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Subaru Outback


Honda CR-V

Summary

Subaru Outback

It never used to be like this. Families used to choose a station wagon or estate car because that body style was the smartest choice. Maybe not the most desirable choice, but wagons were, and always have been, pragmatic.  

And then SUVs came on the scene. People thought they needed these stylised hatchbacks to sit higher in traffic and live out their “weekend warrior” image. Oh, those “active lifestyle” types. And in recent times, SUVs have become the go-to – accounting for half of all new vehicle sales in 2020.

But the Subaru Outback 2021 is here to stand up to those wannabe SUVs, with its own take on the up-high recipe. Admittedly it’s not like the Subaru Outback approach to the SUV formula is new – this is the sixth generation version of the venerable high-riding wagon, but this new model is apparently more SUV than ever. Subaru Australia even calls it a “true blue, mud in its blood all-wheel drive SUV”. 

So does it have what it takes to stand out in the crowd? Let’s dive a little deeper and find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V has been a long-time favourite in the CarsGuide offices, but there’s always been a bit of a caveat hanging over the mid-size SUV range - it all came down to a shortage of active safety technology.

With the 2021 Honda CR-V facelift that has been addressed - to a degree  - and in this review we’ll cover off the changes that have been made, from an expansion of the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech, to the styling changes inside and out for the updated model range. 

At the end we’ll try and sum up if the Honda CR-V 2021 range update has brought this model back into contention against the likes of the Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, VW Tiguan and Toyota RAV4. 

Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Subaru Outback7.9/10

The sixth-generation, 2021 Subaru Outback has incrementally improved the large wagon-slash-SUV, with a number of important steps forward including better safety tech, a more powerful engine and smarter cabin. A turbo or hybrid powertrain would sweeten the deal even further.

I don’t know that you’d really need anything other than the base model Outback AWD, which seems like a truly great value offering. It’d be our pick of the range.


Honda CR-V7.5/10

The updated Honda CR-V range is certainly an improvement on the model it replaces, with the wider spread of safety tech now making it a more viable option for more potential customers.

But the fact of the matter is that the 2021 Honda CR-V update still doesn’t go far enough in expanding the safety spec of the midsize SUV, and multiple competitors better it in many ways. And if you’re a family buyer, then safety is surely a high priority, right? Well, if that’s you, maybe consider those aforementioned rivals - the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, VW Tiguan and Subaru Forester - all of which best the CR-V in some way or another.

If you don’t think you need those additional safety items, or you’re just sold on the practical and thoughtful cabin design of the CR-V, there’s certainly something to be said for the 2021 version over the earlier models. And in this range, I’d say the pick would be the VTi 7 if you need three rows, or the VTi for those only needing five seats.

Design

Subaru Outback7/10

It’s an all-new car. It doesn’t necessarily look like it, and in fact – to my eye – it’s not as attractive as the fifth-generation model, which was an expert in being inoffensive, where this model has a few more design-lead changes that might divide opinions.

You won’t mistake it for anything other than an Outback, as it has that typical rugged high-riding wagon look that we’ve come to expect from it. But it’s almost like this is a facelift rather than an all-new car.

Like, literally – the features have all been cinched back at the front, and the wheel-arches have been tweaked so they stand more at attention… it literally looks like an age-denying citizen’s approach at looking younger. A bit too much Botox? Tell us what you think the comments below.

But there are still smart design highlights, like the roof rails with integrated roof racks that are stowable/deployable in the base and top models, while the mid-spec model has a fixed roof rack system. 

The fact all models have LED lighting all-around is nice, while the 18-inch wheels… well, none of them are to my taste. To me, they just aren’t as youthful as some of the other elements of the car are trying to elucidate.

And the rear-end treatment? Well, that’s the only spot where you’re most likely to confuse it with another car… and that doppelganger would be a Forester.

On the inside there are some really nice design changes, though. Check out the interior pictures below.


