Test Drive Review – Honda CR-V: Back to challenge the Toyota Fortuner, Hyundai Tucson, Skoda Kodiaq, Jeep Compass and VW Tiguan
What do we already know about the new Honda CR-V?
I’ll skip the nostalgia that often surrounds any talk of the Honda CR-V and get straight to the point. The fifth generation of the Honda CR-V, which will be the fourth generation to be launched in India since we never got the first generation vehicle, is all set for launch next month. Just in time for the festive season in a bid to cash in on the sales spree that usually happens at the time when virtually all of India’s vehicle customers want the blessings of a billion gods on their choice of transport. It’s a tried and tested strategy and has never really failed a manufacturer. Yet.
From Sirish’s drive in the Philippines just last month we already know that the new Honda CR-V gets a made-in-India 1.6-litre four-pot turbo-diesel engine that puts out 118bhp and 300Nm of peak torque. Like the 1.5-litre i-DTEC, which in fact is the same engine but with a shorter stroke, that powers the Amaze and the City, the 1.6 features the same aluminium construction and Honda claims it is the lightest in its class. Transmission is via a 9-speed auto, which, interestingly, is operated via a button. In addition to the diesel, there is a 152bhp 2-litre petrol engine as well with 189Nm of torque, mated to a CVT.
What we didn’t know about the new Honda CR-V?
While Sirish drove the Honda CR-V and came back not just with a good perspective on what it’ll be like to drive but also a host of information about the vehicle, here’s what he could not tell you. The Honda CR-V will be launched in India in both five as well as seven seater configurations. However, if you want the third row of seating then you’ll have to opt for the diesel variant even if you’re a petrolhead since Honda will not be offering this coveted-in-India (we don’t really know why) seven-seater config only in the diesel variant. As before, the petrol variant will remain a five-seater SUV.
Also, the new Honda CR-V will not come with the option of a manual transmission at all. You’ll have to make do with a CVT if you’re buying the petrol or the 9-speed auto if you’re going for the diesel. Honda says that from a demand perspective, a manual transmission in the CR-V segment simply isn’t warranted. Although we would have liked things to be otherwise, we are forced to agree.
Spacious, funky and feature loaded
The Honda CR-V has grown in size and is now longer and wider than before. Both the wheelbase and the track have also increased. As a result, there’s acres of room in the well finished cabin. Be it the five-seater petrol or the seven-seater diesel, there’s no dearth of room in the first two rows. The fact that the second row features a 150mm slide only helps things. Where things get cramped for a fully grown adult is the third row (in the diesel), which is best left for children.
The seats are well finished and feel plush but could do with better under thigh support, especially at the rear. Lateral support is par for the course and will do a fair job of holding you in place when you decide to drive enthusiastically over a stretch of twisties.
The dashboard features a new age clean design that looks really nice and the funky instrument panel is one of the nicest I’ve seen. The fact that top drawer material has been used to create the cabin and that fit and finish levels are up there, will only help to push Honda’s case with the CR-V.
There are a ton of creature comforts too, including a panoramic sunroof that really heightens the sense of space. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a bunch if USB ports, 12V power sockets and even an HDMI port. They’re all there. But what is of most use is the camera tucked under the left ORVM that shows you a much wider field of vision on the touchscreen infotainment system, each time you turn on the left indicator. It’s so good in fact that you almost want to give the ORVM a miss. Given that the right side (driver’s side) has much fewer blind spots, this is provided only on the left side. What you don’t get in the CR-V is wireless charging for your mobile, which is a strange omission considering the tech laden times we live in.
Under the bonnet of the Honda CR-V
As mentioned earlier, the new Honda CR-V gets two engine options. First up, there is the 2-litre petrol engine mated to a CVT. It puts out 152bhp and 189Nm of peak torque. The second, and the more important one from an India perspective, is the 1.6-litre i-DTEC that puts out a modest 118bhp but a hefty 300Nm of peak torque. The diesel is mated to a 9-speed auto and gets the option of all-wheel-drive. The petrol is front-wheel-drive only and doesn’t get a manual transmission.
The Honda CR-V on Indian roads
On the go, the Honda CR-V feels strong and purposeful. There’s plenty of shove from that made-in-India diesel engine. Despite the humble 118bhp that it makes, the 300Nm of shove kicks in pretty early at just 2000rpm. Coupled to that lovely 9-speed auto ’box, you never feel any slack. Acceleration is strong and a dab of the throttle is all one needs for most situations. You won’t really feel the need, or the urge, to use the paddleshifters.
The petrol on the other hand felt a little sluggish despite having a higher output. Given that we were driving around Jaipur, which is a fairly crowded city with plenty of traffic and requires short sprints instead of long stretches of fast cruising, the torque deficit of the petrol engine made its presence felt. It would do much better in a more open environment where the power of the petrol engine could be brought to bear. That said, the petrol engine, like all Honda petrol units of the past, is incredibly refined and you’ll really have to check the rev counter to figure out if you’ve switched the vehicle off. This sense of refinement is augmented by the use of a CVT where you feel no shift shocks at all. But only if you’re not engaging in spirited driving. For the enthusiast, this will still be a dampener because any urgent demands made of the engine is met with a rising CVT whine without a corresponding increase in acceleration.
In fact, it is the diesel that is nicer to drive. Where the diesel falters however is in the refinement levels. Sure, after the barrage of criticism that the 1.5 i-DTEC faced, Honda has improved NVH characteristics a lot on this diesel mill to a point where the vibrations and harshness are practically gone. What hasn’t been completely eradicated however is noise. While it isn’t as clattery as before, you will always be accompanied by a diesel grumble. As a matter of fact, sound insulation inside the cabin could be improved for we could hear a fair amount of road noise seeping in, even in the petrol.
Out on the climb to Jaigarh Palace, which is done on a brilliantly surfaced but incredibly narrow ribbon of tarmac, the Honda CR-V proves itself an able handler. In fact, it’s nicer to drive than before and you’ll able to take on corners harder than you’ve ever had in a previous CR-V. Which also means that it should be much better than either the Toyota Fortuner or the Ford Endeavour. But in the monocoque world of the Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, Skoda Kodiaq and VW Tiguan, the CR-V’s handling isn’t head and shoulders ahead of the pack. It is merely as good as the rest. On the ride quality front, the Honda CR-V does a good job of ironing out patchwork, ruts, bumps, etc. But here again, it isn’t top of the class. It feels as good as the rest of its pack.
The verdict on the Honda CR-V
Well, it certainly has what it takes to lock horns with the now entrenched competition in a class that Honda itself created many many years ago. The Honda CR-V looks good, drives well, has a host of equipment including some that aren’t there in any vehicle of its kind. It drives pretty well too and comes with the option of a diesel engine and three rows of seating. Then of course there’s the Honda badge that has always been associated with quality and reliability. Yes, the Honda CR-V should do well. Provided of course, Honda plays the pricing game right.