New Honda CRV smart on price and design
With the Japanese tsunami and the Thailand floods stopping production during 2011, Honda's plants have been unable for some time to supply not only complete products from those factories but also parts, panels, engines and transmissions for the company's operations in Europe and North America.
Thus supply of some Honda models to many markets has been affected, and having run out of third generation CR-V models late last year, Honda New Zealand will be welcoming the arrival of the all-new fourth generation model, not only because it's able to satisfy some of the pent-up demand for the model, but also because it arrives with a remarkably sharp sticker that starts at under $40,000 for a car that shows absolutely no sign of penny-pinching.
True, the starter car is a 2.0-litre front-wheel-drive CRV S model, but with many customers buying light SUVs for 'room with a view,' often full all-wheel-drive traction is not on the checklist, so Honda has joined many traditional crossover offerings by furnishing a very well placed range-starter priced at $39,900, that from the outside - save for the lack of a sunroof - looks no different to the $48,900 4WD 2.4-litre CRV Sport, right down to the smart 17 inch alloy wheels.
The new CRVs all come with a reversing camera, iMID Bluetooth phone and music streaming, front, side and curtain airbags, iPod integration, magic seats and 17" alloy wheels, while the Sport version replaces the S model's alcantara faux suede trim with leather, adds a power sunroof, automatic wipers, heated front seats, power drivers seat, the shift paddles, fog lamps and an auto dimming rear view mirror.
The CRV Sport has a refettled version of the old model's 2.4 litre engine whch now offers 140kW that is 12 per cent up on the previous car's 124kW while its 222Nm of torque is up by just 4kW. The CR-V Sport gets 8.7 litres per 100km now, quite an improvement on the old model's 10.0L/100km.
The new CRV S model uses the same 2.0 litre engine used in some Civic sedans. It offers 114kw and 190Nm torque, and fuel economy of just 7.7 L/100km, offering medium hatch running costs in a large SUV package.
Drivers of CRVs can be encouraged into economical driving habits by Honda's so-called ECON operating mode, which, softens throttle responses and improves the vehicle’s fuel efficiency when activated. Both CRVs come with a 5-speed automatic transmission, which offers slightly higher overall gearing (1950rpm/100kmh in top gear) to aid fuel economy. The Sport also includes steering wheel mounted shift paddles.
Despite looking bigger than its predecessor, the new CRV is actually shorter by 30mm thanks to less prominent front and rear overhangs and 30mm lower over all, with a much flatter roofline. The passenger floor and seat bases are 40mm lower than before, but still offer that panoramic SUV view that many buyers look for, with the rear passengers mounted just a few millimetres higher than the front pair.
The under tonneau load space has improved from 512 to 589 litres with the seats up, while maximum volume has gone from 1522 to 1669mm.
For all this extra space, Honda has managed to reduce the coefficient of drag by 8 per cent.
From a brief drive in the two new CRVs, this driver can report a dramatically improved vehicle in terms of ride and refinement. The driving position is more car-like than before but still offers that view people are fond of. Honda has reprofiled the front pillars for better driver visibility too, which is a must with our reverse turning rules and the cabin feels more airy than before.
On the road, the two wheel drive does not make its driver feel short-changed for either performance or equipment, though it has to be said that the 2.4-litre CRV Sport does pack noticeably more punch.
However, I preferred the ''lesser'' S model's ride and handling, with its road noise seeming to be better suppressed than the heavier, all-wheel-drive car's.
A clever touch for the new car is the provision of what Honda calls ''magic seats'' in the fourth-generation CR-V. Levers on each side of the load area are all you have to pull to automatically tumble-fold the rear seat squabs and backs, converting its load area into an almost flat expanse of pace. You don't even need to remove the headrests which means this operation, which can normally take several minutes, is a mere two or three second affair. Nice.
It's a compelling car, the new CRV. But there are questions to ask.
The entry point car at $39,900 is brilliant value and Honda is quite open about the fact that it's looking at fleet buyers for the majority of its intended first full year's sales of 700 units. However, the $9000 step up to the Sport model, whose specification might add up to good value, could have punters asking for lower specification but with the larger engine and more complex drive train. For say $45,000, which is what I'd surmise would be the price benefit of cloth instead of leather and deleting the power sunroof, the CRV 2.4 would still be less expensive than many competitors in the segment, and more in reach of buyers than the Sport.
With the new CR-V coming in on the heels of Honda's new Civic five-door hatch, Honda hasn't had two such compellingly priced cars on its manifest at the same time in years.
* Further impressions of driving and experiencing the CRV will be published next week on this website and in other Fairfax Media motoring publications.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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