Call me old fashioned but I thought 4WDs had to be boxy and functional – words like: style, comfort and trip computers, weren’t allowed in the same sentence as ‘4WD’. Not so with the third generation Honda CRV. A weekend tour of the Northern Rivers in the new CRV-Sport, brought me up to speed.
Visually, there has been an amazing turnaround for the CRV. The square, almost Defender style of the 1997 original model is barely detectable. Instead you are greeted with a curvaceous and aerodynamic, almost coupe-like profile, lower centre of gravity and wider tyres. Gone is the tailgate mounted exterior spare wheel (a full sized spare is now hidden underfloor) giving you improved rear-vision and a 100mm shorter vehicle.
Internally, the CRV-Sport is plush, more space efficient and, as my daughter pointed out “Hey Dad there’s heaps of gadgets”. It’s not, however, just about keeping the image conscious generation happy – the dashboard keeps you informed about everything from fuel efficiency and range to the external temperature in a clear, easy to understand and stylish digital interface. There is also more leg room, a telescopic steering wheel, upgraded sound system, a port for MP3 players, cup holders, a convex mirror (parents can check on the kids in the back), dual zone air-conditioning, a dual-deck cargo shelf and plenty of storage options.
Dimensionally, the CRV has followed the trend of the Odyssey with a reduction in height, ground clearance and wheelbase while there have been increases in body, front track and rear widths. The result is a more sedan like feel to a car which also has a new AWD upgrade and is quite capable of easing its way through the sand, mud and fun stuff.
It’s on the road, however, that the changes to the new CRV are most noticeable. An extra 7kW of power, a flatter torque curve and Vehicle Stability Assist, coupled with a 32mm lower seating position really make you feel like the car is in charge of the road and not the other way around. The gearbox turned out to be slick and surprisingly responsive with a good spread of ratios, there was just a hint of the exhilaration normally reserved for a sports sedan. Still with a touch of understeer through corners, the new CRV nevertheless grips gamely, leans less than you would expect and turns in with eagerness – not at all bad for an SUV.
Locally the Tweed Valley Way and the roads from Bangalow to Lismore and Ballina to Byron were a lot of fun – some cars are meant to be driven on sweeping country roads and not on straight, endless dual carriageways.
As far as safety is concerned, you’ve never been able to knock Honda. ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, active headrests, better crash protection and six airbags come as standard on the Sport and Luxury models. Pedestrian safety is also improved with a new energy-absorbing bonnet design that deforms on impact.
So all up – what have you got? You have a more stylish car that is safer and smaller yet with more internal space and comfort, more grunt under the bonnet, higher-spec gadgets and more fun to drive. It’s difficult to find much to complain about, which is why Honda must be feeling pretty confident about their latest version of a car that has sold over 2.5 million in 160 countries. With over 90,000 Australian owners, it seems that we too will be saying “Happy 10th Birthday” to the CRV.