Honda CRV: Just the thing for contemplating charismatic cosy country cottages

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“Bigger on the inside, Smaller on the outside” is the claim made by Honda. Unlike some claims this one seems to be true. It’s been shrunk 20mm in height and 30mm in length. Of course length is usually where it counts but CRV feels as big inside as the previous model, if not a smidge bigger.

Up front there is a touch of “Dame Edna” happening, with the headlights tilting cheerfully at the edges like a pair of big sparkly glasses. The rear keeps the customary tall tail lights which may be common now but were on the very first CRV a decade and a half ago. I’m not usually one for Soft Roaders because they lack the gravitas of the fully caffeinated 4WD’s like Nissan Patrol and Toyota Land Cruiser. CRV has had a following from the beginning because it feels much like a car to drive and at the time there wasn’t much of a choice those wanting a set of compact go-anywhere-weekend-wheels.

For those of us who contemplate charismatic cosy country cottages, there is 170mm of ground clearance, so as not to become bogged in the driveway. No weekend should be ruined by bad design and although I didn’t have such a cottage of my very own, there is one I can borrow. This means we did get the chance to make sure an average bloke won’t embarrass himself, by being blokey. There’s an appealing Tonka Toy look about the new CRV which will be exactly what the demographic will want and she looks good bumping down a mountain-top country lane.

There’s another thing too, the rear hatch opens wide and low. It’s a perfect place to perch yourself for a spot of afternoon tea. The reversing camera eliminates that sinking feeling every time you back up. While in the back I took the chance to see how comfy it was. I had the pillows so why not, but with the rear seats flat, there is a nasty rut through the middle of the floor which played havoc on my well-padded hips. Mental note to self: keep extra padding in SUV’s for such emergencies.

The exterior design is modern and pleasing. I’ve always thought the CRV was a quiet achiever because, as I’ve already said, it’s always driven like a car, but now it drives like a slightly better car. It looks smart from the outside, and dare I say looks more expensive than it actually is.

It’s the same story inside and in our top model where we didn’t need the key to enter or to start the engine. The first thing I noticed was the comfy ambience of the cabin. Leather has been thrown about with gay abandon but it is with a slight note of dismay that I spied the band of genuine fake marbleised plastic running across the dash. It’s nasty and would have been better off in the ubiquitous Piano Black. I’m told Honda put much thought into the “feeling” of the interior. It seems to have paid off not only for the extra technology but for the quality of the fittings. The plastic feels like it will last and looks good with the exception of the afore mentioned marbleised trim on the dash. The switch gear also has a reassuring chunkiness whose quality leaves the user with the sense that they will function as intended long into the future. The materials have been thoughtfully selected so as to provide the competition with a reason to worry. It’s essential for an auto-maker to innovate and improve so that each new model moves the company forward. The design of the cabin is thoughtful, considered and restrained.

I’d like to take a moment to mention an important fact which is that Honda had started to fall behind in market segment with a lack of visible technology. The cabins in all but the top model were looking decidedly bereft of gadgets. The blokes in Japan have been peeking over the back fence at what the others have been doing and Lo and Behold! The interior has the new Honda infotainment system which sounds rather good. The tone is quite decent and the controls could be easily manipulated with little or no reference to the user guide. Pairing the mobile was no fuss either. I like Honda’s Bluetooth very much. There is a reverse camera that displays a view out back right there in the middle of the dash and finally, a satnav system that is relatively easy to use with no sign of the psychosis that is so often present with built in navigation systems. This gets extra brownie points. Also getting extra marks are the electric leather seats and fully adjustable steering.

There are a few things I’d like to see in the midlife update shortlist such as self-parking and auto-folding mirrors. Both could be added with little cost. Memory control for the front seats would also be a good way of adding extra value because staying in front of the pack is what makes us notice a brand isn’t it?

It’s the drive which most people pay for and I’m happy to report the CRV is very comfy on the road. As you are whisked along at 110 the exterior noise is just a distant sound somewhere in the background. There are no unfortunate wind whistles which can ruin an otherwise pleasant trip. The steering has been tightened up and now feels rather like an Accord to drive. All models have electric power steering. It feels good to be sitting so high and there is a reassuring smoothness you experience from the time you press the start button. I was slightly disappointed with the fuel consumption because I’ve not been able to get it much under 10L/100k for most of the week, but then not many SUV’s can. But, it is worth paying a little extra for fuel if you have lots of space and in the CRV there is certainly that. The 140kw 2.4 L petrol power plant develops 222Nm of oomph and it certainly gets the old girl moving. I took the liberty of taking a trip into the Blue Mountains as well as my usual coastal thrash through the Royal National Park and I have to say I was impressed. The body-roll for such a tall vehicle was limited to a modest lean regardless of the amount of push. To make matters even more interesting, the grip was tenacious. Even in the tightest of corners I never felt as though I was in danger of slipping unceremoniously off the bitumen.

