Globally, the 1st generation CR-V made its debut in 1995. That was the year that Honda pulled a game changer on the burgeoning market that was going SUV crazy at the time. Big, monstrous 4x4 machines received a showdown from a lightweight CR-V, which essentially introduced the world to the realm of the soft-roader. I remember at the time, Honda was all gung-ho about the fact that a solid majority of SUV owners never leave the tarmac, so why offer technology that doesn’t have any purpose?
The CR-V was built to drive like a car, offer car like comfort, yet look like an SUV and if need be, handle a bid of puddle bashing and trail use thanks to the intelligent real time 4x4 system that Honda installed in it, which essentially leaves the CR-V as a front wheel drive vehicle and only transfers power to the rear wheels should the system feel the need for it. It was a vehicle for the smart-class so to speak and while it couldn’t go boulder bashing, the CR-V proved to be the ultimate urban SUV and the brand has never had to look back ever since.
In India, the CR-V made its debut in 2003 followed by the 2nd and the 3rd generation models introduced in the market in 2006. Ever since its launch, the CR-V has managed to sell close to 13,739 units; a decent figure, especially when you consider the fact that it was essentially a CBU. Now with the 4th generation CR-V, Honda is looking at changing the game once again. The new CR-V will be assembled at the company’s Greater Noida facility in Uttar Pradesh and in doing so, Honda should be able to price the product at a rather competitive point to take on the entry level premium SUV market.
The vehicle itself is a fantastic evolution over its predecessor, and while the lines have become cleaner and crisper, I feel that the CR-V has matured and while this is my personal opinion, I honestly do feel that this is the best looking CR-V till date. The sculpted body lines that clearly define the sleek upper body and the powerful lower body, the chiseled grille and hood and of course the large HID projector headlights that flank the chrome grille all add to the element of being a purposeful SUV. The rear gets a nice notch, however it seems as though the designers took some quick lessons in design aesthetics from Volvo! Having said that, the exterior styling is rather bold and has a definite aura of being a rather aggressive looking SUV.
Get inside the CR-V and you are greeted with simple, yet very classy interiors. In fact I would say the CR-V has the best interiors in terms of materials used, fit and finish. There were a few panel gaps, however these being amongst the first lot of assembled models in India, such discrepancies were expected and I am sure that Honda will have these rectified at the earliest. Overall, the interior did have an opulent air to it and a lot of that has to do with the neatly appointed gizmos and gadgetry along with the optimum use of available space.
In fact, the CR-V now comes with lower seats and a roof that is slightly taller than its predecessor. This has resulted in an airy cabin and a fantastic view from all seats. My only grouse was the lack of thigh support on the rear bench. It was just a little too low for tall people such as me. The front seats however, are a revelation and that is where I chose to spend most of my time, while enjoying a drive in the new CR-V.
In terms of creature comforts, the CR-V does come pretty loaded and the list includes the AVN system with a large 6.1 inch touch screen that allows you to access the one touch navigation system, DVD/CD player with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity as well as rear camera display. Further to this, you get the intelligent multi-functional information display that allows you to access a plethora of information as well as customize it to suit your needs, including a wallpaper of your choice.
The CR-V is currently offered with two engine choices here in the Indian market. For the fuel conscious, the obvious choice would be the 2.0 litre SOHC i-VTEC engine which is capable of generating 156PS @ 6500rpm (an increase of 13 PS over its predecessor), and makes a decent 190Nm of torque @4300 rpm. Available only as a two wheel drive (2WD), the 2.0 litre unit comes mated to either a 5 speed automatic transmission or a 6 speed manual. If it’s more power that you are looking for, then the 2.4 litre DOHC i-VTEC ought to suffice, especially with 190PS on tap at 7000rpm (an increase of 29PS over its predecessor) and a solid 226Nm of torque @ 4400rpm.
Incidentally, the 2.4 litre model is only offered with a 5 speed automatic transmission. However it is also the only model in the line up to get the REALTIME 4WD system as standard fitment. In terms of mileage shared by ARAI, the 2.0 litre returns about 13.7 kilometers to the litre and the 2.4 litre unit offers 12 kilometers to the litre. Honda claims that there has been a substantial change in mileage figures and that the new CR-V is destined to prove its mettle this time around.
In fact, to further aid the entire mileage process, Honda has included the ECON mode which allows you to switch on the ‘economy’ mode to get the best mileage possible, while the system also teaches you how to drive more efficiently. Its and interesting system that is more than just a gimmick and does have a direct impact on mileage figures. Having said that, real-world mileage figures still need to be checked and will remain a mystery until we get to fully test these vehicles on our own, I did get the opportunity to drive both versions and I have returned with a mixed bag of emotions.
I first took the top of the line 2.4 litre version for a drive and while I was able to easily notch up into three digit speeds, I felt that the automatic was taking away some of the driving pleasure that this engine ought to have offered. It wasn’t sluggish, it was just a tad bit un-dramatic and that made it a little boring. Using the paddle shifts did lighten up my mood and it definitely offers a more engaging drive experience, however I am sure that it wasn’t the best in terms of mileage for the cool ECON lights never came on even once!
The two-litre unit on the other hand proved to be rather impressive. In no way does it feel underpowered and mated to an automatic, the 2.0 litre version was capable of pulling away to kingdom come. The ultra smooth 6 speed manual gearbox was a blessing as well, and I personally enjoyed being behind the wheel of the 2.0 litre version a lot more than the 2.4 litre version, however, for Honda’s sake I hope this doesn’t speak for the volumes of people who will by the new CR-V as the company is bullish about the sheer success of the 2.4 litre engine.
What it boils down to is choice and if you are looking for a CR-V that you want to enjoy, buy the 2.0 litre version, however if it is a car that you will spend a lot of time being chauffer driven in, then get the 2.4 litre manual. The good news on the engine front is that both units are total gems and extremely refined mills, so in effect, either way, you really can’t go wrong!
Ride quality is fantastic and like all CR-Vs, this has always remained one of its top qualities. Sharing its platform with the new Civic, the CR-V has a McPherson strut suspension system up front and utilizes a double wishbone system at the rear. Riding on large 17 inch alloys, the CR-V is designed to soak up road undulations like no other and that is where it has earned its reputation of being the ultimate soft-roader.
On the safety front, the CR-V does come with a solid range of products on offer as standard fitment. To start with, the SUV comes with vehicle stability assist (VSA), ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, 6 airbags, advance compatibility engineering (ACE), hill start assist (HSA), occupant position detection system (OPDS) as well as advanced suspension settings and motion adaptive electronic power steering.
Honda has really gone all out on the new CR-V and rightly so. It is a great vehicle that offers performance, mileage, comfort and class, yet the most important question is why it isn’t a diesel? Honda has been known for their reliability, quality as well as their commitment to petrol engines. While there is talk about a 1.5 diesel coming in for their smaller cars, Honda has not made any commitments for a larger engine for the Accord or the CR-V.
Instead, Honda is betting on the market. Diesel prices are set to increase by almost Rupees 10/- this year, while further reducing the gap between petrol and diesel pricing. This itself should bring petrol vehicles back in demand according to how the market has responded to such change in the past. So, going back to why no diesel, well its more of an economical reason rather than a reason of just going with your heart. Do the math and this reasoning becomes even more apparent! Last but not least, with the new CR-V coming in as a CKD, prices are expected to be much lower than what they were earlier. All these advantages summed up is enough to justify the lack of a diesel engine, but such is the curse of India that the consumer shall always demand what is not apparent or in front of them!