Marcus De Guzman / Jenna Genio | November 17, 2017 09:21
Sticking to Tradition, and then some
Twenty-two years, that's how long the CR-V has been in production. It has come a long way hasn't it?
Same goes for the compact crossover which has grown in size and in features. What started as an alternative choice to the traditional sedan has become the new standard of sorts. Taller, more spacious and (dare I say) far more flexible than a four-door, the crossover ticked all the boxes of what the modern driver needs today. It’s part everyday city runaround, part adventure vehicle.
But despite the countless evolutions and revolutions in the motoring industry, the tried-and-tested formula of the C-segment crossover has practically remained the same in the last 20 years or so. Get a 2.0-liter (or similarly-sized engine), stick it onto a car-based platform, raise the ride height by a few millimetres and voila, you have a crossover. Simple it may be, it proved to be a game-changer as almost every brand nowadays have several crossovers in their lineup.
A few weeks ago, we were able to get our hands on the all-new, top-of-the-range CR-V SX. Equipped with a turbo-diesel powertrain, all-wheel-drive and plenty of in-car amenities and safety tech, the range-topping SX has a lot going for it despite its Php 2 million price tag. But not all are in favor of having a diesel-powered crossover as some want to stick to tradition. Fret not, as Honda is still offering the 2018 CR-V with VTEC power.
But first, let’s start off with its exterior design. Don’t try to adjust your screens or squint your eyes, the gasoline-powered CR-V looks the same as its diesel-powered brethren. Compared to the fourth-generation CR-V, the all-new model dons a sleeker, bolder finish. Like the new Civic, it gets a pair of eye-catching LED headlights (with LED daytime running lights) that is then complemented by the ‘Solid Wing Face’ front grill. Compared to the previous generation, the all-new model has a cleaner-looking, more cohesive face that looks mature rather than youthful which I really liked.
Perhaps the most striking features on the new CR-V are its diamond-cut alloy wheels and signature D-pillar-mounted LED taillights. When viewed from afar, the stylish six-spoke 18-inch alloys actually give off the illusion of having only three spokes. Meanwhile, the edgy taillights make the crossover stand out from the rest. Personally, I find the new taillight design to be rather extreme-looking for such a family-oriented crossover. But overtime, the design actually grew on me and I do appreciate the fact that Honda decided to change up the styling.
Overall, it's unlike any CR-V Honda has designed and is quite the looker. Props to Honda for being daring in designing the fifth-generation CR-V.
Step inside and the CR-V invites you in a comfy and high-tech cabin. Both front seats have good side support, as well as comfortable backrests (despite not having adjustable lumbar support). The seat cushions are good though I wished they were a bit longer for better leg support. The leather upholstery is of fine quality, while the gloss black plastic trim gives the CR-V a more upmarket finish.
Like the Civic, the CR-V now also has a three-pod instrument panel that comes with the same eye-catching startup sequence. But unlike the Civic's half-moon shaped rev-counter, the CR-V comes with a horizontal-like tachometer which was nice to look at. Smooth leather wraps around the steering wheel and comes with audio-media controls, as well as buttons for the cruise control.
Placed at the center is Honda's familiar touchscreen infotainment system. The 2.0 S does not get navigation sadly, but it supports a suite of multimedia functions like AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, USB, Aux and HDMI connectivity. As much as the touch-sensitive volume control was a nice gimmick, it wasn't really that intuitive to use. Thankfully, Honda has heard their customers' cries as the new CR-V now comes with a volume knob control which also acts as the power button for the infotainment system.
But where you may ask can you connect your flash drives, or your charging/ HDMI cables? Honda cleverly designed a tray at the center console that can be slid open to reveal the ports. Aside from freeing clutter and space at the center console, one can have some peace of mind that your cables and devices can be kept hidden from prying eyes.
Legroom at the back is generous and the seats are reclinable. Rear aircon vents come as standard as well along with two USB charging points. No longer do the rear passengers need to have long cables that reach all the way to the center console just to charge to their mobile devices.
Since this is the gasoline version, it does not get the extra row of seats at the back. This means there is more luggage to go around for everyone.
Under the hood is a 2.0-liter SOHC inline-four with i-VTEC. Internally known as the R20A3, the engine produces a modest 154 PS at 6500 rpm and 189 Nm of torque at 4300 rpm. Gone is the five-speed automatic as it now has Honda’s familiar Earth Dreams-developed continuously variable transmission (CVT) that drives the front wheels.
The engine may be a carry-over, but there was nothing inherently wrong with the four-cylinder to begin with. It is quiet, smooth and has just the right amount of pep for highway and city driving. Initial acceleration from the four-cylinder engine is average to say the least but once the revs build up, there is some pull from the motor. Throw it into Sport Mode, and the revs build up faster and throttle response is marginally better. It even has paddle shifters which allows drivers to play with seven simulated gear ratios.
The new CVT, however, made the powertrain slightly less responsive than the old slushbox but only just. On the plus side, fuel economy is actually better with the CVT despite the engine still being revvy. In the city, it can easily average between 11.0 – 12.0 km/l which paid dividends between trips to the pumps. Take it out on the highway and the CR-V is capable of returning 17.0 – 18.0 km/l. In moderate to heavy traffic, expect the CR-V to return about 7.0 – 8.0 km/l at best. Like most Hondas on offer today, the CR-V also comes with 'Econ' (Economy) mode for better fuel mileage.
As far as ride quality is concerned, the CR-V is probably one of the most comfortable C-segment crossovers in the market, if not the most. Like the fourth-generation model, it went over potholes, bumps and rough roads with no problem. There is a hint of firmness coming from the chassis but since the previous model was quite wallowy, it actually made the CR-V ride and handle better.
With an electronic power-assisted steering, driving the CR-V around tight side streets and avenues was a breeze. It's light when you're cruising around or parking towards a slot. The steering only becomes slightly heavy when driving along highways and expressways. However, I do wish the steering delivered more feedback as it felt quite numb on most ocassions. Take it on a mountain pass and the CR-V can actually hold its own on the twisties. But given its slightly tall ride height, there is some body roll to contend with, so be careful.
At Php 1,539,000, this 'base' model CR-V does not feel like an entry-level offering. As it's the lone gasoline-powered model in the lineup, Honda decided to give it a substantial amount of equipment while also making it look upscale. Place it beside a diesel-powered CR-V and you'll be hard-pressed to find key differences between the two (apart from the i-DTEC or i-VTEC badging placed on the lower tailgate).
It does lose some features like the panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, auto high beam assist, front power seats and the Honda Sensing safety kit. But the essentials (and a few extras) are all there; anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability assist, agile handling assist, hill-start assist, lane watch camera, multi-view reverse camera, cruise control, and keyless entry.
For those that are still having second thoughts of buying a diesel-powered Honda, the gasoline-fed CR-V with i-VTEC is the way to go.