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Honda CR-V VTi-S 2018 review: long term

The CR-V is one mid-sizer that definitely deserves the capital U in SUV.

Malcolm Flynn is spending three months living with the two-wheel drive version of the CR-V VTi-S, to see how well it fits his family.

Part 1: March 12, 2018

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. 

  • 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S. 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S.
  • 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S. 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S.
  • 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S. 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S.
  • 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S. 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S.
  • 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S. 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S.
  • 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S. 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S.
  • 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S. 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S.
  • 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S. 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S.

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

Beneath the 522-litre VDA boot there’s a full-size spare wheel. Beneath the 522-litre VDA boot there’s a full-size spare wheel.

Back to my water and juice analogy, simply swapping the baby seat from the CX-5 to the CR-V was an eye opener. 

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.

It’s got the superior ISOFIX child seat mounts in the outward positions, but this is the first SUV where I’ve had to attach the top tether mount to the ceiling. 

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. 

  • The CR-V expanded our luggage repertoire by a whole mountain bike and big portable baby fence. The CR-V expanded our luggage repertoire by a whole mountain bike and big portable baby fence.
  • The CR-V’s low load height and huge tailgate opening is worthy of an honourable mention. The CR-V’s low load height and huge tailgate opening is worthy of an honourable mention.

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
Odometer: 8439km
Average fuel consumption for Feb/March: 8.07L/100km (measured at the pump)

Part 2: May 1, 2018

The end of March and April have been busy times for our VTi-S, kicking off with its equal first place result in our under $35,000 mid-size SUV comparison test. It was only equalled by the CX-5 Maxx 2.0-litre because of the Honda’s relative lack of safety equipment, and reinforced our opinion that the CR-V has the makings of a segment leader.

The Honda CR-V VTi-S appeared in our under $35,000 mid-size SUV comparison test. The Honda CR-V VTi-S appeared in our under $35,000 mid-size SUV comparison test.

Another landmark was flipping around my 17-month-old’s baby seat from rearward to forward facing, barely a week before we had to swap him over to the driver’s side because humanity’s latest model had just rolled off the assembly line. Yep, I’ve now got two babies under 18 months old. Wish me luck.

Aside from the duplicated workload a second baby brings, another surprise that smacked me in the face was just how little room is left in the back seat with a second child seat fitted. And this is with what is arguably the best back seat in its class! 

Taking Grandma on family excursions is suddenly quite a challenge, particularly given Dad seems to have the perpetual short straw of squeezing onto the back seat within a space no wider than the centre armrest.  

Yes, it would be easier to put the second child seat in the middle, but like most SUVs the ISOFIX mounts are only in the outward positions. There is a top tether mount in the middle, but I would only use it if I were squeezing three child seats back here.

It is theoretically possible to fit three child seats across the back, but you'd want to measure and choose each seat VERY carefully.

Two babies also require double the stroller capacity, and I know for a fact that a lot of SUVs fail to cope with the rather large baby carrier this requires. 

A lot of SUVs fail to cope with the rather large baby carrier that having multiple babies requires. A lot of SUVs fail to cope with the rather large baby carrier that having multiple babies requires.

Not so with the VTi-S, with our twin stroller leaving enough room to stack our pram and umbrella stroller in there as well. You’d never do it in reality, but I’m sure you’d be the star of parents’ group with your entire pram/stroller collection on board at once. 

Having grown accustomed to the near boundless practicality of SUVs during my reckless child-free years, I’d become used to being able to carry home whatever impulse buy resulted from a visit to IKEA or Bunnings. 

  • I’d become used to being able to carry home whatever impulse buy resulted from a visit to IKEA or Bunnings. I’d become used to being able to carry home whatever impulse buy resulted from a visit to IKEA or Bunnings.
  • But two baby seats means no split-fold back seat, which means you can’t fit the biggest clothes airer you could find in the boot anymore. But two baby seats means no split-fold back seat, which means you can’t fit the biggest clothes airer you could find in the boot anymore.

But, my first visit to flat-pack central after #2 arrived delivered a mammoth home truth. 

Two baby seats means no split-fold back seat, which means you can’t fit the biggest clothes airer you could find in the boot anymore. 

Fortunately Mum had opted out of this excursion though, enabling the less than ideal but still possible use of the front passenger seat to carry our MULIG drying rack home. 

(insert shot of clothes rack on pass seat)

It is still possible use of the front passenger seat to carry a MULIG drying rack home. It is still possible use of the front passenger seat to carry a MULIG drying rack home.

We only managed to cover 1510km this month, and the fact that our average fuel consumption nudged up to 8.68L/100km reflects the largely urban travel we undertook. This is still just under the overall average we experienced with the CX-5 Touring, so more points to the CR-V.

