ďCan we keep it, mum?Ē

Family friendly SUV makes a case for permanent adoption

GED BULMER

YOU KNOW a long-termer has connected with you in a deep and meaningful way when you find yourself crunching the numbers to see if it can replace your regular family wheels on a permanent basis.

Such is the impression the Honda CR-V has had over the past four months, slowly working its way into my head and heart so that I now find myself seriously investigating the option of permanent ownership. Or, rather, my accountant is doing so on my behalf.

Yes, itís really that good. Or, perhaps more accurately, itís that good a family car.

So, what is it exactly about the CR-V that makes it so well suited to claiming a permanent place in the family driveway? First, its right sized: like many nuclearfamilies of two adults and two kids Ė one a teen and the other a tween Ė we donít really need something as vast as a Mazda CX-9.

Of course, there are always exceptions, where you find yourself wishing for a few extra cubic metres of boot space while cramming for an annual holiday, but for the most part weíve found the CR-Vís standard 472-litre luggage bay perfectly adequate. Plus, its mid-sized exterior dimensions make it far easier to park than full-sized rivals.

Within that nicely detailed and wellproportioned exterior is a spacious and beautifully built interior, with VTi-L specifics that include a panoramic sunroof, partleather trim, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, and an eight-way adjustable driverís seat. On the downside, the front passenger seat is manually adjustable, which seems a little grim given the $38,990 price tag.

Accommodation in the first and second rows is excellent, so too visibility, while good ergonomics ensure everything is easy to find and operate. Case in point is the range of well thought out storage options; things like large door pockets that can hold a full-sized drink bottle; multiple storage nooks for phones, wallets and keys; a deep centre console for larger objects; and a clever little sliding tray atop the console to avoid losing items to the void below.

Ease of ingress and egress is equally important to families and the Honda is a test case for how to design an SUV that makes the business of getting in and out of its comfortable pews especially easy. This is particularly the case with the CR-Vís second row, accessed via clever rear doors that swing open to a near-90-degree angle.

The VTi-L is the only variant in the current CR-V range to feature a third row of seats, which Honda has cleverly shoehorned into this generation courtesy of a 40mm wheelbase stretch. Itís handy, to be sure, but anyone buying a CR-V and thinking of putting teens or tweens back there should know that itís pretty tight, and such a move could increase said teenís legendary moodiness.

Of course, roominess and build quality are both important, but the CR-V must still deliver on the fundamentals of good ride, handling and performance. There are no major issues here, although the suspension set-up definitely prioritises ride comfort over corner carving and initially comes across as a little soft, with electric power steering thatís a bit on the slow side. However, the more you drive the CR-V, the more confident you become pressing on, and the more you realise that itís endowed with fundamentally sound dynamics.

This helps bolster the Hondaís safety credentials, which are then backed up by a strong suite of active safety aids including ABS with EBD, blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping, stability assistance for car and a trailer, tyre pressure monitoring, front and side airbags plus full length curtain airbags for all three rows.

More advanced electronic safety features, including AEB are available only on the top-spec VTi-LX. Itíd be nice to see Honda bring these features down into its lowerspec models, as rival Mazda has, but thereís no argument in my mind that the CR-V is anything but a safe place to put your family.

Performance from the 140kW/240Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is decently brisk, and with the engineís maximum torque delivered from a low 2000rpm, the CR-V is a gutsy, effortless performer. Thatís despite the engine being paired exclusively to a CVT transmission which, while aiding thriftiness, doesnít add much to the driving experience. I remain lukewarm about the technology.

Not so the 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which quickly became a favourite with the kids, who kindly monopolised the Bluetooth audio streaming connection, to the detriment of my Slim Dusty collection. Sadly, four USB ports meant their phones were rarely in danger of dying either.

And itís on that sad note that we bid sayonara, or rather ďLaťw-jer-gan,Ē to Hondaís Thai-built and thoroughly impressive family SUV. I await the accountantís verdict as to whether we can have a new family car or not, but regardless of whether he green-lights it, Iíll have no hesitation in recommending the CR-V to friends as a fine family hauler, one with a depth of quality that will leave owners satisfied long after the new-car smell has gone.

GED BULMER

All-paw Seven

The VTi-L is the single seven-seater variant in Hondaís four-model range but can only be had in front- and not all-wheel drive. Not yet, at least. Hondaís PR man told us recently ďweíve had strong interest in the seven-seater and are currently looking at the opportunity to include it in other models in the range.Ē Watch this space.

Idiot light

While still well shy of its 10,000km first service, we were alarmed to see the CR-V flash up a warning message that it needed an oil change. Having consulted with the crew at Honda, we were told not to panic, that the message was merely a prompt to remind us that an oil change is upcoming, within the next 1500km! It used to be that a sticker on the windscreen did that, in a far less annoying fashion.