YOU KNOW a long-termer has connected with you in a deep and meaningful way when you find yourself crunching the numbers to see if it can replace your regular family wheels on a permanent basis.
Such is the impression the Honda CR-V has had over the past four months, slowly working its way into my head and heart so that I now find myself seriously investigating the option of permanent ownership. Or, rather, my accountant is doing so on my behalf.
Yes, it’s really that good. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s that good a family car.
So, what is it exactly about the CR-V that makes it so well suited to claiming a permanent place in the family driveway? First, its right sized: like many nuclear-families of two adults and two kids – one a teen and the other a tween – we don’t really need something as vast as a Mazda CX-9.
Of course, there are always exceptions, where you find yourself wishing for a few extra cubic metres of boot space while cramming for an annual holiday, but for the most part we’ve found the CR-V’s standard 472-litre luggage bay perfectly adequate. Plus, its mid-sized exterior dimensions make it far easier to park than full-sized rivals.
Within that nicely detailed and well-proportioned exterior is a spacious and beautifully built interior, with VTi-L specifics that include a panoramic sunroof, part-leather trim, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, and an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat. On the downside, the front passenger seat is manually adjustable, which seems a little grim given the $38,990 price tag.
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Accommodation in the first and second rows is excellent, so too visibility, while good ergonomics ensure everything is easy to find and operate. Case in point is the range of well thought out storage options; things like large door pockets that can hold a full-sized drink bottle; multiple storage nooks for phones, wallets and keys; a deep centre console for larger objects; and a clever little sliding tray atop the console to avoid losing items to the void below.
Ease of ingress and egress is equally important to families and the Honda is a test case for how to design an SUV that makes the business of getting in and out of its comfortable pews especially easy. This is particularly the case with the CR-V’s second row, accessed via clever rear doors that swing open to a near-90-degree angle.
The VTi-L is the only variant in the current CR-V range to feature a third row of seats, which Honda has cleverly shoe-horned into this generation courtesy of a 40mm wheelbase stretch. It’s handy, to be sure, but anyone buying a CR-V and thinking of putting teens or tweens back there should know that it’s pretty tight, and such a move could increase said teen’s legendary moodiness.
Of course, roominess and build quality are both important, but the CR-V must still deliver on the fundamentals of good ride, handling and performance. There are no major issues here, although the suspension set-up definitely prioritises ride comfort over corner carving and initially comes across as a little soft, with electric power steering that’s a bit on the slow side. However, the more you drive the CR-V, the more confident you become pressing on, and the more you realise that it’s endowed with fundamentally sound dynamics.
Read more: 2018 Honda CR-V: Which spec is best?
This helps bolster the Honda’s safety credentials, which are then backed up by a strong suite of active safety aids including ABS with EBD, blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping, stability assistance for car and a trailer, tyre pressure monitoring, front and side airbags plus full length curtain airbags for all three rows.
More advanced electronic safety features, including AEB are available only on the top-spec VTi-LX. It’d be nice to see Honda bring these features down into its lower-spec models, as rival Mazda has, but there’s no argument in my mind that the CR-V is anything but a safe place to put your family.
Performance from the 140kW/240Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is decently brisk, and with the engine’s maximum torque delivered from a low 2000rpm, the CR-V is a gutsy, effortless performer. That’s despite the engine being paired exclusively to a CVT transmission which, while aiding thriftiness, doesn’t add much to the driving experience. I remain lukewarm about the technology.
Not so the 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which quickly became a favourite with the kids, who kindly monopolised the Bluetooth audio streaming connection, to the detriment of my Slim Dusty collection. Sadly, four USB ports meant their phones were rarely in danger of dying either.
And it’s on that sad note that we bid sayonara, or rather “Laéw-jer-gan,” to Honda’s Thai-built and thoroughly impressive family SUV. I await the accountant’s verdict as to whether we can have a new family car or not, but regardless of whether he green-lights it, I’ll have no hesitation in recommending the CR-V to friends as a fine family hauler, one with a depth of quality that will leave owners satisfied long after the new-car smell has gone.
Date acquired: September 2017
Price as tested: $38,990
This month: 2429km @ 9.5L/100km
Overall: 6990km @ 9.2L/100km