Honda CR-V8/10

The styling changes are pretty minimal compared to the pre-facelift model. Well, that’s certainly the case if you simply glance at the 2021 Honda CR-V.

But look a little closer and you realise there have actually been quite a few nips and tucks here and there, with the overall effect being subtle but worthwhile in terms of visual upgrades.

The front end has seen the adoption of a new bumper design that almost looks like there’s a silver moustache across the lower part of the bumper, and above it there’s a new blacked out grille treatment at the front, too.

In profile you’ll notice new alloy wheel designs - ranging from 17s on the base car through to 19s on the top-spec version - but otherwise the side-on view is pretty similar, aside from a bit of garnish work in the lower parts of the doors.

At the rear there are similar minor bumper changes with added accents at the bottom of the bar, and now there are darker tinted tail-lights and a dark chrome tailgate garnish, too. Models bearing the VTi prefix also get new shaped exhaust tips, which look a little more substantial than before.

Inside, there aren’t many big changes, but that’s no bad thing. The CR-V’s cabin has always been one of the most practical in the class, and that certainly hasn’t changed with this update. Check out the interior pictures below to see for yourself. 

Practicality

Subaru Outback9/10

Subaru has taken some pretty big steps when it comes to changing the interior of the Outback, with the most prominent change being front and centre of the cabin – that huge new 11.6-inch touchscreen media system.

It’s a really interesting looking piece of technology, and like the existing media screen in the Outback, is crisp, colourful and offers quick response times. It’s something that takes a little bit of getting used to – the fan controls are digital, for instance, but there are buttons either side of the screen for temperature control – but once you’ve spent some time with it, you’d be surprised just how intuitive it all is.

The Apple CarPlay worked a treat, connecting up without hassle. And while it isn’t wireless CarPlay, we haven’t yet tested a car with that tech that’s worked as it should… so, yay for cables!

There are two USB ports below the screen, and two additional charging ports in the back seat centre section as well. That’s good, but there’s no wireless charging pad at all, which isn’t great.

And while the big screen has done away with the multiple screen layout and the huge number of buttons in the old car, the new one still has a number of buttons on the steering wheel, which are easy to learn too. I had some trouble acclimating to the blinker stalk, with the one-touch indicator trigger seemingly being a bit too hard to activate at times. It’s a quiet “ticker”, too, so there were a few times when I was driving with my indicator on for ages without realising it.

Storage is mostly really well considered in the Outback, with bottle holders and storage sleeves in all four doors, plus a pair of cup holders between the front seats (they are a little large if you prefer a small takeaway coffee), and in the back there’s a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, too.

The front also has a small storage section below the media screen (not quite large enough for a large-format smartphone), plus there’s a covered centre console bin, and the dashboard design may have been inspired by the RAV4, as there’s a neat little rubberised shelf in front of the passenger where you could put a phone or wallet. 

In terms of space for occupants, taller people will be fine in the front or the rear. I’m 182cm or 6’0” tall, and I managed to find a comfortable driving position, and was able to sit behind it with ample knee room, toe room and head space, too. The width is great, too, with plenty of room across the cabin. Three of me could easily fit side by side, but if you have children you’ll be happy to know there are two ISOFIX and three top-tether points for baby seats.

The back seat occupants should be kept happy as there are directional vents in all grades, while the top two specs score rear outboard seat heating, too. Nice.

There are some other nice inclusions for rear seat occupants, including recline adjust for the backrests of the seats, and the seatbelts are set in such a way that they should never get in the way when you lower the back seats down (60:40 split fold, actuated by triggers in the boot area).

Speaking of the boot space, there’s plenty. The new Outback offers 522 litres (VDA) or cargo capacity, with is 10L more than before. Plus, as mentioned, the seats fold flat to allow 1267L of luggage capacity. 

Equivalent mid-size SUVs priced close to the Outback can’t match it for practicality, and the cabin’s look and feel is greatly improved over the previous model. It’s a very nice place to spend time.


