Top-shelf SUV for families on a budget
Honda's long-term Australian future may look murky, but the brand's reputation for solid engineering and reliability means buyers have long swarmed to its vehicles, particularly the CR-V mid-sized SUV.
It's also much sought after on the used market, holding its value well and offering generous passenger and boot space, impressive ride quality and sheer ease to drive.
Families will appreciate some CR-V grades offering seven seats and the model's 5-star safety rating, but not its disappointing lack of modern active safety kit - such as autonomous emergency braking - unless you buy the later top-grade models.
Services for pre-July 2017 cars are every six-months/10,000km (short by today's standards), there are numerous owner reports of the infotainment touchscreen going haywire through overheating, and squeaking brakes is a noted grumble for some.
Mechanically, at least, the CR-Vs appear to be holding up well, with only rare instances of big-ticket problems.
These Hondas shine on suburban school runs, but don't harbour ideas about off-roading. Yes, there are all-wheel-drive versions, but CR-Vs are strictly soft-road SUVs. Positively, all were offered with a full-size spare wheel.
I'll concentrate on CR-Vs up to five years old. This time frame spans two generations, with the current fifth-generation CR-V on sale from July 2017. These later variants look more muscular, are bigger in every direction and even more practical than their predecessors. Only these later cars, for instance, were available as seven seaters.
If your budget only stretches to earlier models, the fourth-gen CR-V launched in 2012, with the facelifted versions (RM Series II) arriving for the start of 2015. Grades were VTi, VTi-S and VTi-L, each available with front-wheel-drive and a 114kW 2.0-litre petrol engine, or all-wheel-drive with a gutsier 140kW 2.4-litre petrol. A DTi-L diesel was offered, but found next to no buyers. All were auto-only bar the entry-level VTi's unpopular manual option.
Specification was generous in all. The VTi had 17-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, cruise control, keyless entry, touchscreen with multi-angle reversing camera, USB and HDMI ports and Bluetooth.
It's worth seeking a VTi-S for dual-zone climate control, auto headlights and wipers, push-button start, leather steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitor. Range-topping VTi-L is the luxe grade, adding power and heated leather seats, navigation, electric sunroof and 18-inch alloys. Sadly, adaptive cruise control, auto emergency braking and lane-keep assist were only optional with Honda's ADAS safety pack.
The arrival of the fifth-generation in 2017 coincided with a jump from a three-year to five-year warranty.
Just one engine was offered - a turbocharged 140kW 1.5-litre petrol - while the conventional auto gearboxes made way for a single-speed CVT auto, which is a bit whiny when pushed. The engine's great for cruising, but can feel overworked on hills with a few passengers on board.
Grades were VTi, VTi-S, VTi-L (the seven seater) and VTi-LX. All were 2WD except the AWD range-topper, but it was also an option on the VTi-S.
Entry-level VTi had push-button start, dual-zone climate control and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. VTi-S added a power tailgate, 18-inch alloys and satnav; VTi-L had the third row of seats, panoramic sunroof and power heated leather front seats, while VTi-LX had all the active safety gear.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The touchscreen in post-July 2017 CR-Vs can apparently unexpectedly turn off and on, shift between brightness settings, reset itself or flick between menus. Reports suggest this happens when it gets too hot and although some owners have been given replacement units, the problem seems to persist.
Other complaints involve poor satnav, poor airconditioning, the auto gear shift button falling off, and annoying, squeaky brakes.
Be aware, if you need to fit child seats in the middle row, the top tether strap anchor points are in the ceiling, making third row seat access very difficult.
Check the service history is complete and all post-July 2017 CR-Vs will have some factory warranty intact, making them a smarter pick.
Honda offered transferable seven-year warranty deals at times, so look for these.
Listen for any unusual, groaning or excessive whining noises from the engine or other oily bits underneath. Those fitted with the CVT auto will suffer some droning noises - it's a CVT trait, sadly - but reject any where it's too loud. Steer clear of any CR-V that's been used off-road.
IAIN SAYS 3/5
Solid and reliable all-rounder that's a great fit for families, if only Honda's active safety kit filtered down to lower grades. Post-July 2017 versions have longer warranties and better equipment.
JOHN WATTS: I've owned my CR-V VTi-S AWD for just over a year and covered 50,000km in that time. It's a pretty good car, maybe a bit boring, but easy to drive and comfortable. It returns around 7.5L/100km overall, and 6L/100km on freeway runs. I had some small issues with Apple CarPlay which were resolved, while the adaptive cruise control is oversensitive and has sometimes hit the brakes when I'm simply passing a vehicle. Service intervals could be increased to every 15,000km in line with other brands.
DAVID WHITEMAN: After over three years and 40,000km my front wheel drive CR-V VTi-S continues to impress. I'm amazed the "experts" don't rate the CVT gearbox, I think it's great. It's well equipped and I'm grateful for a full-size spare. Satnav, a power tailgate and turbo power would be nice. My original Honda dealer disappointed with service.
THE EXPERTS SAY
Over the period from 2015 to the end of 2019 Honda has sold nearly 56,000 CR-Vs.
The new model in 2017 doubled sales in its first full year on sale.
Carsales has about 600 examples on sale and the most common variant is the well-equipped VTi-S model. Front-wheel drive models account for two-thirds of available CR-Vs.
The entry-level CR-V VTi with 2.0-litre engine and manual transmission from 2015 cost $27,490 new, and is now valued at $18,700 used. The flagship CR-V DTi-L (diesel) with auto and four-wheel drive was $44,290 new and is now worth $30,100.
Only the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson from 2015 retain value better than the CR-V. For 2019, the CR-V trails only the CX-5.
2015-2019 HONDA CR-V
Price new: $28,290-$44,290
Safety: 5 stars
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 114kW/190Nm or 113kW/189Nm; 2.4-litre four-cylinder, 140kW/222Nm; 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, 110kW/350Nm; 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, 140kW/240Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 5-speed or 9-speed auto or CVT auto; 2WD/AWD
Originally published as Top-shelf SUV for families on a budget