The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive.
The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive. Andrew Northover

Affordable seven-seater which isn't hard to drive

GRANDPARENTS, school friends or inebriated mates can cause transport headaches.

Having an extra two seats up your sleeve is a handy option for most busy families. Those who only use the extra pair of chairs rarely aren't flooded with affordable options, so Honda added two seven-seat variants earlier this year.

There are currently some sharp deals available on both variants, which start from less than $38,000 drive-away. Yet despite carrying a greater passenger load, the pair miss out on some life-saving safety technology.

The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive.
The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive. Andrew Northover

VALUE

Based on the VTi, the E7 comes with 18-inch alloys, a combination of fake and real leather trim, push button start, seven-inch touchscreen, eight speaker stereo with full bluetooth connectivity as well as smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There's even puncture peace of mind with a full-size spare - most nowadays have the skinny space-savers.

You have to step up into the L7, which costs an extra $5000, to get lane in-built satnav, sunroof, power tailgate, heated front seats, along with parking sensors front and back.

Servicing intervals are 10,000km or "when the engine oil monitor light illuminates”. Bank on that being about 12 months. Every service up to 100,000km is set at $312, but various fluids and filters are needed which will raise the price depending on how many kilometres the vehicle covers.

Honda is offering a free servicing pack until October 21 that covers maintenance for two years or 30,000km. That's at least $624 back in the pocket.

Red and blue are the most outrageous colours available, with black, steel, silver and white fulfilling the conservative desires of most SUV buyers.

The interior of the Honda CR-V.
The interior of the Honda CR-V.

SAFETY

Five stars were awarded by ANCAP two years ago with impressive crash test results, but safety tech has moved quickly and these seven-seat models are not equipped with some life-saving inclusions which are now required to get the highest safety status.

'Honda Sensing', including autonomous emergency braking that can help avoid a frontal impact, lane keeping assist to steer the vehicle between lines and radar cruise control that maintains a safe distance from others are only available on all-wheel drive five-seat variants.

Also missing from this variant are parking sensors.

There was nothing wrong with the CR-V's structural integrity when tested, gaining perfect scores in the side impact test.

COMFORT

The CR-V is a refined family accomplice. Ample space in the front two rows make it kind on adults and kids alike.

Electric driver seat adjustment is standard, as is dual zone climate control with rear vents, while those in the third row have ceiling vents.

Four USB points are available, most importantly two of those are in the back to keep tech-savvy youngsters charged.

Nothing changed in terms of dimensions to allow for the extra pair of seats, so leg room means the third row is best left to kids or those most nimble.

The usual massive CR-V boot space is slightly compromised, down to 472 litres from 522. When all three rows are in use the boot area is confined to 150 litres.

Dropping both rear rows is simple via a combination of straps and levers. It managed to cope with three six-foot surfboards, mum, dad and two kids on one trip to the beach without needing to worry about roof racks.

The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive.
The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive. Andrew Northover

DRIVING

Calm and composed, the CR-V has a confident and relaxed feeling behind the wheel. There is some rock and roll in the corners if attacking the bends too hard but it sits nicely on the road with limited cabin noise intrusion.

Strong response is derived from the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but it is let down by the continuously variable automatic. Acceleration response can be slow and there is a tendency to generate more vroom soundtrack that velocity when the driver's right ankle is extended.

An uphill challenge combined with three adults and luggage aboard saw the CR-V work hard into the rev range as it aimed to maintain speed.

There's nothing too complicated operationally, with the shifter sitting high on the dash, and the basic touchscreen functionality is improved with the smartphone mirroring apps.

Changing the shifter position means additional space in the console for important gear such as phones, wallets and the obligatory cup holders.

The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive.
The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive. Andrew Northover

HEAD SAYS

Two extra chairs saves taking two cars on many occasions and the CR-V manages the task without losing too much boot space. I can reverse park like a boss, so sensors needed.

HEART SAYS

Japanese build quality and a well put together package which allows for the growing family.

The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive.
The seven-seat versions of the Honda CR-V are only available in two-wheel drive. Andrew Northover

ALTERNATIVES

NISSAN X-TRAIL ST-L 7 SEAT $41,233 D/A

Powered by a 126kW/226Nm 2.5-litre 4-cyl, it comes with satnav, around view monitor and it also has impressive rear space. Has better active safety technology like forward collision warning, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert.

PEUGEOT 5008 ALLURE $46,990 D/A

This European packs in the flair with a brilliant interior and under the bonnet us a 121kW/ 240Nm 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo. Impressive dynamics, five-year warranty and a big step up in safety with active lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, speed sign recognition and a range of other tech improvements.

VERDICT

Sound and reliable, the seven-seat SUV is a great alternative wanting to avoid the mini-van. The two most rearward seats are best suited to kids. Safety omissions are indicative of the CR-V's age, and the only negative in a competent package.

AT A GLANCE

HONDA CR-V VTi-E7

PRICE $37,992 drive-away (pretty good)

WARRANTY/SERVICING 5yr unlim' km w'ty (on par), first 10 services $312 each (OK)

ENGINE 1.5-litre 140kW/240Nm turbo 4cyl, CVT (reasonable)

SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, tyre pressuring monitoring, driver attention monitor, emergency stop signal (underdone)

THIRST 7.3 litres/100km (thrifty)

SPARE Full-size (awesome, a rarity)

BOOT 473L, rear seats fold (big and useful)



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