Honda CR-V9/10

One of the main reasons we’ve always been fans of the current gen Honda CR-V at CarsGuide is its practical cabin. It is, arguably, the best midsize SUV for young families in this part of the market.

That’s because it prioritises space and comfort, practicality and cabin smarts over things like excitement and wow factor. 

Sure, there’s a bit of a problem with that - rivals like the RAV4 prove you can do both things well. But the CR-V is unapologetically pleasant and well sorted in terms of practicality. It’s truly the pragmatic choice in this part of the market.

Up front there’s a clever centre console section that has been rethought for this update, and now scores easier-to-access USB ports, and in grades equipped with it, a wireless phone charger. There are still good sized cup holders, and the removable tray section that allows you to configure the console storage how you need it - see how much I fit in there in the video above.

There are also good sized door pockets with bottle holders, and a reasonable glovebox, too. It’s very cleverly designed, and the materials are good, too - the VTi LX model I drove had soft trim on the doors and dash, plus the leather seats are comfortable and offer good adjustment. I’ve driven CR-Vs with cloth seat trim too, and the quality is always top notch.

The shortfalls come in the ‘ooooh’ department. The CR-V still runs a small 7.0-inch media screen - some rivals have much larger displays - and while it does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus a volume knob, it’s still a bit fidgety in terms of the operation. And it’s slow to react at times, too.

Plus, while there is a climate button and fan speed button, as well as dials for the temperature settings, you still have to go through the screen to control whether the air conditioner is on or off, and also which ventilation is active. Odd. 

In the back seat, there’s a really neat trick. The doors open up to almost 90 degrees, meaning parents loading their kids into child seats will be able to access the back row a lot easier than some rivals (we’re looking at you, Mr RAV4, with your narrow-hinged doors). Indeed, the apertures are huge, meaning access for people of all ages is pretty easy.

And the space in the second row is excellent, too. There is easily enough space for someone my size (182cm / 6’0”) to sit behind their own driving position with ample knee room, toe space and shoulder room to be comfortable. Only the head room is questionable if you get a CR-V with a sunroof, and even then, it’s not terrible.

If you do have kids, there are ISOFIX child seat anchor points in the outboard seats, and three top tether attachment points - but unlike most rivals, they actually mount in the ceiling above the boot, not the back of the second-row seat. Choose a seven-seater and you have the same issue, but the third-row seats add a pair of top-tether points mounted into the very back boot floor. 

The seven-seat versions of the CR-V have a sliding second-row seat, which makes head room even tighter. The five-seat CR-Vs have a 60:40 split fold second row. All models have a flip down armrest and cupholders fitted in the second row, plus door pockets large enough for big bottles, and map pockets on the front seat backs.

I tested the seven-seat CR-V pre-facelift, and found the third row space to be best left to smaller occupants. If you choose a three-row CR-V, you get rear row air vents and cupholders, too.

The boot space on offer for the CR-V also depends on the seating configuration. If you choose a five-seater like the VTi LX model here, you get a cargo capacity of 522 litres (VDA). Get the seven-seater, and the five-seats-up measurement is 50L less (472L VDA), while with all three rows of seats in use, there’s 150L (VDA) of boot space. 

If that’s not enough boot capacity - and it won't be if you’re heading away with all seven seats in use - you might want to consider checking out the accessories catalogue for roof rails, roof racks or a roof cargo box.

Happily, though, all CR-Vs come with a hidden full-size alloy spare wheel under the boot floor.

Price and features

Subaru Outback9/10

The Subaru Outback range remains a value-focused option for customers out there who want a lot of car for their money. 

It still starts under forty grand in sixth-generation guise, though prices have gone up somewhat compared to the old model, which Subaru says is justified by additional equipment and safety technology.

