First Drive: 2024 Honda CR-V

Never did I imagine that a Honda CR-V would break the PHP 2 million mark for its starting price. Initially, I had my doubts that Honda was actually serious about the pricing strategy of the next-generation crossover SUV. But when the automaker officially launched the 2024 Honda CR-V last September 2023, they were serious.

Fast forward two months later, and here I am driving the sixth-generation CR-V, praising its performance, handling, features, and riding comfort. But the question remains: is it worth the PHP 2 million price tag? And what's the big deal that the CR-V is now available for the first time as a hybrid?

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Honda Cars Philippines Inc (HCPI) recently brought us over for a two-day ride & drive of the 2024 CR-V. From the open roads of NLEX & SCTEX to the twisty roads of Bataan, as well as the concrete pavement of Subic Bay, we wanted to see what we'd like (and not) with the 2024 Honda CR-V.

Sleeker and sportier looks

When the fifth generation model first rolled out in the middle of 2017, I said to myself this is probably the most stylish CR-V. Over the years, however, I did notice that while it does look sleek, the previous generation looked and felt it could use some trimming down as it appeared too bulky on some angles. Fortunately, it seems Honda had the same idea.

While Honda went for a more evolutionary redesign of the CR-V rather than a revolutionary one, they made sure the next-generation crossover had all the right curves in the right places. Sure, the new CR-V is a bigger vehicle than before but just like the Civic, the proportions are now much better. This somehow gives the illusion that the vehicle has slimmed down even though it has grown in size.

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The front end has also been changed and now features a bolder set of LED headlights along with a larger grille that appears to expand toward the headlight units. And despite the CR-V being a FWD crossover, Honda was still able to give it a long hood that complements its more stylish looks.

Last but not least is the rear end. I'm going to be honest, I wasn't on board with the idea of the next-generation CR-V having another set of L-shaped taillights. But after seeing the new taillights on the 2024 CR-V, the design grew on me and I eventually became a fan. They're also particularly eye-catching, especially at night.

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All in all, I like what Honda did to make the 2024 CR-V stand out from its predecessors and against the competition. And for the first time, there's an RS variant available which makes the already stylish CR-V look even cooler with its blacked-out accents, distinct alloy wheels, and more painted surfaces.

A better and more stylish interior

Some might fault Honda for basically applying the all-new Civic’s dashboard throughout its latest and refreshed vehicles - including the sixth-gen CR-V. But personally, Honda’s new “Simplicity and Something” interior design language is perhaps one of the best-looking (and ergonomic) dashboards to date.

From the fully digital instrument panel to the free-standing touchscreen infotainment display, as well as the unique honeycomb-like trim that covers the aircon vents and the dials for the HVAC controls, Honda was busy giving the CR-V a better interior than before. Did we mention the center console was also updated and now looks like the one in the Civic, too? Pretty neat if you ask me.

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This was mostly driven by criticism of the fifth generation's interior. The chief complaint of the previous CR-V (and the previous Civic) was the fact that some of the in-car controls can only be managed via the touchscreen, including the climate control. And while they did have some physical buttons, you still have to sometimes switch between physical and touchscreen controls.

Honda did away with that and decided to use dials for the HVAC system of the all-new CR-V. Not only did it make for a more ergonomic design, but this also allows drivers to change the temperature and fan speed without having to avert their eyes from the road.

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The touchscreen, meanwhile, is bigger and the software has been updated to be more user-friendly. Before, one had to dig through menu after menu just to make changes in the car's settings. Now, most of the in-car controls can be changed with just one or two clicks which is a big improvement.

Honda may have received flak for the CR-V's previous generation cabin. But I have to give props to the automaker for actually listening to customer feedback and making the interior of the all-new crossover more user-friendly and more appealing to customers.

All packed to the brim

There may be 3 variants to choose from but Honda made sure that all CR-V variants come with plenty of amenities. Sure, the e:HEV may have all the bells & whistles but don't think that the V and VX models are bare. In fact, most of the variants actually share several features across the range.

All versions of the CR-V come with dual-zone automatic climate control, 9-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay (wireless) & Android Auto, 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster, black leather seats, power-adjustable front seats with memory function for the driver, a 15W wireless charging pad, USB-C charging ports for the rear, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-folding side mirrors, and a power tailgate.

