2018 Honda CR-V: First Drive Review
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The Honda CR-V had a cult following in India. It was the ultimate Honda for our country as it offered a blend of an SUV-like stance and ground clearance, yet was very car-like to drive. The only thing that pulled it back were the thirsty petrol engines and the ever-increasing fuel prices. But Honda is now getting the 5th generation CR-V to India with a diesel engine and a third row of seats. Not to forget a heavy feature list and a proper Honda-like premium experience. Can it win the segment and our hearts once again?
- The Honda CR-V has evolved. Its looks all grown up in this generation, with a bolder front grille, subtle chrome touches on the side and sleek LED headlamps.
- But what gives the CR-V a solid road presence is its low and wide stance, courtesy of the sharp creases on the bumper and bonnet, and the flared out wheel arches.
- But it's not actually been lowered. In fact, the 5th generation CR-V is longer, wider and taller (L +47mm, W +35mm, H +4mm).
- Even the wheelbase has been increased by 40mm to better accommodate the third row. The SUV now sits 208mm over the ground in the AWD and 198mm in the 2WD variants.
- Moving on to specifics, the front gets a bolder chrome grille and horizontal slats. Fun fact, the international version gets a mesh grille to accommodate the radar-based safety tech.
- The headlamps are LED, and so are the DRLs and the fog lamps. The headlamps are bright and light up the road very well.
- The diesel car gets chrome surrounds for the fog lamp whereas the petrol only gets an underline garnish. That's the only design difference between the two.
- Subtle chrome touches have been added to the side as well, making the car look classy.
- The 235/60 - R18 wheels look big and bold, and are taller and wider than before.
- Tail lamps have been completely reworked and get guide lights and tall standing indicators.
- Overall, the CR-V looks a step up from the previous one. More aggressive, better road presence and more hi-tech.
- Here lies the biggest surprise of them all: the third row of seats. But we will get to that later.
- Starting with the dashboard, it now feels a lot better than the previous one.
- There is extensive use of soft plastics and leather which makes it feel luxurious.
- There is also subtle use of a matt wooden trim on the dashboard, centre console and door pads which make the cabin look classy.
- The driver gets a 7-inch TFT colour display instrument cluster that uses graphics to easily convey information. My personal favourite is the torque distribution display in the AWD variants which shows the amount of torque going to each wheel in real time. Useless, but fun.
- The driver also gets 8-way electronically adjustable seats and lumbar adjustment.
- The steering wheel is wrapped in soft leather and feels premium to hold. It gets buttons for audio, calls, volume, cruise control and instrument cluster menus. In the diesel variants, you will also find paddle shifters behind it.
- At the top of the dashboard rests the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. And while it gets the necessary bits like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it misses out on inbuilt navigation.
- The issue here is that the user interface and experience of this system doesn't live up to the overall quality of the cabin. The system lags at times and the interface too feels a bit aftermarket-y.
- But in an attempt to make the cabin feel premium, Honda has not forgotten its core values. You still get a lot of storage spaces in the cabin along with an innovative centre storage with a shifting storage tray.
- Speaking of practicality, Honda has given the CR-V Lane Watch Assist. The camera placed under the left ORVM sends a feed to the centre instrument cluster when you indicate to the left side, which lets you quickly glance at the traffic. The reason this feature is useful because the CR-V has a wide cabin, and to look at the left ORVM you would have to completely take your eyes off the road.
- Space on the second row is ample. You have loads of leg and knee room. But if you are in a diesel and there is a third row behind you, you will be wanting a bit more headroom because of the presence of the roof mounted-third row AC vents.
- If you are in the petrol, no such issue persists as there is no third row, and hence no third row AC vents.
- The bench is flat and wide, which means accommodating three should be that much easier. But the seats are placed fairly low and close to the floorboard, which makes you want a bit more of under-thigh support.
- What increases the sense of space here is the large panoramic sunroof.
- In case of the diesel, the second row can slide forward and back to make more legroom for the third row passengers. And in both cases, the second row can recline.
- The second row too gets their own AC vents with two 2.5Amp USB charging sockets.
- If you are planning to be chauffeured around and are over 6ft tall, we highly recommend the petrol variant.
- For the first time in 5 generations, the Honda CR-V comes with a third row of seats.
- To make things clear yet again, the third row is available with only the diesel engine, and not as an option.
- Space at the very back is a little tight, and the CR-V is best described as a 5+2 seater.
- If you are an adult, you will find the knee room to be a bit lacking. The rear seats are best suited for kids even with the middle row being positioned slightly ahead.
- Visibility out of the third row is good, with a large enough glass area and tall seating.
- Nevertheless, there are rear AC vents for the passengers and a bottle holder on each side.
