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A sequel that delivers more impact than the original

S Muralidhar | Updated on September 20, 2018 Published on September 20, 2018

The Honda CR-V returns with a diesel engine and better equipment. But can it fight with the SUV biggies?

Honda’s product hierarchy in India and its progression of launches over the years saw a big skew in the middle because of the Civic and the CR-V. Since Honda didn’t really adopt a top-down approach to its product offensive unlike many others in India, it may not be entirely right to say that these two vehicles were launched too early. But in hindsight we do know that the market for premium sedans and SUVs has only now come of age. Of course, we also know that the sales of both the Honda models did suffer for want of diesel powertrains.

Honda Car India is back on a roll with the Jazz, the WR-V and the ever-popular City helping it build not just stronger volumes, but also recapture its premium image. It’s now time for Honda to bring the new CR-V here and on this occasion the popular crossover will have all the weapons in its arsenal. Honda India is launching the fourth generation CR-V early next month with both a diesel and a petrol engine. The diesel CR-V will be a 7-seater and gets a 9-speed automatic, while the petrol CR-V will be a 5-seater that gets a CVT gearbox.

Design

The CR-V was one of the earliest crossovers in the segment. This new generation loses even more of the upright design, making it look like a low, wide-set crossover. The new, fifth generation CR-V’s wider track and longer wheelbase (2,660mm) kind of hides the fact that it is actually taller than the previous generation model. Its ground clearance is now 198mm (208mm for the 4WD). It is also said to be the most aerodynamically efficient CR-V ever made.

 

The vehicle’s design now features crisper and sharper elements. In addition, a lot of work has gone into improving aero including in the design of the lights, door mirrors, the exhaust silencers, narrower A-pillars and in the under-covers. The design features strong Honda signature elements with shades of the City, and WR-V all over the exterior, but the crossover stance and flavour is strong too. The wide, muscular fenders, flared wheel arches and short rear overhang give the new CR-V the necessary bulk needed to emphasise its SUV pedigree. Depending on the trim level, the new CR-V also gets LED head and tail lamps, and DRLs. There is still a lot of chrome trim elements like in the grille, in the front fender, the rear garnish and the body side character line.

Cabin

Thanks to a longer wheelbase, marginally higher roof and wider track, the new CR-V’s cabin feels more spacious right after I step in. This was evident in the Indonesian-spec CR-V which I had reviewed here a few weeks ago. And I’m happy to report that the India-spec’s cabin feels exactly the same, not just in terms of space, but also in terms of build and quality of interior trim. The diesel version of the new CR-V is being offered as a 7-seater. Though the third row twin-seat offers only a narrow amount of legroom; it also cuts luggage space and is barely capable of accommodating more than two overnighters, the CR-V doesn’t look gawky or MPV-like. The petrol version, which is a 5-seater also doesn’t look disproportionately long.

Roomy cabin Even though the headroom may be a bit tight for rear passengers, the cabin is spacious overall and very practical S Muralidhar   -  S Muralidhar

 

But the new CR-V’s second row legroom is up 50mm (compared to previous Gen), the 60:40 split seats can also be adjusted fore-aft by 150mm further improving legroom and usability. Contoured front seats also contribute to space and the backrests can also be reclined (second row). Getting access into the CR-V’s cabin has also been improved by increasing the width of the door parting for both front and rear. Access to the boot from the rear is also easy thanks to the large tailgate which cuts down deep into the rear fender. But getting to the third row is still difficult and the legroom enough only for accommodating kids. Cabin’s material and trim quality is up, with the plastics and controls sporting a sturdy, premium feel. Matt faux wood trim provides a welcome relief from the grey-beige cabin colour theme. The seats are wide and comfy, featuring a mix of leather and leatherette upholstery. These are likely to be offered only for the top trim of the new CR-V.

The cabin centre console is different in the petrol and diesel versions, with the former featuring a raised front half and a gearshift stick and the latter being offered with a simple set of push/ pull buttons for activating parking, reverse, neutral or drive. Both powertrains feature automatic gearboxes, but only the diesel is offered with steering-mounted paddles. The CR-V also gets a 7-inch display audio touchscreen which is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a six-speaker music system. The screen also displays the rear blind spot assistance camera’s image of the next lane every time one engages the left turn indicator. Multiple controls on the steering wheel and a varied mix of indicative info in the instrument display improve the cabin’s usability. The driver attention assist feature based on frequency of steering input is another nifty addition.

Performance

The CR-V is being offered for the first time with a diesel powertrain in India even though i-DTEC engines have been available in other markets for many years now. The 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder diesel also comes to the India-spec CR-V with a single turbo and 120PS of peak power, though it is offered with a twin-turbo with a higher output in other markets. The 300Nm of torque and the shorter ratios for the lower gears and taller ratio for the higher gears save this powertrain somewhat from feeling underpowered or weak. The engine doesn’t fall short on refinement or efficiency (rated mileage is 19.5kmpl), but on-road performance feels a bit blunted in the mid-rpm-range. The good news, though, is that there is enough pulling power at the low-end with little turbo-lag; and you can also cruise all day with the engine feeling completely unruffled. Faced with a very tight overtake manoeuvre? – use the paddles and shift down. The 9-speed torque converter gearbox is quick and throttle response is great too.

The other engine on offer is a two-litre, i-VTEC petrol engine which delivers 154PS of power and 189Nm of torque. This engine is paired with another iteration of Honda’s CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic. This powertrain is also refined, sounds good too, but it doesn’t have the diesel’s relative briskness. Power delivery is too measured and the general impression that I got was that it will be more than adequate for city driving, but will feel slow on the uptake while on the highway. The CVT is probably to blame, but the problem of an over linear power output can’t be avoided since there is no mechanism for manual selection of gears. Again, the petrol engine won’t be found too lacking in punch while driving in the city.

Bottomline

The ride quality of the CR-V is excellent, and the suspension is a good balance offering a firm, but pliant ride over bad patches and an accommodating cruise over undulating tarmac. There is very little body roll and the steering offers decent amount of feel and turn-ins are precise. There is also the addition of what Honda calls Agile Handling Assist, which uses brake torque vectoring to improve turn-in response. The full complement of safety equipment is also on offer.

Honda is confident that the CR-V’s buyer matrix will be heavily loaded in favour of the diesel. So, the diesel version is also the only one that gets a real-time all-wheel drive system with a lot more new hardware and software upgrades. If required nearly 40 per cent torque can be directed to the rear wheels. Honda expects the diesel version to contribute nearly 90 per cent of the CR-V’s sales. I expect prices to range from ₹ 28 lakh to ₹ 33 lakh. The CR-V used to be sub-₹ 20 lakh a few years ago, but then this new model is also much more than the previous Gen. Still, can it take on the Skoda Kodiaq, the VW Tiguan, Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and the Hyundai Tucson? We will know when the 2018 CR-V is launched next month.

Published on September 20, 2018
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