If you’re near a school during morning or afternoon peak times, make a quick assessment of Australia’s most popular compact SUVs -- you’ll notice a lot of Honda CRVs.
In fact, month by month, the top three sellers in this segment are neck-and-neck – CRV, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.
The recipe for CRV’s success is simple: great styling, nice to drive, versatile load space and value-for-money.
What You Get
A CRV hadn’t appeared in the Car Showroom garage for a while, so it was timely when Honda tossed us the keys to a 2010 CRV Luxury model and said: “See you in a week.” As well as our usual test procedures, that week included a heavy complement of family adventures, so the CRV was in its element.
Now well into its model life, the third generation CRV still exudes contemporary styling and that 2.4-litre i-VTEC engine remains one of the standouts in the compact SUV segment. Interestingly, the segment’s top three sellers (Forester, RAV4 and CRV) had not offered a diesel engine alternative until Subaru’s just-announced Forester diesel.
Amongst the upgrades included in 2010 CRVs (most notably the addition of curtain airbags for the standard model), the Luxury model as tested snared some styling changes, new design alloy wheels and auto lights and wipers.
When the third generation CRV was launched, Honda engineers squeezed an extra seven kilowatts from the 2.4-litre DOHC i-VTEC engine – now up to 125kW at 5800 rpm. Peak torque is 218Nm at 4200 rpm.
Combined cycle fuel economy for both the five-speed automatic (as tested) and six-speed manual is 10L/100km.
Typically Honda, responsiveness is first rate and the CRV zips from zero to 100km/h in 10.2 seconds – that’s a tad faster than Forester XS Premium and RAV4 Cruiser L.
Upgraded interior fabrics, new interior surfaces, plastics and even improved door handles are all part of CRV’s 2010 overhaul. And interior noise levels have been reduced with extra sound deadening material underneath.
Leather seats (standard in the Luxury model we tested) add to a very pleasant interior ambiance. The Luxury model also scores eight-way power adjustment for the drivers’ seat.
CRV uses a dashboard gear lever so the center console is downsized but still contains two cup holders and extra large storage bins. Instrumentation is the conventional two dials and the nice three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel has button controls for the audio system and cruise control – the latter rivaling Ford’s similar, excellent system for its safe, easy-to-use functionality.
In the Luxury model we tested, the audio is a six-CD stacker, MP3 compatible and with a separate input jack.
Like most in the compact SUV segment, rear seat legroom is fine for youngsters but gets a bit tight for full-size adults contemplating extended journeys. The Car Showroom juniors were quickly into their child and booster seats with a minimum of installation grief.
Out back, CRV delivers 2.06 cubic metres of cargo capacity with the rear seat down (1.01 cubic metres) when the seat is in place). The Luxury model as tested comes with a double deck load area (the upper level limited to 10kgs).
CRV is rated to tow braked trailers up to 1500kgs – on par with segment rivals. That’s OK for a compact caravan and reasonably large boat trailer.
Exterior & Styling
We thought the CRV was a brilliant looker when it first appeared and a few years down the track, our enthusiasm for its styling is undiminished. We continue to like the steeply curved rear window line and C-pillar mounted tail-lights.
For 2010, Luxury models gain new five-twin-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels which look nice, a sunroof and fog lights. A new front grille distinguishes all 2010 CRVs.
At 4520mm overall length and with a wheelbase of 2620mm, the CRV is at the larger end of the compact SUV scale, but family buyers reckon the package size is just right and have voted with their cheque books.
On The Road
Scheduling was just right for this one and we had the opportunity to put the CRV through our usual test procedures as well as a full weekend of family activities.
The CRV rides on front MacPherson strut/multi-link rear suspension. The third generation line-up delivered substantially improved driving dynamics over its predecessor – thanks to a stiffer chassis and suspension calibration, lower ride height and wider track. For this year, Honda improved things further with more front castor angle and revised rear suspension bushes.
Around town and over Melbourne’s tram/train track crossings you can’t fault the CRV for its supple and refined ride. Over our high-speed test roads, turn-in was as sharp as you get in a mid-size SUV and mid-corner bumps did not dramatically destabilize the CRV.
Loading up the family and associated paraphernalia, we did jettison the CRV Luxury’s extra cargo deck and just loaded ‘er up. Fully loaded, the 2.4-litre i-VTEC didn’t shirk at the job ahead and the CRV’s overall driving dynamics remained excellent.
We deducted points from the CRV in two areas.
Firstly we reckon the front seats lack under-thigh support and are generally just a tad too small. Slightly downsizing the front seats is a common ‘sleight-of-hand’ trick used by many all vehicle companies to boost interior spaciousness.
And while the Luxury model we tested came with rear parking sensors, we think a rear view camera should be standard on all SUVs.
CRV starts at $30,990 and the Luxury model we tested was stickered at $42,790 – that’s sharp especially when you start comparing spec-for-spec against the rivals.
It’s simple really – the CRV remains popular with Australian families because it’s so darn good at being an all-rounder. And Honda’s reputation for engineering excellence and reliability is certainly a confidence booster.
It’s a bit of a coin toss or ‘rock-paper-scissors’ here…
Like the CRV, Toyota’s RAV remains desirable despite its advancing years. Like the CRV, the RAV is a great all-rounder with excellent quality and value-for-money.
Subaru’s Forester… well it’s a Subaru so it must be good. Forester’s new diesel engine certainly makes things interesting.
And if you’re shopping in this segment you simply must consider the new Kia Sorento and Hyundai ix35.
Still looks stylish; beautifully built; nice drive; practical
Front seats aren’t the best in segment.