All models have the same powertrain, so it’s purely gear and goodies that separates the three variants: the entry-level Outback AWD ($39,990), mid-range AWD Sport ($44,490) and top-spec AWD Touring ($47,490). Those prices are MSRP/list pricing, before on-road costs.

Now, here’s a rundown of the range.

The base model AWD comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and a full size alloy spare, roof rails with stowable roof rack cross bars, LED headlights, LED foglights, push-button start, keyless entry, electric park brake, rain-sensing wipers, heated and power-folding side mirrors, fabric seat trim, leather steering wheel, paddle-shifters, electric adjustment for the front seats, rear seats with manual recline, and a 60:40 split-fold rear seat with boot release levers.

The AWD entry-level car – and both the variants above – have a new 11.6-inch touchscreen media screen in portrait layout, which incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech. There are six speakers standard, as well as four USB ports (2x front, 2x rear).

The next model up the range is the AWD Sport, which – like the Forester Sport model – gets a number of aesthetic changes to help split it from its stablemates.

They include model-specific dark 18-inch wheels, black exterior trim changes, fixed roof rails, a power tailgate, water repellent interior trim with green stitching, heated front and outboard rear seats, sports pedals, light-sensing headlights (auto on/off) and it gets sat nav as part of the media screen, too. This grade scores a front view and side view monitor for parking/low speed driving, too.

The top-end AWD Touring has a few luxury-focused extras over the other grades, including an electric sunroof, Nappa leather interior trim, a heated steering wheel, auto dipping passenger side door mirror, memory settings for driver’s seat, satin finish door mirrors, silver highlight roof rails (with stowable crossbars), and gloss-finish wheels. 

The interior also upgrades the stereo in this grade to a nine-speaker harman/kardon setup with subwoofer and single CD player. All grades have DAB+ digital radio too.

All grades have an array of safety technology, including a driver monitoring system that will warn you to keep your eyes on the road and monitor for signs of drowsiness, and in the top-spec model includes face recognition that can adjust the seat and side mirrors for you.

All models come with a reversing camera, Subaru’s EyeSight forward facing camera system that incorporates AEB, lane keeping, adaptive cruise control and more. There are full details on the safety systems and their operability in the section below.

Things missing from any grade of Outback? It would have been nice to have a wireless phone charger, and there are no traditional parking sensors, either.

Overall though, there’s a lot to like across multiple grades, here.

If you’re interested in colours (or colors if you prefer), then you might be intrigued to know there are nine colours available. Two can’t be had on the AWD Sport grade - Storm Grey Metallic and Crimson Red Pearl – but it can be had in any of the remaining colours, as can the other trim levels: Crystal White Pearl, Magnetite Grey Metallic, Ice Silver Metallic, Crystal Black Silica, Dark Blue Pearl, and the new Autumn Green Metallic and Brilliant Bronze Metallic.

The best news? None of the colour choices will cost you any extra money!


Honda CR-V7/10

As part of the 2021 updated range, the CR-V saw a number of name changes, but there are still seven variants available, ranging from five to seven-seaters, and with front-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Prices are up across the carryover models by between $2200 and $4500 - read our original pricing story to see why.

Opening the range is the Vi, which carries over as the only model in the range without the turbo engine (any CR-V with VTi as part of its name indicates turbocharging), while it’s also the only CR-V without the Honda Sensing safety suite. More on that in the safety section below.

The prices seen here are the Manufacturer’s List Price, also known as MSRP, RRP or MLP, and don’t include on-road costs. Shop around, we know there will be drive-away deals. 

The Vi model lists at $30,490 plus on-road costs (MSRP), which is more expensive than the pre-facelift model, but this version - which has 17-inch alloy wheels and cloth seat trim - now runs a 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as dual-zone climate control. This version also has Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 2x USB ports, a digital instrument cluster with digital speedometer, and a four speaker sound system. It has halogen headlights and LED daytime running lights, as well as LED tail-lights. There’s a reversing camera fitted, too.