- In the diesel CR-V, you get 150 litres behind the third row, 472 litres with the third row folded and 936 litres with the second and third row folded. The last bench can be folded in a 50:50 format, where the second can tumble in a 40:60 format.
- There is also an adjustable rear tray near the boot opening which you can lift and place a little higher to make the loading area flatter.
- Strangely enough, the diesel CR-V gets straps which you have to pull on to get the seats down. Whereas on the petrol two-row CR-V, you get convenient handles.
- Speaking of the two-row SUV, it gets 522 litres behind the second row and 1084 litres with the second row folded. That’s more than enough for even large objects.
Engine And Performance
- Again, for the first time in 5 generations, the Honda CR-V comes with a diesel engine.
- The one we get here is a 1.6-litre i-DTEC unit which makes a not-so-impressive power figure of 120PS and comes paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission.
- This is the same transmission as used in the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Evoque.
- As a result of this combination, the acceleration of the CR-V feels smooth. It's not exciting and won't put you back in your seat, but gets off the line cleanly. This will make you daily city commutes stress-free.
- And though the gearbox is a 9-speed unit, the last two gears come into play at triple-digit speeds only.
- If you want to make it act a bit more sporty, there is Sports mode which holds on the lower gear a bit longer. And then, of course, you have the paddle shifters (diesel only) to take shifting matters into your own hands.
- What this engine-transmission likes to do, or feels more natural, is just cruising along at highway speeds. Hit an open road, set up the cruise control and just let the car tug you along.
- But if you are looking for a more peppy experience, it’s the diesel 2WD you should pick. Its lighter than the AWD by 59kg and the acceleration feels more lively.
- Claimed efficiency for the diesel 2WD is 19.5kmpl and for the AWD is 18.3kmpl, which is impressive. Of course, we will put these claims to the test in a road test soon.
- The petrol engine is a carry forward from before, and is a 2.0-litre i-VTEC motor. It makes a healthy 154PS and comes mated to a CVT transmission.
- But here, Honda has not given the button layout an overhaul and has retained the conventional gear shifter.
- Available only in 2WD, the petrol engine is a happy revving motor and reaches just over 6,000rpm when you get the foot down. But the CVT transmission doesn't let it feel the drama and gains speeds in a linear manner.
- Hence, just like the diesel, this engine-transmission combination too feels focused for city commuting and highway cruising, which it does brilliantly. The CVT lets you cruise at 100kmph at 2,000rpm, which should offer better efficiency.
- The claimed efficiency of the petrol is 14.4kmpl, which is marginally better than before.
- To sum up, if you are looking at city commutes, the petrol engine feels the most relaxed. But if you have a heavy foot, or enjoy you accelerations, it’s the diesel 2WD you should go for. And if you value an overall package which includes handling and a bit of performance, it's the diesel AWD. Here’s why.
Ride And Handling
- Straight away, let's talk about the best, the AWD. Because the car gets selective dampers in the suspension, which have separate valves for low and high-frequency undulations, the CR-V manages to take some of the bigger potholes with ease, while remaining flat over undulation on highways and cornering.
- Helping it settle quickly after an undulation is its weight. The AWD tips the scales at 1725kg, which keeps it planted, especially at high speeds.
- But at city speeds, you might feel the ride quality to be a bit on the stiffer side as you would be going a little slower over bad patches, not being able to activate the higher frequency damping valve.
- Even when it comes to handling, the active torque vectoring sends the right amount of torque to the individual wheels, making this 15-foot-long SUV turn in sharply while being in control.
- Dial in the fact that the CRV now gets broader wheels, and this thing is genuinely fun through a set of corners.
- If you frequent hilly routes or want the best handling CR-V, it's definitely the AWD.
- The 2WD variants are lighter than the AWD and feel so in the way they ride as well.
- They feel just a little bouncier when compared to the AWD, but still manage to offer a composed ride.
- As far as the 2WD handling is concerned, you will experience understeer in corners if you an in an enthusiastic mood.
- When it comes to safety, the CR-V packs a lot of kit.
- Starting with the stability controls which include ABS with EBD, Brake Assist, Stability Assist and Hill Start Assist.
- You get ISOFIX child seat mounts and 6 airbags as well.
- To help you park better, there is a rear camera with bending guidelines as well.
The Honda CR-V is back! The steps that Honda has taken to make it click in the market -- like the new diesel engine, third row of seats and the premium in-cabin experience -- have all worked in its favour. And then there is the ride quality and handling of the AWD which delivers a much desired Honda-like experience. But if you want the third row of seats, remember that it is only suitable for children, only available with the diesel engine and compromises the second-row headroom for taller passengers.
The only missing piece of the puzzle, till the second week of October, is the price. If Honda manages to price it between Rs 26 lakh and 30 lakh, the 2018 CR-V will turn out to be a very desirable and practical option in the segment.