Honda CR-V: Comfort zone
It\’s a tad late getting to India but the all-new diesel CR-V brings some real action to the party
The rain seemed relentless in the coastal town of Bagaat, a 100-odd-kilometres from Manila. Philippines is prone to cyclones and while the locals went about their daily routine, we preferred to huddle inside the CR-V. Honda is nowhere near the top of the sales charts in the Philippines. Yet, this CR-V is an important model in its line-up. Important enough that it reached their shores much before us in a guise that is alarmingly apt for an Indian environment too \– diesel power and seven seats.
The CR-V isn\’t new to India. We have seen all but one generation here. What we never had was the diesel engine because Honda was concentrating on selling these in Europe. But diesel is losing grunt in Europe, fast enough for Honda to decide to focus on hybrids instead, there. Well, that has freed up the capacities of diesel CKDs which are now making their way to countries where oil-burners still have takers. For example, India. But diesel is just half the story. This all-new vehicle is a clear departure from what Honda was happy doing so far with its popular SUV. The CR-V, over successive model years, had become too car-like and someone back at the Honda headquarters thought the arrival of an all-new car was the perfect moment to set the record straight \– the CR-V is an SUV. Not a car. In other words, it grew bigger, now stands taller and gets a healthy dose of driver-assist systems to make the new CR-V the most rounded a sports-ute (?) than it has ever been.
Honda is known for its petrol engines. It is also known to make quick cars that are quite reliable. What it is probably not known for, at least for us Indians, is as an SUV maker. We have seen the CR-V on our roads for a long time and most of you probably know that Honda also makes a rather impressive full-size SUV called Pilot in the US. And it is hugely popular. The image may not change any time soon but the new car is going to be unlike any of its namesakes we have seen so far, which should hopefully build Honda some street cred as a proper SUV maker.In its latest avatar, the CR-V has grown longer, mostly thanks to the increased wheelbase and the fact that a marginally more spacious third-row seat had to be accommodated. In the AWD guise, it is taller as well because ground clearance is now a notable 208mm. That\’s almost 20mm more than the front-wheel-drive versions of both petrols and diesels. It\’s a slightly better-looking car now which is less bulbous than the outgoing model. Looks more purposeful with the new headlamps and the new mesh grille \– instead of chrome slats. There is a chrome plate on top, of course, similar to what we see on other new Honda cars. The vehicle here is the Philippines-spec and came with smart and massive 18-inch alloys. Hope these come to India too. At the rear too, the hatch is less bulbous and has smart tail-lamps adorning it. The car looks much more luxurious and less utilitarian than the outgoing model.
This is going to be the big change for India with a diesel engine finally making its appearance albeit in a conservative form. While there is a 157bhp version also available, Honda is offering the detuned 118bhp version in India, keeping cost of the vehicle in mind. Top-end grunt might be the only limiting factor here when compared to competition but on its own, it doesn\’t feel underpowered because this isn\’t a very heavy car. More importantly, there is 300Nm of torque at the low end which helps in building speed. 118bhp isn\’t much but the new CR-V isn\’t very heavy \– and it\’s 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 nine slots. More gears for better fuel efficiency. The stick shift has been replaced with drive buttons. The shifts themselves are typically smooth but you also have the option of using paddle shifters. There is a sport mode too when the paddle shifters are useful. In drive, the gearbox upshifts a bit too quickly even if the driver intervenes. The engine has grunt, and honestly, and you will hardly notice the \“lack of power\” in city driving. It\’s only on the fast highways when that bit peeks out of the surface.
The ride quality isn\’t too bad. It\’s stiff but there is noticeable roll especially if you are sitting at the rear. But then that is expected of an SUV. Quick lane changes may not upset it but going fast over sharp corners will be challenging. Thankfully, it has all-wheel drive to counter hairy moments. The steering feels 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 enough. When it comes to the cabin, the CR-V boasts the nicest interiors for a Honda. There is little to complain about here. You sit high and the cabin is well-insulated from the diesel clatter. The dash has a classic layout. There\’s a 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 are best kept for emergencies but in case you do use them, Honda offers roof air-con vents. The 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 such as 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. Sun roof 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 can do three-digit speeds with ease, making it a good all-round car for inter-city driving. Just what we did in the Philippines. As we reached the humdrum of a super-busy Manila, right during the evening rush hour, the CR-V proved to be a comfortable place to lounge in. More importantly, this is possibly Honda\’s best shot at getting a pie of the big SUV market.\