It’s unusual for me to take an SUV on the sports-run but it has been known to happen. With windows down, sunroof open, the music was blasting the occupants with carefully selected modern classics while gentle gusts of wind tussled the hair. It’s a good way to judge whether or not a car is both nice to drive, and comfortable on a trip. To my mind, this is something everyone should do on a test drive. How else would you know how it handles, and whether or not your bottom goes to sleep after a half hour? How many times have I insisted that everyone takes the time to properly familiarise themselves with the subtle nuances of a vehicle. To me, it is inexcusable that someone cares so little as to buy a car without driving it, or only driving it a kilometre or two round the block.

Normally I’d have the silky smooth 6 speed auto in Sports Mode however for what might be the first time in human history I chose “normal” over “sport”. I did this for several reasons: the first being the auto hangs onto the gears for way too long in sports mode making the engine scream for mercy. The engine at 6 thousand lacks the note to make the sound inviting. Finally the fuel consumption plummets which, and in this day and age that may be the point at which many will fall by the wayside.

Changing the gears yourself gets around this problem and keeps the silky motor on just the right amount of boil. There is a pleasing willingness at 4,000 that’s pulls you through a corner and out the other side with the gusto of over-enthusiastic schoolboy. The CRV switches directions easily with the steering feeling confident and direct. Once a hater of electric steering, I’m now a fan because weight has been added to illuminate the vague remoteness.

For those of us who need to, the rear seats fold down cleverly. Pulling the right tab pulls the seat squab forward, collapses the rear headrest and folds the seatback down almost flat. It is then that the rut appears where the seatbacks have folded but under normal circumstances it isn’t a concern. The cargo space isn’t the biggest in the class but the low loading lip means you can transport a couple of bikes inside rather than on the roof simply by removing its front wheel. The idea behind SUV’s is that they allow their owners a certain amount of leeway when it comes to that which you cram into the back. Honda has become very clever at solutions for making the cabin more flexible and the CRV has 1648 litres of cargo space with the seats down. That’s surely enough to be going on with. I’d love to have seen a button to make lowering the rear door easier. It’s something the smaller statured boy might have trouble with.

The mountain trip was far less taxing. The leaves had started to turn which means the lanes had a light dusting of red, orange and brown in the foliage which provides picture postcard moments. Swishing at just the right speed whips up the leaves into swirls of autumn hews leaving a trail of fleeting memories, and somehow you’re reminded that this is exactly what these cars are about. I’m reminded then of winter days with coats and scarves and gloves which lay tantalisingly out of sight just around the corner. Those are the times when the back of the CRV will be full of blankets and pillows and food to keep you warm. All of which have been carefully packed in to make sure the weekend away lacks none of the comforts of home. Why is this important? Try fitting all that stuff into another car! Arriving at a friend’s (cosy charismatic country) cottage means unloading the car as a comforting glass of champagne is pushed thoughtfully into your hand. The car is where it will stay for the night, so why not. We had negotiated a slightly suspect approach road with the aplomb of a nubile athlete, so proving the average owner is in safe hands.

The next day we are back in those narrow lanes with overhanging trees. We are heading out for a day’s antiquing. As if in a nod to the change of season, a brilliantly coloured red leaf dropped through the open sunroof to the squeals of excitement of those in the rear seat. We broke the day up by lunching at a smart café which has taken up residence in an old garage in Leura. As we sat down at our table a bloke sitting a metre away said “Hey mate, is that the new Honda? It’s not too shabby is it?” And with that my opinion was cemented.

At the end of the day all you really want from a car is that is looks good, is value for money and will last, the rest is icing on the cake. The CRV is a good package. Would I have one? Yes, if I was in the market for a compact SUV.

Price around $42,000

Interesting Facts-

Once upon a time 140KW was super-car territory, but not since the 70’s. The 3.3L straight 6 Kingswood developed a heady 81KW and drank fuel at the rate of 18L/100k and took 11.7 seconds to 100kph. The 2.4 straight 4 Honda develops 140KW and does under 10L/100k and does the 100 sprint in under 8 seconds. I say this to put things into perspective.

feature

Honda CRV 2013

Engine

8

Transmission

7

Ride

6

Cargo capacity

6

Handling

6

Looks

7

Versatility

7

Fuel consumption

5

Equipment

7

Interior feel

7

Exterior feel

8

How it makes you feel

7

TOTAL

81/120

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3 thoughts on “Honda CRV: Just the thing for contemplating charismatic cosy country cottages

  1. Hey there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room
    mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this
    post to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

    Like

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