Step up to the VTi for $33,490 (MSRP) and you gain the turbo engine (details below), as well as keyless entry and push-button start, an additional four speakers (eight total), an additional 2x USB ports (four total), a cargo cover, exhaust pipe finishers, adaptive cruise control and the Honda Sensing active safety suite (detailed below).

The VTi 7 is new to the range, and is essentially a more economy-focused version of the old VTi-E7, now costing $35,490 (MSRP). For context, the VTi-E7 used to have leather trim, power driver’s seat adjust and 18-inch alloys. The new VTi 7 costs $1000 more than the old car, misses all of those items (now cloth trim, 17-inch wheels, manual seat adjust) but has the safety suite. It adds third row seats with air vents, plus two additional cup holders and curtain airbag coverage, as well as third-row top tether hooks in the boot floor. It misses a cargo blind, though.

The next model up the pricing tree is the VTi X, which replaces the VTi-S. It is a $35,990 (MSRP) proposition, and adds the safety tech and a hands-free tailgate, as well as auto headlights, auto high beam lights, a leather steering wheel, and from this grade up you get Honda’s LaneWatch side camera system in lieu of a traditional blind-spot monitoring system, and in-built GPS Garmin sat nav. This is the first grade in the range to get 18-inch wheels, plus it has rear parking sensors standard, and front parking sensors, too.

The VTi L AWD is the first grade in the step-up with all-wheel drive. It essentially replaces our previous pick of the range, the VTi-S AWD, but costs more. The VTi L AWD is $40,490 (MSRP), but adds a few goodies over the models below, including leather-appointed seat trim, driver’s seat electric adjustment with two memory settings and heated front seats.

The VTi L7 ($43,490 MSRP) does away with AWD but gains the third-row seating, as well as the good stuff mentioned in the VTi L as well as privacy glass, a large panoramic glass sunroof, LED headlights and LED fog lights, and a wireless phone charger. It also gets auto wipers and roof rails, plus steering wheel paddle shifters. 

The top-of-the-range VTi LX AWD is a pretty pricey offering, at $47,490 (MSRP). In fact, that’s $3200 more than it used to cost. It’s a five-seater, and over the VTi L7 adds items like heated door mirrors, auto up/down windows for all four doors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric front passenger seat adjustment, a leather-wrapped shift knob, DAB digital radio, and it gets 19-inch alloy wheels.

It’s fair to say the grades are pretty confusing, but thankfully Honda doesn’t charge extra for the colours available in the CR-V range. There are two new hues available - Ignite Red metallic and Cosmic Blue metallic - and the selection on offer does vary based on the grade. 

Engine & trans

Subaru Outback7/10

The engine in all Subaru Outback 2021 models is a “90 per cent new” 2.5-litre four-cylinder “boxer” horizontally opposed petrol engine.

The motor produces 138kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 245Nm of torque (from 3400-4600rpm). Those are modest increases – 7 per cent more power and 4.2 per cent more torque – compared with the old Outback. 

It is only available with a “refined” Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic, but all grades come with paddle-shifters as standard, so you can take matters in to your own hands – Subaru says there’s an “eight-speed manual mode”.

Towing capacity for the Outback range is 750kg for an unbraked trailer and 2000kg for a braked trailer, with a 200kg down weight for the tow bar. You can option a towbar as a genuine accessory.

Now, the elephant – or elephants – in the Outback are that it doesn’t launch with a hybrid powertrain, which means it’s falling behind the class leaders (yes, we’re talking about the likes of the Toyota RAV4, but even the Forester has a hybrid powertrain option!).

And the old diesel engine has been axed, plus there’s no six-cylinder petrol variant as there was in the previous model.

Plus while other markets get a four-cylinder turbo engine (a 2.4L with 194kW and 375Nm), we don’t have that option here. So, it’s naturally aspirated 4-cyl petrol power, or bust.


