the chance to trial the VTi-S’s ‘weekend away’ worthiness. Unsurprisingly, we easily managed everything we would have taken in the CX-5, with the CR-V’s low load height and huge tailgate opening worthy of honourable mentions.
It’s a fact of life that you’ll pack more if you can fit more, and the CR-V expanded our luggage repertoire by a whole mountain bike and big portable baby fence.
This trip up to the NSW Central Coast accounted for much of the 2086km travelled in our first month, and our 8.07L/100km average across five fills is impressively close to the VTi-S’s 7.3L/100km official combined figure given how hard we worked it.
The CR-V is one mid-sizer that definitely deserves the capital U (for utility) in SUV, but we’ll take a closer look at the S and V elements in the coming months.
Acquired: February 2018
Distance travelled this month: 2086km
Average fuel consumption for Feb/March: 8.07L/100km (measured at the pump)