Practical, smooth and luxurious. You’d think we were reviewing a European SUV but we’re not. This is the 2021 Honda CR-V VTi L7, the Japanese car maker’s 7-seat range topper, which competes with the likes of the Mitsubishi Outlander and Peugeot 5008.
You’ll see a lot of them (the Honda) on the road, and once you start driving one, that’ll be much more noticeable. There’s a reason for that. It’s because they’re a great car or in this case, an SUV.
That’s why people buy them and that’s why you’re reading this, because you’re considering buying one. It is after all, an award-winning mid-sized SUV.
Whether you’re looking for practical storage space or just room to breathe when you have the second row seats locked out with kids, the CR-V VTi L7 can answer the call. Likewise, it can be the luxe transporter you drop the kids at school in, or go grocery shopping with.
The Honda can do all those things, and it will do them well. It’s available in 2WD or AWD. We’re testing the former, which is available in seven colours, including Modern Steel Metallic, an almost gunmetal grey which looks exceptional when bathed in sunlight.
Opening the doors, you’re greeted by a dark themed leather upholstered cabin. Plush and spacious, with the added bonus of a panoramic roof. Unfortunately, as is the case with a few of the vehicles in Honda’s line-up, the technology and electronics are a bit dated.
One look at the infotainment unit and the instrument cluster and you’ll get a flashback to 2010. At just 7.0-inches, the centre display is only marginally larger than some of the latest smartphones and aside from size, the resolution and pixilation feels very 90s.
The in-built navigation system is slow and clunky, and looks like it was lifted from a video game from a similar era. The whole system takes an age to load up when you first start the car, a sad feat in itself considering it wouldn’t take much processing power to do so.
The instrument display in the cluster isn’t as dated, but lacks a few functions we would’ve liked to see. It was also quite frustrating to use with the steering wheel controls. We reckon the poor tech holds back the Honda SUV, and probably the brand in general.
Fortunately, redemption can be found in the form of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which come standard across the CR-V range. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to drive it on too many long trips either.
It mostly spent its time in the ‘burbs on short drives, which explains our horrid fuel economy of 10.8-litres/100km, compared to Honda’s claimed combined number of 7.3-litres/100km.
But with that said, the 1.5-litre turbocharged engine, which makes 140kW of power to the front wheels, and 240Nm of torque, is smooth and functional. Sharing the same power unit as the Honda Civic RS, it does feel a little sluggish though under decent acceleration.
The CVT gearbox, like the satellite navigation system, is a tad clunky. On sloping winding roads, it struggles to decide which gear it wants to be in and makes for some fairly loud racket in the cabin when you rev it out.
Some would find this endearing, if it were in an enthusiast platform such as the Civic, but not in a family SUV designed for comfort. But comfort, that’s something the CR-V VTi L7 will actually do for you, properly.
Legroom and headroom is plentiful in the first and second rows, while some legroom is sacrificed in the third row. It’s large enough for a teenager or young adult. The second row seats slide forward and fold down with ease, to allow access to the third row.
The multitude of roof and centre console mounted air conditioning vents ensure you stay cool in the heat or warm in the cold. ISOFIX points in the second row allow for child seats, at the expense of access to the third row.
As for storage, there’s 150-litres in the boot with the third row upright, 472-litres with the third row down and the second row up, and a whooping 1509-litres when the second and third row are folded down.
Each door has fairly large storage compartments and the centre console storage is also enormous, as well as being accompanied by two cupholders. The CR-V VTi L7 comes with a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
It also features Honda’s Sensing technology, which includes forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, lane keep and lane departure assists, driver attention alerts, hill start assist, vehicle stability assist and even a nifty little auto-hi beam feature.
Overall, it’s very kind on the eyes, inside and out. It drives and rides how an SUV should, and prioritises family comfort and practicality, without sacrificing much of the other features.
Lacking in technology and power, it’s still a winner in the medium 7-seater category, in our eyes. Prices for the 2021 Honda CR-V VTi L7 start at $44,200 before on-road costs.
Our 2021 Honda CR-V VTi L7 was supplied by Honda Australia. To find out more, contact your local Honda dealer. Pictures courtesy of J_Hui Design/Photography.