Tested: 2010 Honda CR-V i-DTEC

The refined Softroader

I never understood our senior journalist’s love for automatic Diesel SUV’s, until I strapped myself to the new Honda CR-V i-DTEC. It turns out they’re not as noisy, smelly and slow as I always maintained. Well, this Honda isn’t.

The opulent exterior proportions of the car aren’t exactly suited to crowded mall parking lots or small parking spaces but they belie its nimble handling and easy controls. A minor facelift benefited the overall shape of this SUV and the new Honda CR-V cuts quite a dashing figure in traffic.

Don’t expect to see too many crawling along the Skeleton Coast, although I’m sure that its big-ish tyres, “Realtime” four-wheel-drive and sufficient ground clearance will prompt many owners to brave dirt roads and undertake the occasional veld exploration.

I’m afraid the natural habitat of this motorised creature will be your local shopping mall, where the swooping front lights should fit right in. But while I pondered over this car’s virtues and ambitions, something strange happened. It started to win me over.

As you could expect from Honda, it seems that they put some thought into the vehicle, especially its versatile interior. What immediately struck me was that the rear doors open to almost 90 degrees, which makes entry to the back row of seats incredibly easy.

The rear bench is split in various parts which can be individually collapsed to improve load space. The back-rest of every seat can be flattened; the angle of the reclining back-rests can be adjusted, as well as the forward movement of the individual seats.

This makes the rear furniture just as manoeuvrable as the frontal ones, which passengers (and I) found very pleasant. Luggage space is good, transforming into ample proportions when you flatten the rear seats. Retractable covers keep bloodshot eyes of the prying kind from spotting any potential loot in your doggy compartment.

From the word go the new Honda impressed with its ease of use and feather-light controls. In true Honda fashion, the car beeps a little too much and prompted me to fasten my seatbelt before I even turned on the ignition. Not a bad point then, if you think about it?

The front seats are supportive and comfortable, the cabin is well laid-out and I can attest to utter comfort while behind the wheel of the CR-V. The gearlever for its 5-speed auto-box is positioned on the lower section of the dashboard, underneath an easily comprehensible dual-zone climate control and sound system.

Both of these offered impeccable service and their operation quickly became second nature to me. A hidden auxiliary input socket with matching button married my ipod with the crisp 7-speaker 6-disc mp3, USB and ipod compatible sound system of the Honda.

Its satellite controls on the steering wheel made every journey quite enjoyable. As do alarm, immobiliser, 6 airbags, electric windows and mirrors, central locking, auto-locking doors, power steering, glass sunroof, auto HID headlights, auto wipers, parking sensors all round and cruise control.

The instruments are clearly marked and easy to read with a central multi-function display. Coolant temperature and fuel level are permanently displayed, so I opted to keep the variable part of the display on the instant consumption meter.

I managed an overall Diesel consumption of just under 9L/100km which, according to Honda’s website, is still quite heavy. They also allege a top speed of 187km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 10.6 seconds.

The 110kW / 350Nm Common-rail-injected turbo-Diesel engine goes about its business in a very smooth and relatively quiet manner. I never thought I’d use such adjectives in the same sentence as the word Diesel and by doing so encourage anyone to investigate these attributes for themselves.

The 4-cylinder motor has very eager power delivery from about 1200rpm onwards, which means you can potter around town all day at almost idle speeds or shoot off towards the horizon, accompanied by a pleasing turbocharger hiss.

Thanks to the big Honda’s finely tuned suspension there isn’t much body roll or alarming over-steer in eager cornering, plus exceptionally smooth progress on the highway, where the CR-V hugs the road nicely without transferring bumps and uneven road surfaces to its passengers or the steering wheel.

Its ABS-assisted brakes are exemplary and are complimented by brake assist, vehicle stability control, tyre deflation warning system and trailer stability assist. Coupled to a brawny engine, sure-footed ride, superb build quality and plenty of comfort & safety features, the Honda CR-V i-DTEC Automatic is a fantastic proposition.

The CR-V i-DTEC manual costs N$425 900, the automatic N$439 400. Both offer a 3 year 100 000km warranty and a 5 year 90 000km service plan. And I never saw a single puff of black smoke in my rear-view mirrors. Trust Honda to tame the Diesel monster into highly agreeable levels of refinement.

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