By on July 26, 2017

2018 Honda CR-V three-row - Images: Honda AustraliaWith the launch of the seven-seat Honda CR-V in another ASEAN market, this time Australia, one wonders about the potential popularity of a three-row CR-V in the United States.

The Honda CR-V, America’s top-selling utility vehicle in each of the last five years, currently tops American Honda’s sales charts. The CR-V now accounts for more than one-quarter of Honda’s U.S. sales and generated more volume in the first half of 2017 than in any of the CR-V nameplates’s first 10 calendar years.

Broadening the already popular CR-V’s appeal sounds, at first glance, like an entirely reasonable plan. 

Yet there are arguments to be made on both sides.

On the one hand, compact three-row crossovers (Nissan Rogue, Mitsubishi Outlander) aren’t particularly capable seven-seaters, and they lack real cargo-carrying prowess. According to Honda Australia’s specs, there is only 5.3 cubic feet of storage space behind the third row of the 2018 Honda CR-V, less than one-third of what the Honda Pilot manages, less than half what you’d find in a Honda Civic Coupe’s trunk.

The Pilot’s mere existence is another antidote against the U.S. sale of three-row CR-Vs, as well. Despite reporting significantly less volume than the CR-V, the Pilot is a high-volume, high-margin vehicle for American Honda. In Australia, for example, the only other three-row vehicle in Honda’s lineup besides the new three-row CR-V is an Odyssey van that’s not as large as North America’s Alabama-built Odyssey.

Then there’s the issue of the three-row variant actually doing enough for the three-row CR-V to truly broaden its appeal. Honda Australia makes the third row available on just one of four trim levels (the second from the top). Many customers who have no need of the third row don’t want to lose the cargo capacity that disappears, in comparison with a two-row CR-V, when the third row is folded for a flat load floor. Nor do they want to pay for a cramped third row of seats they never plan to use.

Moreover, does Honda even need the CR-V, which has set U.S. sales records in each of the last five years, to broaden its appeal?

2017 Honda CR-V - Image: HondaHonda has such a high degree of built-in loyalty with the CR-V, however, that it’s possible CR-V owners who are moving on up — not necessarily as buyers who need a third row but as buyers who could periodically make use of it — would remain in the CR-V family.

There’s evidence that supports such an outcome and evidence that suggests otherwise. The Nissan Rogue, which with help of late from the Rogue Sport is presently America’s top-selling utility vehicle, generates roughly 7 percent of its volume with a seven-seat variant. Without that 7 percent, the Rogue would not currently be America’s top-selling non-pickup truck. After the relatively unpopular first-generation Volkswagen Tiguan accomplished little in the U.S. market, Volkswagen will add a third row to most Tiguans as standard equipment for the 2018 model year. Yet the Toyota RAV4 eliminated its third row (and V6 engine) for its current iteration and sales only increased.

There’s also been plenty of discussion about a vehicle to slot in between the CR-V and Pilot. Perhaps that vehicle doesn’t need to be an all-new product but rather a simple seven-seat edition of the CR-V.

American Honda, meanwhile, has predictably little to say on the subject. “We can’t make comments about any future possibilities,” a Honda spokesperson told TTAC via email this morning.

[Images: Honda]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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36 Comments on “Three-Row, Seven-Seat 2018 Honda CR-V Goes on Sale Down Under, but Would Pilot-Driving Americans Want It?...”

  • avatar

    They should offer it. 3rd row seat in a pinch is good to have. Who cares if it doesn’t sit adults in the back.

    • 0 avatar

      The people who criticize the Mazda CX9 for allegedly having a lack of space (although comparable to the Highlander) seem to care!! If they are being consistent then they will hate this idea.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Even climbing in and out of the back of an Expedition is not something I want to do anymore.

      At work, I let the young ones take the back row. Even they whine.

      Unless you have a bus, a real bus these back seat things are for kids only.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. You won’t go to the beach hauling seven people but you might benefit from the ability to carry seven people to the movies or out to dinner.

      What you’ll see are reviewers who miss this point and complain about the lack of luggage space when the last row was intended to be temporary seating.

      We’ll also see people who try to attach all their luggages and toys to the exterior of the vehicle for long trips and make use of all the seats.

      Then their complain about the fuel economy when so loaded. I’d seriously worry about the safety of a CRV (or any other vehicle its size) so loaded.

  • avatar

    FYI, the 3rd row also involves chopping some space from the 2nd row. While this isn’t necessarily a deal-killer (the 2nd row in the US model has a huge amount of space), it’s certainly something to remember.

    • 0 avatar

      No sliding second row aka MDX?

      Note that the 1st gen CRV could be had with a third row in many Asian countries.

      Of course Asians are usually smaller people and skinnier too than Americans.

  • avatar

    Why not a dealer installed option? Then people get it on whatever trim they want to buy or don’t if they don’t want it.

    Pop out some blanks, 8 bolts and a few bits of finishing trim, charge $750. Or much more, quite likely.

  • avatar

    In the days of smaller, 4-person families, I wonder who really needs a 3rd row, especially when it when it wipes out nearly all the storage space? Where do you put the weekly food shopping? We have a friend with a Mazda 5 – the mini minivan. She had the back seat pulled and is much happier with what she considers a more useful car. I think a driver plus 6 passengers must be a pretty rare event.

