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HONDA CR-V

With reported sales of nine million units over the last two decades, and amid claims (by Honda) that the CR-V pioneered the compact SUV segment in South Africa as well as being the world’s best selling SUV, the CR-V has some stiff competition locally. Toyota’s RAV, the VW Tiguan and Mitsubishi ASX, and complete model lineups of Hyundai’s Tucson and the Kia Sportage have all played a role in limiting CR-V sales in South Africa. BERNARD HELLBERG discovers whether the new CR-V can help the brand regain some of its lustre in the SUV segment.

It seems to have taken a while for the penny to drop at Honda South Africa, that steadily diminishing sales of their products in the country, bodes less well for the brand’s survival in South Africa. Once a powerhouse in the B- and C-segments, Honda has steadily lost market share to more aggressively priced peers in recent years.

By adding four new models to the CR-V lineup, Honda hopes to raise the stakes in the SUV segment – where the CR-V once was the gold standard for midsize crossovers – where they hope to boost their offering and recover market share.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

The new models were launched with the entry level 2.0-litre Comfort with front wheel-drive bringing up the rear. Stepping up in the list, the current 2.0-litre Elegance receives more interior features that include leather upholstery, a 7” display interface and, at last, Apple CarPlay with voice-controlled search capability. There’s nothing entry level about the increase in spec, however, and brushed aluminium roof rails, 17″ alloy wheels, and a four-speaker sound system with Bluetooth will suit most tastes. Two 12V power sockets, a USB, and an Aux port also contribute to the sense of user-friendliness.

Paradoxically, the smaller engined 1.5T Executive AWD has a more ‘impressive’ price tag than those mentioned above, and comes in second place from the top, but adds 18″ alloys to the already high level of spec. Headlights are full LEDs, Active Noise Control keeps the cabin quiet, and there’s a panoramic sunroof, as well as keyless entry and a stop-start button.

The flagship of the range is the 1.5T Exclusive AWD with integrated satellite navigation, an electrically-operated tailgate, and tyre pressure monitoring.

In keeping with its Top Dog status, the 1.5 Exclusive has a comprehensive set of advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) which warn against forward collisions, road departure moves, lane departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control.

THE INTERIORS

All four models feature traditionally comfortable and welcoming Honda interiors with supportive seats, tonnes of legroom, and an elevated seating position (perfect for game viewing). Despite full sized spare wheels on real alloy rims, boot space remains significant and speaks of brilliant design.

All controls make sense, but the display screen may be too shiny for some, making reading in bright sunlight a problem.

Some interior faux wood trim is somewhat over the top and, while not teak veneer, would certainly qualify as Japanese plasteak. The designers should rather have stuck to brushed aluminium in their endeavour to brighten up the cabin.

All models feature properly designed steering wheels (fully adjustable) and, depending on the model, electrically adjustable seats.

ROAD MANNERS

Wind noise at speed is virtually absent, handling is sharp and predictable with minimal body roll. Brakes, all-discs on all models, are confidence-inspiring and underline the CR-V’s qualities as a reasonably economical long-distance tourer. The 2.0-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder mill, however, felt lazy, while the CVT gearbox (fitted to all models) didn’t improve matters. In our opinion, the jury is still very much out on CVT gearboxes being a viable alternative to, for instance, a conventional double-clutch transmission.

LAST WORD

Honda is being very brave in launching these four new models. All excellent in their own way, they nevertheless, do not address one major shortcoming: price. With prices starting at (almost) R423,000 and jumping effortlessly to R627,000, I cannot see buyers migrating towards Honda SA in their hundreds when there are other, equally excellent SUVs available at lower price points. Honda has always been a sought-after brand, but in a market where buyers are strapped for cash, they will seek out more affordable options. Keep in mind, though, that these relatively hefty prices include a superb 5-year/200,000 km warranty, as well as a 5-year/90,000 km service plan. Potential buyers of the top of the range 1.5 turbo models will also take note of the fact that service intervals have shrunk to a dealership visit every 10,000 kilometres.

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