The Honda CR-V tuned out to be quite popular in India after its launch in 2002 in its second generation. Thereafter though, the SUV market changed extensively and large, boxy SUVs with diesel engines became the norm. The CR-V lacked a butch design and most critically a diesel engine, owing to which sales gradually declined. While the model continued to be popular in international markets, in India sales came down to a negligible point, viz-a-viz the competition. The 5th generation CR-V though comes with a diesel engine and loads of new features, which are all aimed at making the vehicle better than ever. Honda Cars India has now decided to launch the new 5th generation Honda CR-V in India on 9th October. We drove the car around the Pink City Jaipur to find out if the CR-V finally has the ammunition to take on the likes of the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Endeavour and Skoda Kodiaq.
New 2018 Honda CR-V Design
The first thing one would notice about the design of the new CR-V is the fact that it isn't a rugged-looking and boxy SUV. The CR-V instead is a sophisticated and elegant SUV that would suit an entry at a nice club or an evening party. There is nothing loud about the design and the angular and sleek front with sharp headlamps (with LED DRLs) and a long hood. The front face has got richness in its design and looks thoroughly upmarket. The wide chrome slat in the grille though is something that could have mixed reactions, Most Indians would like it but I would have preferred a little less of the shiny surface.
The story of big and beautiful continues on the side with stunning 18-inch alloy wheels, which not only look great but fill up the flared wheel arches well, lending the SUV a dynamic look. The raked A-pillar along with a roofline that tapers towards the end gives the SUV a sleek profile. At the rear, tail lamps rise to roof where a wide spoiler has been neatly integrated. The rear bumper and tail gate too have subtle lines that match the overall character of the CR-V.
In the end, people who love vehicles that are elegant and pleasant to look at and aren't brash and intimidating will love the design of the new Honda CR-V and so will most onlookers.
New 2018 Honda CR-V Engine & gearbox
Yes, the biggest news in the new Honda CR-V is the inclusion of a diesel engine, finally! The engine though gave rise to some doubts ever since we heard the numbers. A 1.6 litre DOHC, i-DTEC engine develops just 120 hp with a torque output of 300 NM @ 2,000 rpm. Comparing these numbers with the competition instantly makes it clear that on paper the new Honda CR-V is the least powerful SUV in its segment. There's also a 2 litre petrol engine on offer with 154 hp of power and 189 Nm of torque at 4,300 rpm. However, let's face it that this engine isn't going to play a significant role in the score sheet of the new CR-V in India. About 95 % vehicles in this segment are diesel so let's get back to discussing that.
With doubts in my mind, I thumbed the ignition button and the engine came to life with some clatter and a bit of vibrations. All of this disappeared in seconds and at idle the engine in a moderately noisy ambient environment won't even be audible in the cabin. Starting off, there's no lag from the engine and this is partly due to the new 9-speed AT gearbox. Yes, 9-speed and it's mostly luxury German cars that come with these many ratios. The gearbox does a damn fine job of masking the engine's power deficit and as a result, drivability is excellent. Torque is available in a linear curve and starts to taper off past 4,500 rpm. This means you do not feel the lack of power in city traffic and even n highways while overtaking. It's only when you push the pedal to the metal and try and reach higher triple-digit speeds, the engine starts to run out of steam. That said, the CR-V does a respectable job of moving around in all conditions on our roads. Taking control of the gearbox through the pedal shifters allow you to extract a bit from the diesel mill in case you need to reach somewhere pretty quick or are driving in the hills.
Another benefit of a smaller displacement engine with a 9-speed gearbox is best-in-segment fuel-efficiency. Honda claims 19.5 kmpl for the diesel variant and 14.4 for the petrol version. We drove both variants and got a system indicated 13.2 kmpl for the diesel version and 9.1 kmpl for the petrol model. While a detailed road test will reveal exact real-world numbers later, these numbers are surely much better than the competition presently.
The other stellar thing about the diesel engine is the high refinement level and excellent NVH insulation. Even when pushing the engine hard, the diesel clatter doesn't barge into the cabin and instead just filters through. At cruising and urban speed, it's hard to tell at times if this is a diesel engine or a petrol one.
So there you have it. The diesel engine might not have big numbers to boast of but it surely has excellent drivability and impressive refinement and efficiency. This makes the CR-V a great choice for people who want a comfortable and refined vehicle for themselves and their family.
