First Drive: 2017 Honda CR-V

First Drive: 2017 Honda CR-V

When Japanese manufacturer Honda launched their 1st generation CR-V back in 1995, they introduced to the world of motoring the genre now known as SUV’s. At the time they could only have dreamt how popular and innovative this segment would become and for a long period of time other manufacturers had to play catchup.

In more recent times, the Koreans with their Hyundai ix35 (now back with the Tucson monikor) and Kia with their Sportage – along with the Volkswagen Tiguan – have done extremely well in offering competitive alternatives, but Honda has perhaps always been one step ahead.

This is perhaps best reflected in the outgoing fourth-generation CR-V – launched in 2012 – selling over nine-million units in more than 150 countries and earning itself the title of being the worlds best selling SUV. A notable achievement indeed, so the local launch last week of the all-new CR-V in Cape Town was much anticipated.

Would the distinctive design of the vehicle change much? Will the interior continue to have the same degree of quality? And probably more importantly from Honda’s perspective, will they continue to dominate the segment going forward.

Of course it is possible to Google images of the vehicle – it was launched in the USA last year – and scrutinise reviews in online publications, but often a vehicles proportions appear different in the metal compared to on a laptop and everybody with a website or blog has an ”expert” opinion as to how good a vehicle actually is.

It was emphasised during a brief business presentation that the CR-V is the ”flagship model in the brands SUV lineup.” One could probably sumise that the CR-V is also extremely important to the overall bottom-line of the company’s fortunes – particularly in the huge markets of China and the USA – but also here in South Africa.

It must be remembered, that in the local new car market, the SUV segment is the only division showing any positive signs of growth. The design team have certainly retained certain characteristics particular to the CR-V, but they have also introduced a few new tricks.

Most notable is probably the rear section which is a lot more pronounced with LED clusters extending all the way from high up on th tail gate down to bumper level. With image a priority in this particular segment, we now see the vehicle taking on a slightly more rugged appearance with a metallic scruff plate introduced up front while protective cladding is applied to the lower sections of the vehicles body panels along with pronounced wheel arch extensions and newly-designed alloy wheels.

The model line-up for the new CR-V is pretty straight forward. The entry-level models come with a naturally aspirated 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine and two trim levels – Comfort and Elegance.
This particular engine is carried over from the previous generation and has a power output of 113kW and torque of 189Nm. The introduction of a 1.5-litre turbo engine is the first time the CR-V has seen such technology and the engine delivers 140kW together with 240Nm.

Again two trim levels are available – Executive and Exclusive – along with an AWD system that transfers power from the front to rear wheels when additional traction is required – just in case you are a rare SUV owner who indulges in a bit of light off road manoeuvring.

There has been a major improvement in fuel consumption compared to the outgoing model – with a saving of up to 13% in the 2.0-litre engine. Although the new CR-V is slightly smaller than its predecessor, interior space has actually increased with rear passenger legroom boosted by a significant 9cm.

Step in to the cabin and you notice the dashboard is pretty much clutter-free and depending on the model,  is equipped with either a 5-inch or 7-inch display providing access to the vehicles infotainment system. Apart from the Comfort model (which has cloth upholstery), you will find leather seats.

The centre console is home to the dual-zone climate control and extends down to the selector lever for the often-debated CVT gearbox. Speaking of which, it was quite noticable that this particular version is not only very smooth but avoids any of the nasty whining sound often associated with this particular system.

Apart from the entry-level Comfort version, all models feature electric seat adjustment and seat heating as standard. With the seats in place the CR-V offers 522 litres of luggage space, extendable to 1 084 litres with the seatbacks folded down. Ideal for the storage of perhaps a mountain bike or the like.

We spent the better part of a day behind the wheel of both the 2.0-litre and new 1.5T in a rather wet and windy Cape Town and without a doubt the new turbo powerplant is the pick. It just felt that little more responsive and the extra 27kW appears to make a noticable difference. On the turbo models, paddle shifts are also featured.

Obviously when it comes to styling, it is a subjective issue, but I found myself questioning whether the Honda design team has done enough to make this CR-V stand out in the crowd.The same with the interior. Although most of the materials used are top-notch, the imitation wood panelling brought down the done slightly.

Obviously in the economic situation we find ourself in, pricing is crucial and with the entry-level model starting at R422 900 running up to R626 900, this new CR-V it is not a cheap proposition. Admittedly a look at the spec sheet makes you realise there is a lot packed in to these vehicles. Even the entry-level model is equipped to the rafters with wide-ranging convenience and safety features.

But for once I might be tempted to see a base model that does away with say Driver Attention Monitor, and let the consumer customise as they wish. – Bruce Fraser

2017 Honda CR-V Pricing:

CR-V 2.0 Comfort: R422 900
CR-V 2.0 Elegance: R477 900
CR-V 1.5T Executive: R584 900
CR-V 1.5T Exclusive: R626 900

Included is a five-year/200 000 km warranty, as well as a five-year/90 000 km service plan. Also included is a three-year AA Road Assist package. Scheduled services are at 15 000 km intervals for the 2.0-litre models, and 10 000 km for the 1.5-litre turbo variants.