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A Filipino run in the new CR-V

S Muralidhar | Updated on August 16, 2018 Published on August 16, 2018

The Honda crossover gets a ‘fillip’ with improved quality, equipment and safety features. Coming in October to a showroom near you

Push to select Instead of a gear stick, there are buttons to select the two drive modes   -  S Muralidhar

The fifth-gen Honda CR-V

The Honda crossover gets a ‘fillip’ with improved quality, equipment and safety features. Coming in October to a showroom near you

With its mixture of opposites — shiny glass skyscrapers on one side, and tired-looking older buildings and urban sprawl on the other — the city of Manila in Philippines is very much like the average Indian metropolis with some small exceptions. Its roads are even more like India’s, including chaotic crossings and merging of city traffic; gridlocks are common, as are cattle on the highways, and there is even the odd road user going on the wrong side. The streets are lined with shops and malls, and its barely-there sidewalks have been usurped by vendors and randomly parked two-wheelers, except in the newer developments.

The mix of vehicles in Manila was also very reminiscent of what we find on Indian roads — a motley collection of cars and two-wheelers from Japanese brands. There is also enough evidence of a local history of ‘Jugaad’ engineering in the number of Jeepneys and bikes with elaborate sidecars that Filipinos commute in. The only difference though is that the average road user is more patient and less prone to honking.

Design

Last week, for me, Manila felt like home and I thought it was quite the apt setting for a pre-India-launch test drive of the new Honda CR-V. This is the fifth generation of Honda’s mid-size crossover and it is likely to be launched in India next month; most importantly with a Diesel engine option, finally. The third-gen and fourth-gen CR-Vs that were sold in India were hamstrung due to the absence of a diesel engine. Though the i-DTEC engine was available in other markets like in Europe, India didn’t get it due to low capacities and lack of allocations. Whether there will be as much appetite for the diesel CR-V now given the general anti-diesel sentiment is debatable, though the increase in choice available for buyers will certainly be appreciated, as would addition of a third row. Honda Cars India is bringing in the 2019 CR-V by October to its showrooms in the country with the diesel in a seven-seater configuration and the petrol most likely as a five-seater.

The previous generation CR-Vs were also crossovers just like the fifth-generation. But, unlike the previous two, the new CR-V’s crossover design flavour is stronger with a wider and shorter build. The design also has a number of Honda signature elements like the LED daytime running light signature and the thick chrome grille; even the lines on the raised bonnet and front fender remind me of the City and the WR-V. At the rear, the tailgate and fender features 3D surfaces and a combination of vertical and horizontal light elements. The tail-lamps feature LEDs and conventional light sources and depending on the trim, the new CR-V also gets other embellishments like chrome garnishes and faux underbody protectors. The Philippine-spec model I was driving sported a panoramic sunroof in the AWD (all-wheel drive) version, while the 2WD version didn’t get it. The new CR-V’s profile is sleeker and it sports a lower roofline, but that also means that the headroom inside the cabin is lesser. While the driver and front passengers will find that it offers sufficient headroom, passengers in the second row may find that they need to sit forward and lean back a bit if they are over six feet tall. But the good news is that there is enough knee-room and the backrest of the second row bench also inclines about 15 degrees. The two seats in the third row can only be used by children because there are only a few inches of kneeroom. There will be no dearth for rough road capability because the 2019 CR-V offers a ground clearance of 208 mm.

Keen on establishing its intent to fight back with the diesel powertrain option, Honda had organised the test drive of the top-end SX Diesel 9AT AWD in Manila. The cabin of this top-spec CR-V was quite inviting with black leather finished seats, the colour theme is a dark grey and black, with brushed steel and faux matte burl-wood inserts on the centre console, dashboard and door panels. A seven-inch infotainment display sits at the top of the centre console, but at the bottom of the stack there is no gearshift stick. Instead of a selector stick, there are simply buttons for park, drive, neutral and reverse; very much like what one might find in an EV (electric vehicle).

Performance

The CR-V is likely to debut in India with two engines and two different transmission choices — the 1.6-litre i-DTEC turbo Diesel engine will be paired with a nine-speed torque converter automatic gearbox and the petrol is likely to be a two-litre i-VTEC that may be paired with a CVT (continuously variable) transmission. Only the diesel with its nine-speed auto and electronic gear selector was made available for the test drive.

Honda engineers say that the new engine is lighter with core parts like pistons, crankshafts and con-rods being smaller and lighter. Friction reduction and improved efficiencies are said to be the result of the light-weighting. The four-cylinder engine generates 120 PS of peak power and 300 Nm of peak torque; all of which is available from a low 2,000 rpm. The engine feels relaxed and unruffled at city speed limits and with the ‘Econ’ button selected for better efficiency. The CR-V cruises easily at higher gears. But, the engine sounds laboured during hard acceleration and when gear selection is manually done with the steering paddles, with a disproportionate noise to acceleration feel. I guess a higher focus on efficiency is an expected Honda trait.

The ride quality is excellent, and the CR-V tackles smooth tarmac, tight turns and bad roads equally well with an accommodating suspension and good grip. The AWD version certainly felt more confident in the rain, but while extra traction and torque distribution (displayed on the digital instrument cluster too) is great, this still lacks a differential lock and so can’t really tackle serious off-road conditions. Honda has sensibly equipped the CR-V with a bunch of related safety features calling them ‘Honda Sensing’. They include adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure and road departure warning and mitigation, collision mitigation braking and forward collision warning. The regulars including vehicle stability assist are all there too. I don’t know how many of these radar-based features will make it here. But I hope Honda will bring the lane watch camera, which is activated and throws up a live video of the next lane every time the turn indicator is activated. This could be a handy feature even in India.

Bottom Line

The fifth-gen CR-V is bigger than its predecessors and its longer wheelbase and rear overhang delivers more room in the cabin and in the boot; also making the third row possible. The cabin is well equipped and material quality has also improved dramatically. Dual-zone airconditioning for all three rows will also be appreciated by Indian buyers. Even though its competitors are strong players, the likes of Skoda Kodiaq, Ford Endeavour, Toyota Fortuner and Volkswagen Tiguan, will face the heat from the CR-V. Hopefully, being made locally will give the Honda crossover pricing power to take on the competition. I expect prices to range between ₹25 lakh and ₹30 lakh.

Published on August 16, 2018
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