Honda CR-V7/10

There are two engines available in the Honda CR-V range - the one fitted to the base model Vi, and the one fitted to all models that have VTi as part of their badge. 

The Vi’s engine is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 113kW of power (at 6500rpm) and 189Nm of torque (at 4300rpm). The transmission for the Vi is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic, and it’s front-wheel drive (2WD/FWD) only.

The VTi models in the range get a turbo motor. According to Honda, that’s what the ‘T’ now stands for in CR-V land. 

That engine is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol unit producing 140kW of power (at 5600rpm) and 240Nm of torque (from 2000-5000rpm). It’s available mated to a CVT auto gearbox, and the choice of FWD/2WD or all-wheel drive (AWD).

If you’re after a diesel, hybrid or plug-in hybrid version of the CR-V, you’re out of luck. There’s no EV / electric model either. It’s purely a petrol affair here. 

Towing capacity for the CR-V is pegged at 600kg for unbraked trailers, while the braked towing capacity is 1000kg for the seven-seat versions and 1500kg for five-seat models.

Fuel consumption

Subaru Outback7/10

The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure – that’s the claimed fuel economy the brand reckons you should achieve across a mix of driving – is stated at 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

That’s pretty good, and it’s aided by the engine’s start-stop technology that even has a readout that tells you how many millilitres of fuel you’re saving when it’s active. I like that.

In our real world testing we saw a return – at the pump – of 8.8L/100km across highway, urban, back road and traffic jam testing. That’s not bad, but in similar driving in a Toyota RAV4 hybrid I’ve seen economy of about 5.5L/100km.

We assume Subaru Australia will add a hybrid version of the Outback at some point (like it has with the XV Hybrid and Forester Hybrid), but at this point in time, the petrol engine is your only choice.

Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres, and it can take 91RON regular unleaded.


Honda CR-V7/10

The combined cycle fuel consumption varies depending on the model you choose in the CR-V range.

The non-turbo 2.0L engine in the Vi is the thirsty one, using a claimed 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres.

The VTi engine’s fuel consumption varies depending on the model, seating and drivetrain (2WD or AWD). The entry grade VTi FWD uses a claimed 7.0L/100km, while the VTi 7, VTi X and VTi L7 use 7.3L/100km, and the VTi L AWD and VTi LX AWD claim 7.4L/100km.

On test in the top-spec VTi LX AWD - across a mix of urban, highway and open road driving - we saw an at the pump fuel use return of 10.3L/100km. 

All CR-V models come with a 57 litre fuel tank capacity. Even the turbo models can run on 91RON regular unleaded, too.

Driving

Subaru Outback8/10

If you’ve driven a previous-generation Subaru Outback, you’re not going to feel like this is unfamiliar territory.

That’s because this version, well, it sticks to the formula. Even if you’ve driven the new Forester, it might feel pretty familiar.

Much of that comes down to the engine and transmission. The 2.5L four-cylinder boxer is a strong engine, but not a punchy one. It offers good response and smooth power delivery for the most part, and it will push you back in your seat if you plant your foot, but not in the same way a petrol-electric hybrid or a turbocharged four-cylinder might.

And while there is still some Subaru “boxer” rumble from under the bonnet, it’s largely a pretty hushed place to be when you’re driving it in normal circumstances. If you accelerate hard you’ll hear the engine more, and that’s down to the behaviour of the CVT automatic.

Some people will hate it because it’s a CVT, but Subaru does a pretty good job with these transmissions, and in the Outback it’s as inoffensive as they come. And yes, there is a manual mode with paddle shifters if you want to take matters into your own hands, but for the most part, you shouldn’t really need to.

The steering is direct and offers good weighting and response, pivoting pretty well in corners while also allowing you to turn the car easily when you’re parking. There’s not much feel to the steering, but that’s not what this car is about, and thankfully the trademark Subaru visibility from the driver’s seat means it is easier to park than some other SUVs out there. 

