Honda slipped in a facelifted version of its globally popular CR-V earlier this year. A slight facial revision and model lineup alteration will see the Honda CR-V take on a seriously crowded compact SUV segment. We got to grips with the 2.0 Elegance manual and put it through its paces over a week-long test.
The new stuffFor the facelifted CR-V, the focus has shifted more towards value for money as Honda tries to claw back some sales volume momentum in this segment. Seeing as buyers shopping for a soft-roader SUV place a priority on practicality and school run duties, as opposed to any real off-roading, Honda has introduced more front-wheel drive-only versions of the CR-V. All-wheel drive is reserved for the range-topping 2.4-Litre petrol models.
The exterior changes to the grille in particular have given the CR-V a more stylish and modern look, although I can’t help but feel the chrome strips lean towards the blingy American market. Overall the new design has helped make the CR-V look less bulky and more athletic.
Other updates to the CR-V occur under the skin and include improvements to the ride and comfort levels, and a decrease in noise and vibrations within the cabin.
Power to the peopleHonda continues to stick with its naturally-aspirated engine lineup for now and the 2-Litre unit we have on test makes 114 kW and 192 Nm. Since the 2-Litre only has to power the front wheels, the CR-V feels quite perky and not as sluggish as I thought it would be with the relative lack of low-down torque from a naturally aspirated engine. It revs cleanly and even when loaded with a fair amount of travelling paraphernalia, it never felt laboured. The six-speed manual would also be my choice here despite the growing trend towards autos. The Honda shifter is crisp, fast and almost effortless to send up and down the gearbox and I would prefer it to the excess drag on the engine that you’re likely to get from the five-speed auto.
Space raceThere’s not much in the compact SUV category that can match the CR-V for space. It has a huge boot at 556-Litres and the rear seats can be folded flat to offer more loading space. Rear room is excellent and the seats are trimmed in leather – something you usually pay extra for in this segment.
Standard equipment on the CR-V is commendable and once you factor that into the price the CR-V becomes an even more attractive offering. The front seats are electrically adjustable and heated for those harsh winter mornings. Front and rear parking sensors and climate control are also standard as is the seven-inch touchscreen that controls audio and media functions. There’s a cool economy measurement chart that compares current drive to previous drives and personal best consumption. The screen itself is not the prettiest around and it’s annoying having to accept some Honda terms and conditions every time you turn on the car. That said, the overall functionality is good and it does all its jobs well, plus there’s an HDMI port.
SafetyThe Honda CR-V ranks safety highly on its priority list and its standard safety equipment includes six airbags, ABS, EBD, traction and stability control as well as ISOFIX seat anchors in the rear.
Ride and HandlingThis facelifted CR-V offers a marked improvement in its ride and comfort, so whatever the suspension engineers have done behind the scenes have certainly worked. It has a supple ride, but it doesn’t lean or wobble excessively in corners. It’s also very composed over bumps and breaks in the road surface, and none of the harshness enters into the cabin. The steering, despite being electrically powered, has quite a natural feel to it that builds weight as the steering angle increases. It never feels tricky to drive or nervous on the front end which will inspire confidence in the any driver behind the wheel.
VerdictIt’s quite difficult to pick rivals for the Honda CR-V 2.0 manual as it actually occupies a bit of niche within the segment. Most entry spec compact SUVs are going the small capacity turbocharged route and the higher end ones are automatic and diesel so the CR-V 2.0 sits somewhere in the middle. We see the buyer as someone who wants the confirmed reliability of a naturally-aspirated engine, but doesn’t want to skimp on specification levels. Direct rivals then lie in the Subaru Forester and the Toyota RAV4, but as a buyer you’ll also want to look at indirect rivals such as the Ford Kuga, Nissan X-Trail and Chevrolet Captiva. You might end up paying a little extra for the Honda, but you certainly won’t feel short-changed if you do.
Honda CR-V Price in South AfricaThe Honda CR-V 2.0 Comfort manual and auto starts off the range at R355 900 and R370 900 respectively before our test unit, the 2.0 Elegance is priced at R404 100. The 2.0 Elegance also comes in an auto at R419 100. The 2.4-Litre Executive AWD is R520 900 and the 2.4 Exclusive AWD is R557 800.
Second OpinionThe Honda CR-V is easily the brand's strongest product and the latest generation of this SUV will not disappoint. It's super practical and boasts impressive ride quality. It's also pleasant to drive. In this particular spec, it may not be the fastest or most frugal, but it certainly delivers in terms of specification and quality.-David Taylor
We Like: Ride, space and peace of mind, gearshift quality
We Don’t Like: Touchscreen looks a bit dated and it is thirstier than modern turbo engines
Also consider: Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Ford Kuga