Like millions of other working-class Aussies, economic necessity means I’m forced to endure a grinding cross-town commute twice a day, five days a week.
An upside for me, however, is that I get to do it in a wide range of cars and can spend at least some of those otherwise lost 60 minutes considering various aspects of vehicle performance.
Judging by my fellow motorists this discipline is not nearly as popular as talking or texting on the phone, picking one’s proboscis, or doing your nails, but it works for me.
My drive starts in the tree-fringed north-east of Melbourne and, depending on the chosen route, often includes the first 15 minutes traversing an undulating back road, laced with an assortment of hills, twists, turns and even the odd ’roo or fox sighting.
It’s bumpy too, so an insightful test of suspension set-up, steering precision and tyre grip, while also being far more engaging than the mundane multilane alternative.
It’s a road that shows up both some key Honda CR-V strengths – notably compliant ride quality, good tyre grip and torquey hill-eating ability – while also revealing weaknesses, such as its slow steering, leisurely turn-in and soft rebound damping.
To be fair, the CR-V is a compact family wagon and not really the sort of machine to go corner carving in. There’s no question that the dynamics are perfectly safe, and utterly predictable, and that’s what the people who buy a family SUV like this want, along with the utility.
While the reborn Civic Type R and NSX supercar show that Honda clearly has its mojo back with regards building dynamically sharp performance cars that can dissect corners with surgical precision, the CR-V shows the Minato-based conglomerate operating in an altogether different space on its broad spectrum of products.
I doubt I’ll ever become an ardent fan of the CVT transmission but, in tandem with Honda’s torquey, turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder, the CR-V has won my respect for the way it effortlessly eats inclines on my morning run. The droning engine note that’s a fact of life with CVTs isn’t exactly desirable, but you can’t fault the way the transmission keeps the engine pinned in the meat of its torque curve, hovering between 2000-3000rpm and delivering instant acceleration without the pause, kick-down and flare of a traditional torque converter auto.
Surprisingly, in an era where start-stop technology is rapidly becoming the norm, the CR-V doesn’t feature it.
There is an eco-mode switch located next to the hi-mount transmission lever, but I’ve yet to seriously try it. However, with fuel economy running consistently in the mid-10s, it’s evident that its absence isn’t exactly hurting the Honda’s efficiency.
By the time my 30km morning commute is nearing the one hour mark I’ve been at the wheel long enough to appreciate the excellent comfort and support of the front seats, as well as the high driving position and terrific all-round visibility from within the airy cabin, if not the in-car hygiene habits of my fellow commuters.