The ride is mostly good, with a supple character that is more about comfort than anything else. It’s a little more softly sprung and a touch underdamped than some people might like, meaning it can be a little wobbly or jittery depending on the road, but I think it’s the right balance for the intent of the car – a family wagon / SUV that has some potential off-road chops.

It is all-wheel drive after all, and there is Subaru’s X-Mode system – with snow/dirt and deep snow/mud modes – that should be helpful if you find yourself off the beaten path. I did some light gravel track driving in the Outback, and found its 213mm ground clearance to be plentiful, while the suspension was pretty well sorted.


Honda CR-V8/10

Fit for purpose. That summaries the drive experience of the Honda CR-V 2021 model, which is unashamedly a family car and drives how a family car should.

That is to say it’s not as exciting or powerful as some rivals. If you’re after driving thrills, you maybe shouldn’t even be looking in this segment, certainly not at this price point anyway. But I will say this - on balance, the CR-V offers a competitive midsize SUV drive experience if you value comfort and easy driving overall.

The CR-V’s turbo engine offers decent pulling power across a good span of revs, and while we often criticise CVT automatic transmissions, the auto used here makes good use of the turbo engine’s torque band, meaning it accelerates smoothly enough and responds with enough urgency when you plant your foot. There’s a very slight lag to contend with during rolling acceleration, but it takes off from a standstill pretty well.

The engine is a little vocal under hard acceleration, but generally the CR-V is quiet, refined and pleasant - there’s not too much road noise (even on the 19-inch wheels of the VTi LX AWD), and there’s minimal wind roar, too. 

The steering in the CR-V has always been a bit of a highlight - it has a really quick action that is well weighted and offers good accuracy, while not necessarily giving the driver a lot of feel and feedback. It’s great when you’re parking, because the wheel takes very little effort to turn.

There have been changes to the suspension for the 2021 Honda CR-V, but you’d be hard pressed to pick them - it still rides comfortable and hardly ever feels upset by bumps (only sharp edges at lower speeds cause some clunkiness, and that’s based on the drive in the VTi LX AWD with its large 19-inch wheels and low profile Michelin Latitude Sport 255/55/19 tyres).

Don’t get me wrong - the suspension is set for softness as a priority, so there is some body roll to contend with in corners. For family buyers, the drive experience is good, though anyone looking for a fun drive might be better served considering a Tiguan or RAV4.

Explore the Honda CR-V in 3D.

Check out the CR-V on a camping adventure.

Safety

Subaru Outback9/10

There is no ANCAP crash test safety rating as yet for the 2021 Outback range, but it has a lot of the technology and safety goodies that customers shopping for a family SUV or wagon would expect. 

As standard there is Subaru’s EyeSight stereo camera system that reads the road ahead, and it incorporates forward/front autonomous emergency braking (AEB) for vehicles that works between 10km/h and 160km/h. There's also pedestrian AEB (1km/h to 30km/h) and cyclist detection and AEB (60km/h or less), and it has lane keeping technology with emergency lane keep assist that can swerve the car to avoid impacts with cars, people or cyclists (approximately 80km/h or less). Lane departure prevention works from 60km/h to 145km/h.

All grades also get blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a driver monitor camera that watches the driver and warns them if they’re not paying attention to the road or starting to get drowsy (the top-spec model’s version of this also includes seat and mirror adjustment memory based on your face!), plus there is speed sign recognition, too.

All grades have a reversing camera, while the top two specs have front view and side view cameras, but none have a 360-degree surround view camera. All models also have rear AEB, a system Subaru calls reverse auto braking (RAB) that can halt the car if it detects there’s something behind it when you’re backing up. It also doubles as reversing sensors for all grades, but none have front parking sensors.

And there are other elements to the safety matrix, including Lead Vehicle Start Alert (the cameras tell you when the car in front has driven off) and lane centring (to keep you in the middle of your lane), both of which operate between 0km/h and 145km/h, and there is adaptive high beam lights on all grades, too.