New Honda CR-V ride, handling and Off-road
The 2018 Honda CR-V comes with an All-Wheel Drive (AWD) option in the diesel version. The petrol can only be bought with the front wheels pulling the SUV. Now let me make one thing clear straight away that the CR-V in its AWD version isn't a hardcore off-road SUV. It has mild off-road abilities, which should be good enough to get you out of slightly tricky patches or sail over really bad roads. There is no low-ratio or drive mode so it's just a computer that Honda claims is intelligent and hence can shuffle power between the four wheels with up to a maximum of 40 % going to the rear wheels. We weren't able to test the system's abilities on our short drive but the 208 mm ground clearance surely came in handy while tackling some mild off-road excursions.
In terms of ride & handling, the new Honda CR-V scores high as it rides almost like a car. Unlike most SUVs in this segment, the CR-V doesn't rock and jolt over surface undulations. Instead, the suspension soaks in most bad roads and ride quality at slow and high speed is simply excellent and comparable to some premium sedans too.
Going around curves at high speeds isn't what CR-V engineers had on the top of the memo but the vehicle doesn't mind doing the same. There is a bit of body-roll around corners but the CR-V maintains the intended line and is rock solid on straight lines. It will require a fair amount of stupidity to make the CR-V lose control as the SUV does a good job of delivering handling for its positioning.
New Honda CR-V Interior & Cabin
The new Honda CR-V has an impressive cabin to greet its occupants. The biggest update is the inclusion of a seven-seat layout, which can be opted for with a diesel version only. Petrol ones come with just five seats. The test vehicle we drove had a seven-seat layout and left us quite impressed. At the front, there's a black dashboard with wood-finish inserts that give a nice subtle contrast to the dark theme. Material quality is nice throughout the cabin and the soft touch top dashboard adds to the premium quotient of the cabin.
The centre console houses an elegantly integrated colour touch screen that is equipped with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The infotainment system also supports navigation, USB and Aux-In connectivity. Apart from offering loads of storage spaces the centre console also has one HDMI output point, a 12 V socket and two USB charging slots. Interestingly, one of these USB slots offers 1.0 A of output while the other offers 1.5 A, which should help charge smartphones and tablets faster. Storage space inside door pockets is ample and easy to access, making the cabin convenient.
The second row of seats features a 60:40 split with the option of folding down completely to increase boot space. The seats can be pushed backwards and tilted too, thereby enhancing the comfort levels. Legroom is ample and the space under the front seats makes it possible to slide your feet under and relax with almost straight legs. Headroom also is good and taller occupants will find themselves to be comfortable even over long durations.
Getting to the third-row involves folding the second row of seats on either side and squeezing your way in. Once seated, it becomes clear that this seat is at best suitable for 30 – 45 minutes for an adult. Low seat height means your knees are pointing upwards, resulting in no thigh support. At 5 feet eight inches, my knees were already brushing against the seats in front and shoulder room and backrest angle was also just about ok. While you might think that these seats should be suitable for children, that shouldn't be the case. Please do not have your children sitting in the last row of any vehicle as the risks of fatalities and severe injuries is much higher in the last row, especially in the case of being rear-ended. That said one of the most defining features of the CRV's interiors is the grand panoramic sun-roof which not only adds to airy-ness of the cabin but also adds to the SUVs premium appeal.
Overall, the new Honda CR-V offers an excellent cabin with high-quality materials, a good set of features and impressive comfort. The inclusion of seven-seats now means that the demand of most consumers in this segment will be met, making a stronger case for sale.
New 2018 Honda CR-V Conclusion – Who should buy it?
The new 2018 5th Generation Honda CR-V has finally been able to address two key issues that were hampering its appeal to consumers earlier. With seven-seats and a diesel engine, the CR-V offers a strong and competitive package to prospective SUV buyers. While some might argue that the CR-V doesn't have an aggressive and intimidating design, the success of Hyundai Creta has already made it clear that smart and elegant SUVs too can sell well if the overall package is appealing. The CR-V scores well in the safety department too with six airbags, Hill Start Assist, Lane Watch (blind spot detection), Driver attention monitor and Agile Handle Assist.
The only missing piece in deciding whether the CR-V as a package is appealing to a buyer or not is the price, which hasn't been revealed yet. The vehicle will be formally launched on 9th October, which is when the prices will be revealed. What we can confirm right now is that the Honda CR-V stands out from its competition in almost all areas and delivers well, especially in the cabin comfort area. It makes a great SUV for people who love to have refined and sophisticated vehicles with class. For people who aren't hell bent on proving a point or shouting out to the world all the time, the Honda CR-V makes perfect sense. It can do most things better than its competitors but its character doesn't scream of its capabilities.
Honda Cars India now needs to make sure they do not get carried away with the strength of the vehicle and overprice it as the segment is highly competitive. If you wish to know more about the new 2018 Honda CR-V, our video review will shortly be up on the Express Drives channel on YouTube so please do follow that space.