Acquired: February 2018
Distance travelled this month: 1510km
Odometer: 9959km
Average fuel consumption for March/April: 8.68L/100km (measured at the pump

Part 3: June 18, 2018

The fact that the VTi-S’s driving behaviour hasn’t worked its way into the previous instalments is a reflection of the excellence of its practicality, but also its sheer ability to simply get the job done as a car overall. 

If you’re thinking the CR-V’s 1.5-litre engine is a bit meagre for a vehicle of this size, you’re dead wrong. 

2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S. 2018 Honda CR-V VTi-S.

With 140kW and 240Nm, the turbo puts it on par with the 2.5-litre petrol in the CX-5 for power, and within 11Nm of its peak torque figure. The CR-V makes it far lower in the rev range though, so to the driver it will feel like it’s got more during general driving conditions. It’s worth noting that VTi-S 2WD money will only get you the significantly less punchy 2.0-litre version of the CX-5. 

We’ve found it equally capable around town and on the highway, and you’ll only notice any drone from the CVT auto if you’re pushing it hard. So full throttle overtaking manoeuvres or freeway onramps mainly, and it’s certainly no dealbreaker.

The ride and handling are taut but comfortable, even on the VTi-S’s bigger 18-inch alloys and despite the CR-V sticking to the traditional SUV tall-body look. This impression is no doubt heightened by the sharp steering, which also does a surprisingly good job of communicating with your fingers about what the front tyres are up to.

The multimedia system and general ergonomics are also spot on for our purposes. On the surface, the 'Honda Display Audio' system may look a bit last-generation, but its navigation buttons down the right-hand side and prominent volume control knob allow one-touch navigation between the most important screen modes. 

The Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are other big pluses, and the latter’s interface has now improved to the point where the Android-centric Flynn family used it almost exclusively. 

The cabin has all the usual bottle holders in each door and dual cup holders front and rear, plus HDMI and 12-volt and USB charge points. The biggest plus is the centre console though, with a sliding armrest and assortment of configurations to adjust for various object sizes, right up to a pack of two dozen baby nappies - at a pinch. Ours is starting to creak when used as an armrest, but its versatility more than makes up for it. 

One other hidden gem is the convex mirror in the overhead console, which is integrated with the sunglasses holder and allows the driver to monitor the kids on the back seat without tempting you to adjust the rear-view mirror away from the road.  

  • This allows the driver to monitor the kids on the back seat without having to adjust the rear-view mirror. This allows the driver to monitor the kids on the back seat without having to adjust the rear-view mirror.
  • It's also a handy place to safely store your sunglasses. It's also a handy place to safely store your sunglasses.

May also gave us the chance to put the hard word on Honda’s local executives about the expansion of standard safety equipment mentioned at the CR-V’s launch. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like we’ll be getting range-wide AEB soon, with the 'Honda Sensing' suite seemingly only homologated for all-wheel drive models. 

The timing is also still up in the air, so your best bet when it comes to CR-Vs is likely to be an updated VTi-S with the all-wheel drive option, but we can’t guarantee when you’ll be able to buy one.

Given we thankfully weren’t forced to test the safety provenance of our VTi-S, our experience over the past three months has been nothing short of stellar.

  • 20 years of CR-V evolution in one shot. 20 years of CR-V evolution in one shot.
  • Lengthwise, there's not as much difference as you might think. Lengthwise, there's not as much difference as you might think.

Our final month was admittedly a quiet one, given the demands of the Flynns’ latest newborn, with just 775km covered. Our total over three months tallies 4381km though, which would put us above the annual national average of around 15,000km. 

Purely urban driving during our last month has resulted in our worst average fuel consumption yet at 9.06L/100km, but our overall average across the three months is just 8.54L/100km. 

A bit beyond its 7.3 official combined figure, yes, but it undercuts the 8.9 we averaged from the Tiguan 132TSI, 9.6 with the Escape Trend 1.5, and 8.85 we managed with the petrol CX-5 Touring. Note also that the Honda did it on Regular 91 unleaded, which makes the Tiguan’s average on 95 look even less impressive.

Acquired: February 2018
Distance travelled this month: 775km
Odometer: 10734km
Average fuel consumption for April/May: 9.06L/100km (measured at the pump)


The Wrap

When the safety update does arrive, the VTi-S will be a near-perfect choice for my family at least, and likely well worth the expected price rise. In the meantime, we’ll be trying to squeeze our lives into the very exciting Golf R wagon. Keep an eye out for that one. 

Likes

Excellent practicality for two babies
All-round driveability
Full-size spare and runs on 91 unleaded

Dislikes

Lacks active safety of most rivals

Scores

Malcolm:

3.9

The Kids:

5

$29,977 - $44,599

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