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Honda CR-V review – Party Greatcrasher.

As a parent, kids parties are fraught with danger. The venue itself is always a complete mission, I mean where is the best place to entertain a dozen children for a couple of hours and also (apparently) impress the other parents? Plus, you need to be quick, popular spots need to be booked several months in advance! Then there’s the cake, the presents, the food, the invites and what to put inside ‘the end of party’ goodie bags – Phew, thankfully my wife took care of virtually everything – all bar the transport there, that was my job.

Last month I attended the launch of Honda’s new Civic hatch (and Type-R) at Hampton Downs racetrack. It was to be an exciting event that had us tearing around the circuit, dancing round corners and revving engines to excess. However, Honda had another surprise treat lined up for us there, their ever popular and very important SUV – new Honda CR-V.

Admittedly, it did seem a little out of place at the track and thankfully (for Honda) they didn’t let us loose on ‘that’ stretch of tarmac but having arrived in the country a little earlier than planned, Honda couldn’t contain their excitement and had brought them along to show us. We even managed to take them on a brief trip around the Waikato countryside too.

Anyway, having been a bit of a gatecrasher for the Civic Hatch party, I was recently given the opportunity to spend a little longer behind the wheel – so of course, it seemed fitting to take it to another one (a party that is).

‘We’ had chosen a venue way on the other side of town, Chipmunks in Henderson. It’s a fabulous place, spacious, fun, robust, entertaining and modern – much like the Honda CR-V that took us there.

The CR-V was initially launched in 1995 and with cumulative sales heading towards the 9 million units mark, this Compact Recreational Vehicle has proven to be very popular. With four generations already under its belt, bettering this reliable Honda stalwart was going to be a mission, but it would appear that they needn’t have worried, the 5th generation is all that, and then some.

I had been given the keys to the 2WD Sport-7 in ‘Passion Red’ (there are 6 other colours available too). As the title suggests, it’s a seven seat SUV that has a new 1.5L DOHC VTEC Turbo Engine (140kW/240Nm) connected to a 2 wheel drive system via a very tough and responsive CVT gearbox. The all new CR-V has a stronger/lighter frame (that you don’t need to care about) and a bolder, more sculpted design that you do. Honda has modernised and buffed up the exterior plus given more room inside for increased driver/passenger comfort. They have lowered the centre of gravity too which (combined with their AHA/VSA – handling technology) makes the SUV stay more connected to the road – which is very helpful.

From a cabin point of view, the materials and fabrics are both tactile and welcoming. As I said before, there’s more passenger room (especially around the shoulders) and when you ‘roll down’ all the rear seats you get 1880mm to play with – and that’s an awful lot. Honda’s engineers have reduced the NVH (essentially road noise) but in all honesty, the ‘party going’ noise of the kid’s loud and inane chitty chatter would have trumped everything anyway. The 7” infotainment touch screen has apple and android covered, along with navigation, stereo and reversing camera display. The previous CR-V’s came equipped with a family size amount of technology but this new model also introduces a Driver Attention Monitor which assesses driver (my) fatigue – it was going to be a long day.

The instrument panel has the digital rev counter ‘arch’ over the top of the screen and I had the coffee cup image (of the Driver Attention Monitor) front and centre screen – it doubled as a reassurance that my driving wasn’t being distracted by the chaos (of kids excitement) in the SUV and as an incentive to get to the party for a well-deserved brew (a shot glass image would have been inappropriate I guess). On the subject of cups, the centre console’s (double) drinks holder is easy to find and will even take mugs with handles – a nice touch. The console itself is multi-purpose, with three levels of storage interaction – a place for everything from the 5.5” smartphone tray to a deep ‘bin’ for all those things you tend to accumulate over a short space of SUV ownership.

It may not have been the longest trip I’ve ever taken (although it felt way up there) but the 7 seater SUV took the family, a couple of my son’s friends, the cake and a multitude of ‘other party accessories’ to the event without hitch. (of course, we used it for more than just a trip to the party but this was the most important adventure). Thanks to the new chassis, suspension and a refined lockup clutch damper and torque converter (just making sure you’re taking note), it was smooth to drive (so no cake mishaps – phew) and thanks to the increased space we didn’t have to make two trips!

The all new Honda CR-V will no doubt capitalise on the model’s success. It’s more stylish, more aerodynamic and better equipped than ever. It may have gatecrashed the Civic Hatch party but it was an invaluable ‘Greatcrasher’ for my son’s 7th birthday.

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