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QUICK TEST: Honda CR-V 2.4 Executive AT
The Honda CR-V was one of the early pioneers in the so-called 'softroader' market; it has been mounting suburban kerbs around the world ever since 1995.
Not that you see too many on the roads in South Africa - the CR-V has never really been a fashion statement in the same way as the original Toyota RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail, or the latest Kia Sportage for that matter.
Instead the Honda has been focusing on the more sensible side of the business, fulfilling its role as a very practical family vehicle.
The thing that surprised me most about the previous CR-V was just how roomy and comfortable it is inside and I'm glad to report that the new (fourth-generation) one you see here offers the same deal despite slightly smaller external measurements.
I did the standard sit-behind-my-driving-position test in this new Honda and was once again amazed by how much rear legroom it has - you can really stretch out properly and taking a nap on long journeys is also within the realm of enticing possibility thanks to the rear seatbacks that recline slightly.
Sure, there is no seven-seater option on the menu but as far as five-seaters go, this Honda is really the business. The CR-V's generous dimensions and five-person limit also ensure a gigantic boot, with 589 litres at your disposal.
At R444 900, the 2.4-litre Executive that I drove is on the steep side of the pricing continuum, but it does offer the necessary luxuries like comfy leather seats, dual-zone climate control, rear ventilation, cruise control, a premium sound system and a parking camera.
Only trouble is, it doesn't feel like a luxury vehicle from the helm. The dashboard design is utterly forgettable and many parts of it have hard and scratchy surfaces. Sure, I'm nitpicking but if I was spending almost half-a-bar on a vehicle, I'd expect the interior to shine through. Besides, the Accord shows that Honda can put together a nice interior and the VW Tiguan proves that it can be done within this segment.
Honda's designers have at least done a good job on the outside of the vehicle. Like its predecessor it's totally unpretentious in that it's not trying to look like a rough off-roader. The new CR-V gets a sportier visual personality, even if it's a little too Volvo-like at the back - and the 18-inch alloys fitted to the Executive model actually make it border on purposeful.
They do make the ride just a tad firm, though. Look, I never felt uncomfortable in the CR-V but it doesn't have the magic-carpet ride that I'd hope for in a family cruiser like this.
The rest of the driving experience is rather nondescript but that's really not a bad thing in a vehicle like this. It's quiet on the road; its 140kW/220Nm 2.4-litre engine feels flexible enough and serves up adequate performance; the five-speed automatic gearbox never makes a fuss.
The CR-V really just gets on with its business without really ever giving you reason to think about it. Exciting it's not, sensible it is.
The CR-V 2.4 Executive is a well equipped and practical choice, but if you find the R444 900 price tag too steep and can live without the permanent all-wheel drive and a few luxury items then the R299 900 2.0 Comfort model is worth serious consideration.