You could call them the $39,900 SUVs. That's because there is an increasing number of two-wheel drive versions entering the New Zealand new vehicle market that are priced under that magic $40k bracket.
Latest to arrive was just last week when Mitsubishi launched its front-drive Outlander. It retails for $39,990, as does the
HONDA CRV S
POWER PLANT: 2.O-litre 16-valve i-VTEC petrol engine, 114 kW at 6500 rpm, 190 Nm at 4300 rpm.
RUNNING GEAR: Front-wheel drive. Five-speed automatic transmission. Hill-start assist. MacPherson strut front suspension, multi-link double wishbone system at the rear.
HOW BIG: Length 4534mm, width 1820mm, height 1685mm, wheelbase 2620mm.
HOW MUCH: $39,900
WHAT'S GOOD: Easy to operate, excellent driver position, load capacity, encourages economical driving.
WHAT'S NOT: Looks not that different to before. Auto transmission remains a five- speeder.
OUR VERDICT: This front-drive version of the new fourth-generation CRV S has lots that is appealing. Little wonder then that it is accounting for around 50 per cent of all CRV sales.
And one other 2WD SUV that is right on the money when it comes to retail price is the first-ever front-driven version of Honda's CRV, a model simply dubbed S.
It has a slightly less level of specification as the all-wheel-drive CRV Sport, and instead of being powered by that vehicle's 2.4-litre engine, it uses the 2.0-litre engine from the Civic .
So essentially, it is a Civic with a CRV body over the top. Well not really, because there are differences to the suspension which is more robust than required for a small-medium sedan.
But in reality, that is the whole point of 2WD SUVs. An increasing number of motorists are opting for the fuel economy that comes with operating a vehicle that gets its motive power from two wheels rather than four, but at the same time they enjoy the superior visibility, feeling of security, and the lifestyle benefits that are available from the SUV style.
And it's an enjoyable car to drive. For the money, the level of specification isn't that much short of the $48,990 Sport - what are missing is the all-wheel drive, the large engine, paddle shifters on the steering wheel for the five-speed auto, an electric sunroof, front fog lamps, leather upholstery, and rain sensors for the wipers.
But all the rest is there - same suspension system, same 17-inch alloys, same auto with its very good gear Logic Control and hill-start assist, same audio with its controls and Bluetooth integrated into the steering wheel, same climate-control air conditioning, and the same level of safety specification which has given it a five-star crash rating.
It drives well, too. Naturally, power is down when compared to the AWD CRV, because the engine is smaller in capacity. But performance is still sound thanks to the capability of Honda's 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine, which offers 114 kW of power and 190 Nm of torque.
Body size and interior dimensions are identical to the AWD Sport model. That means this SUV is smaller in size, but bigger on the inside. The vehicle's length is 30mm shorter and height is 30mm lower when compared to the previous- generation model, but thanks to advances in materials and good design, the interior headroom remains the same and shoulder width has gone up by 75mm.
The only real change is that the rear seats are now 40mm lower than before. But the hip points of those seats remain higher than those at the front, which means rear seat visibility is still good.
Honda tells us the 2012 CRV's body and glass have been completely redesigned in the interests of improved visibility - and it is good - and what I like are the location and feel of the steering wheel plus the highish positioning of the transmission.
New in this model is a central LED screen that displays information ranging from average speed, to kilometres to empty. It also displays audio and Bluetooth hands-free information, the controls for which are mounted on the steering wheel.
One reason people buy SUV-style vehicles is to enjoy more rear load space, and this new CRV has had this area increased from 524 litres to a very good 589 litres. And, thanks to Honda's Magic Seat system, the rear seats now have the ability to lay completely flat, which can increase maximum cargo space to 1669 litres. That's a massive amount of space.
The S also has Honda's Econ operating mode which, at the push of a button, alters the CRV's electronic throttle so it doesn't respond as much to accelerator pedal input. It also has the Eco Assist feature which changes the colour of panels either side of the rev counter to encourage efficient driving - white for inefficient, green for efficient.
All this allowed me to achieve an average fuel consumption better than the stated 7.7 L/100 km, which is very good for any SUV-shaped petrol vehicle, even if it is front-driven.
Having already spent quite an amount of time behind the wheel of the new CRV Sport, I did find that at times the smaller- engined S version was slightly lacking in grunt. But I also found it to be quieter and with a better ride. So overall that's a nice balance of what you get, and what you don't, when compared to its CRV sibling that retails for $9000 more.
- Taranaki Daily News
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