    • 0 avatar

      A driver plus 6 passengers is a rare event – the North American mazda5 only seats 6 people in total.

      • 0 avatar

        Our 2013 “5” has 7 seating positions, although the two in the wayback are suitable only for smaller, pre-growth spurt, children or people who have had a hemicorporectomy. There is precious little space behind that third row for cargo, which is why we keep it folded down 90 percent of the time.

  • avatar

    This could be very useful to parents who 1) have one or two kids, 2) need the third row for occasional carpool duty, and 3) don’t want/need to drive a full size SUV the other 95% of the time.

  • avatar

    In another 5-10 years, they’ll be adding a 3rd row to the Fit.

  • avatar

    can the CR-V’s payload handle the weight of 7 people?

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. Probably not. Especially American people. Or American kids plus carseats.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      2 Adults and 5 kids?

      • 0 avatar

        I think it would be pretty close to the limit. From what I see, the maximum payload for US-spec vehicles is 850 lbs. Figure Dad & Mom add up to 350 lbs (it could be less, but it could be more, let’s be honest). That leaves 500 pounds for 5 kids, 4 or 5 car seats/boosters, and cargo. Figure the weight of child plus seat averages 60 pounds each (different ages), and that leaves 200 pounds for cargo.

        So it could work in that case.

        On the other hand, 7 landscapers heading out to work? Figure they are at least 130 pounds each (all teens, maybe), and that gets you to 910 pounds, 60 pounds over the payload limit.

        Of course, there’s probably a safety factor, as we have all seen cars loaded to the gills from time to time, and still making it down the road in the short-term.

        • 0 avatar

          They could always beef up the rear end to hold a heavier payload. If Honda can make a unibody pickup truck I’m sure they’re able to engineer a slightly modified CRV that would have a little extra capability in payload to carry seven. Would honestly need a beefed up powertrain in the US though.

  • avatar

    By the time the kids get out of their safety seat boosters at age 15, they are too big to fit in the 3rd row of such a small cross-over. Of course in the old days we didn’t worry so much about safety, as I remember my entire Y basketball team of 8-10 players plus the coach used to fit into his 65 Impala for our road game trips.

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    It didn’t work out well for the Tribeca.

  • avatar

    This is in the back of my mind, as we’ll be looking to upgrade to a seven-seater (per my wife, who is insistent that we need three rows) without resorting to some gigantic motorhome like a Suburban. While our CR-V is more than capable of hauling around us, my two-year-old son, and our nine-year-old Australian Shepherd, I know that as our family expands, we’ll need more seats. Not to mention the fact that we live in a desirable city (Seattle) and people want to come visit us.

    A vehicle in between the CR-V and the Pilot with a third row and Magic Seats would be perfect for our family.

    • 0 avatar

      They’ll probably never put the magic seats in a 3 row vehicle because, well, it’d be a nightmare to design. But the Sorento hits the sweet spot for me as an occasional 3 row vehicle that’s 12″ shorter (and quite a bit narrower) than most of its 3 row competitors. The Sorento V6 is just as powerful as the one in the Pilot too, so that thing flies. Plus it has a conventional (and good!) transmission!

  • avatar

    As the owner of a Mazda5 who lives in the PNW (and not that part of the PNW where an inch of snow causes whirling disease in locals), I would be all in on a 7 (or 6) seat CR-V. Yes, those back seats would suck for everyday duty; but they would be great for the occasional trip where we’re hauling two extra people (skiing). Get some roof rails, a ski rack and a cargo box and we’d be set for the next ten years.

    But hey, why give me what I want, right? I’m sure Honda will be much happier putting me in a pricier Pilot…

  • avatar

    Seems a waste. I have a three row SUV and the times I’ve used it since I bought it 8 years ago? ummm, never. I would much rather have the extra cargo room.

    Sounds kinda like the “I’m single and I want a coupe, but what if I have someone in the back seat?” Which of course turns out to be something like once a year.

    Please, please, please Honda. If you ever do this make it an option, not standard equipment.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Third rows are a joke except for minivans.

    In reality, third rows have become another high-cost option offered by mfrs because they know a fraction of their customers think they’ll need it someday. And, it’s a competitive ‘me-too’ option. AWD is the same way.

    The designers must roll their eyes when they’re forced to generate these 3rd-row options with 28 inches of legroom.

  • avatar

    To answer the question: no, I don’t think so. The interior size of the vehicle compared to the cost is probably a bigger driver then seating capacity. “Most vehicle for the money”, if you will. A family who wanted more seating would consider a 3-row CR-V cramped (and rightfully so). I mean, heck, even in most vehicles the Pilot’s size, the third row is considered cramped and only used for the occasional need.

  • avatar

    The only reason for a 3rd row in a CR-V is to jack up the price. VW is adding it to the FWD Tiguan.

    My only question is: who asked for it?

  • avatar

    I know some will need something like this; but not me. All those seats are just wasted space when I would much rather just have a flat (and lower) load floor.

  • avatar

    There’s more 3-row vehicles available now than ever, yet, where are the big families? Nada, don’t exist anymore. Why do people think they need a school bus to drive 1-2 kids around?

  • avatar

    I wish Honda Australia would sell the Pilot down here. It would probably make a nice competitor to the Kluger (Highlander to you guys), Pathfinder and the CX-9…

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