First Drives

12 August 2018

First drive: 2018 Honda CR-V

The fifth-generation CR-V is unlike any of its predecessors

Girish Karkera
Car image

Honda is known to make great engines, quick cars that are quite reliable too. What is probably not known for, at least for us Indians is as an SUV maker. Of course, we have seen the CR-V on our roads for a long time and most of you know probably know that it makes a rather impressive full-size SUV called Pilot in the US. That image may not change any time soon but Honda is launching the fifth generation CR-V in India this September and it is going to be unlike any of its namesakes we have seen so far.

In its latest avatar, the CR-V has become more SUV than it ever has. It's not grown bigger but the ground clearance has gone up after successive generations being described and to offer more car-like driving, on-demand all-wheel drive and a proper torque converted gearbox with no less than nine pre-sets. We drove the Philippine spec of the diesel CR-V recently and it is quite impressive in the form of being a properly-equipped sports utility vehicle befitting the Honda brand badge and the price for which it retails.

This is going to be the big change for India with a diesel engine finally making its appearance albeit in a conservative form. Honda is offering its iDtec version of the 1.6-litre diesel engine. Outright power is the only limiting factor here. 118bhp isn't much but the new CR-V isn't very heavy - even lighter by 100kg in two-wheel drive version. Honda has done some serious engineering to make the engine light and compact. Importantly it gets 300Nm of torque which makes in-gear and city driving much easier. Unlike the petrol version with a CVT, the diesel gets a torque converter with 9 presets. More gears for better fuel efficiency. The engine has grunt and you hardly notice the lack of power in city driving. It's only on the fast highways is when the lack of more power at the top shows. The nine-speed gearbox is aimed at efficiency and does well to modulate the power.

Driving and Handling
It is very Honda-like. Steering is light and you don't get the German-made like solid feel. The lightness can be felt a tad more at high speeds but in a straight line, it drives well. Ride is stiff but there is body roll which you can easily notice at the rear. Again, very Honda-like. Quick lane changes may not upset it but going fast over shrapnel corners will be challenging. Thankfully it has all wheel drive to counter hairy moments.

Interiors and equipment
There is little to complain here. You sit high and the cabin is well-insulated from the diesel clatter. The dash has a classic layout. Digital instrument cluster behind the wheel and a 7-inch touchscreen on the centre, sitting below the air-con vents. Infotainment includes the usual bits like navigation, music and telephone. Seats are large and comfy at the front. At the rear, there is acres of legroom although headroom can be a challenge for tall people. But the second-row seat is wide enough to accommodate three in comfort. Third row seats best kept for emergencies but in case you do use them, Honda offers roof air con vents. Air con was pretty powerful in the version we drove.

Lots of driver assist systems are offered as part of the Honda Sensing package on the top variant of the AWD version that we drove in the Philippines. Things like lane assist and adaptive cruise control worked quite reliably. Unfortunately, these are not available in the other versions apart from the one where you can view the adjacent lane when you use the lane change indicators. Sunroof is also only available on the top model.

The new CR-V ticks most boxes as a likeable SUV from an Indian point of view. It has lots of room, seven seats, automatic gearbox and a diesel engine that will bring efficiency in the daily running business. It isn't a quick car but it did three-digit speeds with ease making it a good all-round car for inter-city driving. While there is no claimed top speed we were able to clock an indicated 164kph on the highway and it felt confident doing that. The front-wheel-drive version suits fine for most uses but loses out on a lot of goodies. Nevertheless, this is possibly Honda's best shot at getting a pie of the big SUV market. Pricing will still be crucial and expect it to definitely undercut the segment leader Fortuner by a bit. We will know soon when cars hit the showrooms by September 10. Watch out for a more detailed review of the India-spec car.

LxWxH: 4571x1855x1667mm
Wheelbase: 2660
Ground Clearance: 208mm
Turning radius: 5.9m
Kerb weight: 1732kg
Engine: 1.6 litre turbo diesel, AWD
Power: 118bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque: 300Nm @ 2000rpm

Tags: honda, toyota, suv, cr v, awd

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