Road Test: Compact convenience

Honda CR-V a practical choice

December 31, 2012
by Emily Atkins

Simple and functional best describe the 2013 Honda CR-V from a user’s perspective, and these are very good qualities indeed. This small sport ute is a smooth machine, quietly competent, unassuming and set up for ease of use.

One of the first things a driver notices is the comfort and good design of the driver’s seat and control area. It’s easy to get in and out of for city use, while on the highway the seats are extremely comfortable and supportive in the right places. The rear passenger compartment is spacious, although the door opening, which curves over the rear wheel well proved a bit of challenge for an elderly passenger with reduced mobility.

At a Glance
Specs as Tested:

Body Style: 5-seat compact sport utility

Engine: 4-cylinder 2.4L with Eco Assist

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Drive: All-Wheel Drive

Fuel Economy: City: 9.2L/100km; Highway: 6.6L/100km; Combined: 8.1L/100km

Price: AWD LX model tested: $28,140 MSRP. Prices start at $25,990 MSRP.

The controls are a minimalist’s dream. The design is clean and simple, with a lone asymmetrical swoop of silver metallic material running the width of the car. The model tested did not include the nav system, leaving the console and dash wonderfully uncluttered and without unnecessary distractions. With the requisite cruise control, volume and phone answering functions on the wheel, there is little reason for the driver to take eyes off the road. All the controls are easy to reach and intuitive, including the Bluetooth set-up, a benchmark test for this reviewer.

Visibility is excellent all the way around this vehicle, and with nice, big side mirrors there is little blind spot. It also has a back-up camera and heated mirrors for added visibility and safety. In fact, the base-level CR-V LX is remarkably well-appointed, with features like tire pressure monitoring, external temperature gauge, compass, ‘conversation mirror’ to facilitate communicating between the front and rear passenger compartments and many more that add to the vehicle’s ease of use.

Cargo capacity in the CR-V is excellent. The compartment behind the rear seats is large and very square, making it easy to pack when you have a full load. Sometime the rearward rake of the back seats cuts into the cargo space, leaving an awkward triangular airspace, but this was not the case in the CR-V. A fold down arm rest with cup holder in the back passenger compartment, along with big door compartments, gave the rear occupants plenty of space for their food, drink and entertainment, while a positively cavernous cubby between the front seats swallowed up a full size box of tissues, a small purse and several small electronic items with room to spare. There’s also a small ‘secret’ compartment on the inboard side of each footwell in the front, perfectly designed to hold whatever small items you might need on a road trip–a flashlight, snacks or even winter hats and mitts would stow well here.

On an extended highway trip, fully loaded with gear and three adults (and not exactly sticking to posted speed limits), the CR-V turned in fuel economy numbers of 7.7 litres per 100 km. That was using the Eco Assist mode, which noticeably slows down the vehicle’s acceleration, but is otherwise unobtrusive. We test-drove the car almost exclusively in Econ Mode and found it to be a great feature for saving fuel.

The CR-V handles well, with a smooth drive-by-wire throttle system and the “Real Time” all-wheel drive system. The five-speed automatic transmission is remarkably seamless; shifts are never abrupt and the engine does not sound as though it’s laboring, even when the throttle is pushed hard. The suspension is moderately stiff, but not uncomfortable. The ride is firm without being harsh. On the highway the car is quiet and smooth, very easy to drive.

Well-appointed with safety features, the CR-V has four-wheel ABS disc brakes with brake assist technology, side curtain airbags, traction control and stability assist and an immobilizer system for theft prevention, and many others.

Honda engineers have done an excellent job on this CR-V. It has a lot to offer many types of users, from those with a need to carry equipment or cargo and the occasional passenger in a rural or urban setting, to those whose main function would be ferrying kids or adults around the city. It’s a practical and functional, no-nonsense machine.