Plenty of reasons why new Honda CR-V will prove popular
The vehicle is a new fifth-generation CR-V, which has arrived a little earlier than Honda New Zealand anticipated.
In fact the first shipment of CR-Vs arrived just as the company was preparing to introduce the five-door hatchback version of its Civic range. So what could Honda NZ do? It quickly added the vehicle to the subject matter at a media conference that was supposed to be the preserve of the hatch and its racy version the Type-R.
But don't think that just because the CR-V almost had to play second-fiddle to the Civic by being lumped into that media conference, that it's not a crucial vehicle. It's actually the most important model in the Honda fleet, one that is expected to shoot to the top of Honda sales here, overtaking both the smaller Honda SUV the HR-V and the little Jazz hatch in terms of numbers of vehicles crossing showroom floors.
At the media conference Honda NZ marketing manager Nadine Bell forecast more than 1300 CR-V sales in the eight months to the end of the current financial year, and more than 2000 sales next year.
If the vehicle can achieve that level of sales - and there's no reason why it shouldn't, given that the medium SUV category is the most popular in the Kiwi new vehicle market with at least six other models achieving more than 2000 annual registrations - then it will immediately place the CR-V in the list of this country's 15 most popular passenger vehicles.
Of course that begs an immediate question: why wasn't the outgoing fourth-generation CR-V there in the first place? According to Bell the simple answer was because it was getting a bit old. It had been on sale in New Zealand since 2012, and even though it received one significant facelift in 2015 it simply didn't have the goods to keep it competitive against newer medium SUV product.
But now the fifth-generation is here, and the competitiveness has definitely returned.
The new CR-V is built on a new platform that helps make the vehicle longer, wider and taller than the previous model, and this has allowed Honda to introduce a new feature - the choice of seven seats.
Those bigger interior dimensions also mean rear seat leg-room has been increased by 9cm, and there is also more cargo length when the second row seats are folded flat. That's easier to do - the rear seats feature a new one-motion drop-down function to create a totally flat floor.
It simply looks better, too. While the frontal styling looks reasonably similar to before, the rather bulbous rear design of the previous generation model has gone, replaced by a much sharper look. Visibility has been improved thanks to narrower A-pillars, the vehicle is shod with new-design alloy wheels, and a new feature is a powered tailgate that has a programmable height function which allows users to set the opening height to their desired level.
While the basic design of the CR-V's interior remains, with a high-mounted gearshift continuing to be the dominant feature, it is much improved. The cabin is more spacious and materials have been upgraded, including a new soft touch instrument panel and a more intricately stitched new seat design. There's also a new 7-inch touch screen information display in the centre console, and the CR-V's audio system is compatible with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
From the safety perspective, all models are equipped with a high level of equipment including Honda's very good LaneWatch camera system which lets the driver see what's behind when turning left. And at the top level the CR-V features a suite of safety and driver assistance technologies called Honda Sensing that includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian sensing capability, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keep assist.
The new CR-V is being offered in four grades. Entry model is the Touring which is available with front-wheel drive and Honda's Real Time all-wheel drive, then there is a 2WD model called Sport7 which tells us this is the seven-seater, and the top model is the AWD Sport Sensing which has the highest level of safety specification.
All these vehicles are powered by the same engine. In a classic example of the current trend of engine downsizing, the old 2-litre and 2.4-litre petrol engines have been replaced by a new turbocharged 1.5-litre unit. Essentially the same engine as that aboard the turbo versions of the new Civic, it is rated at 140kW of power and 240Nm of torque, which is superior to the previous CR-V's 2.4-litre engine.
And here's the kicker, which underlines Honda's confidence that this new CR-V will enjoy improved sales in New Zealand: it hits the market with lowered prices.
The 2WD Touring retails for $37,900 which is $1000 less than the 2WD S it replaces, while the AWD Touring costs $41,700 which is $1200 less than the old AWD N model. The 2WD Sport7 retails for $44,900 which is $2000 less than the old 2WD Sport, and the AWD Sport Sensing's $47,900 price is a whopping $7000 less than the old AWD Sport NT.
Not only that, but Honda NZ says that if the additional specification the new models carry is factored into the price equation, their value has been improved by between $5400 and $12,500.
Little wonder then that Honda is confident of a much improved performance by this new model in the crucial medium SUV market category. At launch the company had already received 133 pre-orders, with many from owners of opposition SUVs. Exciting times.