WHEN Honda executives first revealed the company’s Civic-based compact SUV concept at the Tokyo motor show in 1995, they couldn’t possibly have imagined that their so-called ‘Compact Recreational Vehicle’ would go on to become a worldwide best seller and one of the company’s most important models globally.
The arrival in Australia earlier last year of the fifth-generation Honda CR-V coincided with the model surpassing 8.7 million sales in more than 130 countries including this one, where the soft-roader has been a consistent strong seller and category standard-setter since launch in October 1997.
Ten years and four generations on from the arrival of that first model, the versatile Honda has become a familiar mainstay of our Aussie motoring landscape, and a trusted favourite of drivers won over by its versatility, affordability, reliability and efficiency.
The new model builds on that legacy of roominess and flexibility by introducing, for the first time, a third-row of seats in one version, a move which has corresponded with increased dimensions and a subtle positioning shift from ‘compact’ to ‘mid-size’ SUV.
The extra space and third row is designed, in part at least, to attract families left pondering the bewildering array of models on offer in this ultra-competitive segment, which is precisely why we find ourselves introducing CRV-03 as the latest Bulmer family long-termer.
Honda’s PR man seemed a little nervous handing over the keys, noting with no sense of irony whatsoever that our last long-termer, the Audi Q7 was “significantly bigger than the CR-V so the third row could be an issue if your kids are over the age of six or seven.”
While there’s no denying the dimensional differences between the gargantuan Audi and the mid-size Honda, nor the limitations of the CR-V’s tightly packaged third row, we are nonetheless happy to adopt this newly enlarged Honda as part of the family.
Fact is, with the Bulmer girls having notched up their 14th and ninth birthdays respectively, the third row doesn’t see a lot of action anyway, and is really only needed for occasional use, so that’s definitely not a deal breaker.
What may be, however, as we get further into our time with the CR-V, is the fact the third row doesn’t fold flat with the floor, instead sitting several inches proud of the luggage bay. This will no doubt have a deleterious impact on our ability to cram ridiculous amounts of unnecessary luggage into the boot on our next family road trip.
On the plus side, beneath the seat is a full-size 18-inch alloy, so all will be forgiven if we get a flat. As it stands, CRV-03 is designated a VTi-L, which means it’s the only seven seater in the four-tiered range, costs a reasonable $38,990, and sits above the base VTi and mid-spec VTi-S, but beneath the range-topping $44,290 VTi-LX.
The latter comes standard with AWD, while all-paw traction is a reasonable $2200 option on top of the VTi-S’s $33,290 base. However, if you must have seven seats then the VTi-L is your only option, and it in turn is only available with front-wheel drive.
We won’t know if that’s a problem until we’re bogged somewhere, but for most people, AWD is a nice to have, not a must have – and $2200 buys a lot of fuel … or perhaps one vehicle recovery.
All variants in the new range are powered by a 140kW 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder mated to a CVT and even the base VTi comes equipped with such niceties as keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera, a 7.0-inch display screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, tyre pressure monitoring and trailer stability assist.
The VTi-S adds 18-inch alloys, a power tailgate, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors and a lanewatch driver alert function. Stepping up to the VTi-L brings all of this plus the third row of seats, a panoramic sunroof, part-leather trim, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, and an eight-way adjustable driver’s pew.
Sadly, the latter has already been the source of some minor family discord, with the wife and children having discovered to their horror that they have to adjust the front passenger seat manually.
Oh the shame.