Anton Andres / Brent Co, Mike Sabarre | January 31, 2018 08:52
Fine-tuning the crossover
'When will Honda release a diesel CR-V here?'
That is the question my relatives (and perhaps many more) have been asking for about ten years now. Their prayers were answered when Honda Cars Philippines pulled the covers off the car back in August. While the idea of a diesel-powered CR-V is new here, it's actually been a thing in Europe since 2005. In fact, Honda has been in the diesel game since late 2003 with the Euro-spec Accord.
With that said, it's been 14 years since Honda fitted home-grown diesels in their cars. Needless to say, it took a while for Honda's diesel engines to reach this part of the world. Mated to one of the most important models the marque makes, there is one question that needs to be answered: How good is a Honda diesel?
From the looks of it, there's practically nothing to differentiate it from the gas-powered variant. The exterior is practically the same as the 2.0 S from its 18-inch six-spoke wheels, right down to the chrome trimmings sparingly applied throughout the body. Really, the only cue you have here is the i-DTEC badge on the tailgate. It's not a bad thing though.
This generation of CR-V presents an evolutionary re-styling of the past two generations. The front fascia has been made bolder as it now incorporates Honda's current design language. Upswept headlights and the hexagonal grill gives it more presence than the previous generation. Giving it a wider-looking stance are its defined shoulder line which extend a fair amount away from the window. And then, there's the rear. Some people like it (someone at the car wash said it looked European) and some don't but I appreciate that Honda kept the signature high-mounted tail lights. I say it wouldn't be CR-V if it didn't have those.
So while the exterior is evolutionary, the interior is leaps ahead from CR-Vs of the past. No more acres of hard plastic in the front; soft touch materials are abound and it makes this car that feel bit more premium. It adapts the design of the Civic wherein you see a wing-tipped theme for the dashboard and, of course, that digital instrument cluster. Another highlight is 'floating' infotainment screen and the addition of the volume knob gets rid of the occasionally fiddly touch-based volume adjuster. Greatly appreciated are the numerous charging points in the car with four in front and two more at the back.
It offers interior flexibility in spades too thanks to sliding second row seats. This allows either more legroom for those seated at the back or more cargo space. Of course, another highlight is the third row seats. To be honest, it works best for small adults and children but at least there are cupholders and air-conditioning vents to keep those seated there happy. When not in use, the sixth and seventh seats are easy to stow; simply pull and tab and push it forward.
As this is the diesel model, it comes with the push-button gear selector seen in the top-spec model. This system has both its fans and detractors. While it clears up space in the center console, I found myself looking for a shifter, only to look down on the console and remind myself to press it into gear. I also wish it came with an automatic dimming rear-view mirror. It does make up for it by coming with a camera that gives you a clearer view of your right flank.
As mentioned, this 2WD S diesel variant is powered by a 1.6-liter turbodiesel, which is the same one found in the range-topping SX AWD model. Power is rated at 120 PS and 300 Nm of torque which, on paper at least, sounds like it's on the conservative side. It then shifts via a nine-speed automatic transmission which should keep the revs low and, in turn, fuel efficiency high. With less less weight to carry around, it is to be expected that this variant should pull better than the top-spec variant.
And with that, the expectations were, in fact met. Having tried out the AWD version, this 2WD diesel CR-V is a little more eager to get off the line. Thanks to 300 Nm of torque, it shoves the car forward at a good pace and surges better than the old gas 2.4-liter ever did (that was saddled with an all-wheel drive system after all). Performance then is good and I preferred this front-wheel drive model to the AWD. Turn off ECON mode if you want to make the most of the car's power.
This being a diesel, it's time to talk fuel economy and boy does it deliver. In the city, I managed 10.5 kilometers per liter at an average speed of 16 km/h. Even more impressive is the figure on the highway. Setting the cruise control at 95 km/h, the trip computer displayed 20.1 kilometers per liter. It's practically a fuel sipper. These figures were achieved with economy mode being switched on and off throughout the drive.
So, the engine is good, what about the rest of it? I can gladly report that the new CR-V is a much more involving steer than the previous model. Granted, that particular model didn't exactly stir the soul when one is behind the wheel. However, this new one feels a bit sharper, more dynamic than before. One can perhaps attribute this to the Civic's chassis, which can be said is one of the more dynamic ones in its class. Steering wheel feel is improved too, a welcome relief from electronic power systems that offer little feedback.
Ride can be best described as pliant with a hint of firmness at the rear. While by no means harsh, it is noticeable but it won't be enough to upset those seated inside. Speaking of which, the seats were a nice place to stay in during a trip to the province, offering sufficient lumbar support that won't leave you with back ache. Perhaps a touch more sound-deadening materials would up the refinement even more. You can still hear a little clatter when you start it in the wee hours of the morning.
At Php 1,759,000, the CR-V 1.6 S 2WD is a little on the pricey side. But, considering it's an all-new design packing new tech, some of which unseen in crossovers in this price point, it perhaps justifies that price tag. Now, there is an entry-level diesel (1.6 V) for about Php 200,000 less but it's not as well equipped as this variant. Not that the base diesel won't be a good bet but check out both variants to see it for yourself.
Overall, the diesel CR-V presents an interesting new direction for the popular crossover. It certainly feels different from the gas model tested a while back but it won't alienate repeat customers. If anything, it has expanded its appeal even more. Needless to say, the Honda turbodiesel is a fine powertrain, offering good performance (in two wheel drive form) and great fuel economy. It may have taken a while but having diesel Hondas are certainly a welcome addition to the local lineup.