The airbag count for the Outback is eight, with dual front, front side, driver’s knee, passenger centre-front, and full-length curtain coverage.


Honda CR-V7/10

The Honda CR-V was awarded a five-star ANCAP crash test rating in 2017, but given the rapid changes in protocols from the safety watchdog, it wouldn’t score that today - even with the broader application of the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech.

Models from the VTi variant up now score the Honda Sensing suite of active safety technologies. Previously, only five-seat AWD models were eligible for this tech, but now there’s been some level of democratisation of the safety spec, with 2WD models and seven seat CR-Vs now getting the tech. 

All CR-Vs with VTi as part of their name now get forward collision mitigation (FCW) with collision mitigation braking system (CMBS), which combines into a form of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that operates at speeds above 5km/h and can detect pedestrians, too. The lane keeping assistance (LKA) system can help keep in the centre of the lane by using a camera to monitor road markings - it works between 72km/h and 180km/h. There’s also a lane departure warning (LDW) system that can vibrate the steering wheel if it thinks you’re leaving your lane, before steering the car back (mildly) and applying brakes - it works at the same speeds as the LKA system.

There’s also adaptive cruise control that works between 30km/h and 180km/h, but at speeds below 30km/h the brand’s ‘Low Speed Follow’ system will accelerate and brake while keeping a safe distance. It won’t automatically resume if you come to a complete stop, though.

While the list of safety gear is an improvement for the CR-V range more broadly, this upgrade still leaves it well and truly behind the best in the class for safety tech. It is not designed to include cyclist detection, and it misses out on a traditional blind spot monitoring system - instead, only some models in the line-up get the LaneWatch camera system (VTi X and above) that simply isn’t as good as a real blind-spot system. There’s also no rear cross-traffic alert, and no rear AEB. There is no surround view / 360 degree camera available on any grade, either.

The fact Honda hasn’t taken the opportunity to fit the safety tech system to all models in the CR-V range is both befuddling and disappointing. You were so close, Honda Australia. So close. 

At the very least, the CR-V has an array of airbags (dual front, front side and full length curtain) and yes, the seven seat models get proper third-row airbag coverage, too.

Ownership

Subaru Outback7/10

Subaru doesn’t go beyond expectations in the mainstream class, with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty now par for the course.

The brand also has shorter maintenance intervals than some, with services scheduled every 12 months or 12,500km (most are 15,000km intervals).

The costs of maintenance aren’t that low, either. After an initial free checkup at one-month, the services cost: $345 (12 months/12,500km); $595 (24 months/25,000km); $351 (36 months/37,500km); $801 (48 months/50,000km); and $358 (60 months/62,500km). That averages out at about $490 per service, which is high. 

If you’re worried about budgeting for that cost every year, you can bundle a service plan into your financing – a smart move, if you ask me. There are two options available: a three-year/37,500km plan and a five-year/62,500km plan. Neither saves you money over pay-as-you-go, but these plans also include three years roadside assist and the option of a free loan car when it comes time to service your own Outback. And if you decide to sell, you can pass that service plan on to the next owner.

 Just make sure you don’t smash the windscreen – the camera system integrated into the glass means a new windshield is a $3000 part!


Honda CR-V7/10

The Honda CR-V is backed by the brand’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is par for the course in the segment.

There is the option of an extended warranty plan out to seven years, which also bundles in roadside assistance for that period - but you have to pay for it. You don’t if you buy a Kia or SsangYong.

Honda asks for owners to have their cars serviced every 12 months/10,000km, which is shorter intervals than many rivals (annually or 15,000km). But the service costs are low, pegged at $312 per visit for the first 10 years/100,000km of ownership - just note, that figure doesn’t include some consumables. 

Worried about Honda CR-V problems - be it reliability, issues, complaints, transmission problems or engine concerns? Head to our Honda CR-V problems page.