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The VX and e:HEV variants do get some extras over the V version which include a 360-degree camera system, rain-sensing wipers, smart keyless entry with a smart key card, and satellite navigation. But some of these features you can live without if you prefer the base model V.

Opt for the RS e:HEV, and the CR-V gets more goodies like a 12-speaker Bose sound system, auto-leveling LED headlights with active cornering lights, a panoramic sunroof, a heads-up display, and a 4-way power lumbar support for the driver's seat.

Did we forget to mention that all variants of the 2024 CR-V come with Honda Sensing?

e:HEV Power vs VTEC Turbo

This is perhaps the main attraction of the all-new CR-V. For the first time, the crossover can come with VTEC Turbo or with e:HEV hybrid power. Sorry turbo-diesel fans, the 1.6-liter i-DTEC is no more.

Let's start with the former first. The V and VX variants come with the 1.5-liter VTEC Turbo engine derived from the Civic. It puts out 190 PS at 6000 rpm and 240 Nm of torque between 1500 – 1700 rpm. Power is then sent to a CVT which can power the front wheels (V) or all four of them (VX).

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Despite the heftier weight of the CR-V, the Civic-derived VTEC Turbo was able to motivate the vehicle without a hitch. Power from the turbo comes in early which means overtaking can be done with ease although I wish the CVT was able to adjust as fast as the turbo itself. But other than that, the turbocharged engine performed well and to the letter.

As for the e:HEV powertrain, this is the game-changer. While it may not have the benefits of a turbo, the 2.0-liter engine does come with an electric motor that provides additional power while still being economical. While it may be slightly down on power as it only makes 183 PS combined, the e:HEV comes with a meaty 335 Nm of torque. Power is then fed to the front wheels via an e-CVT.

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With an electric motor providing extra oomph, acceleration from the 2.0-liter four-cylinder can be quite the jolt. Put your foot down on the accelerator and the CR-V accelerates with gusto with no delay whatsoever. This is assisted by the aforementioned e-CVT that easily adjusts its settings to deliver a faster and more linear acceleration when needed.

The hybrid is so quick that it's actually faster than the VTEC Turbo. During overtaking, the e:HEV outpaces the VTEC Turbo through sheer acceleration since the latter still needs to spool up while its CVT needs to “kick down” in order to make quick overtakes.

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As for fuel economy, we were able to achieve around 25 km/L on the highway with the e:HEV which speaks to the system's efficiency. As for the VTEC Turbo, however, we were only able to manage around 15 km/L at best with the FWD. On the other hand, the VX AWD version is slightly thirstier as we were only able to achieve around 13 km/L on the highway.

Hopefully, we can do another round of fuel economy tests on the road (including average fuel consumption in city driving) when we get to review the VTEC Turbo versions of the CR-V.

Quality Ride, Quality Handling

Another thing that we liked about the CR-V was its ability to deliver a good ride and sharp handling. While it's no Civic, the CR-V does share its platform with the former. Having driven the 11th-generation Civic last year, I was not disappointed with how the CR-V's chassis was tuned to deliver a somewhat sporty ride.

Whether it was the e:HEV or the VTEC Turbo variety, driving the CR-V through the twisties was quite a fun experience. Whether it was a tight corner or a sweeping bend, the crossover tackled the turns with ease. While I would have liked it to have more steering feedback, this is still a family crossover after all.

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As for its ride quality, the all-new CR-V is firm but not jarring which aids in the CR-V's handling. Despite having a slightly firmer ride than most crossovers, going over bumps or rough patches of the road wasn't a big issue for the CR-V. The pliant ride also meant that the suspension didn't bottom out as much and felt more solid. This was immediately noticeable when we rode over several expansion joints along the expressways and over roads with uneven elevations.

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The fifth generation CR-V delivered a softer ride but it lacked the sporty driving characteristic some of its predecessors were known for. Fortunately, Honda was able to bring it back for the sixth generation model without having to compromise its ride quality.

At what cost?

With an impressive powertrain, a long list of features, Honda Sensing across the board, excellent ride quality, and adept handling, the CR-V ticks all the boxes for a fully loaded & practical family crossover. Clearly, Honda has been paying attention to making improvements to its popular crossover SUV.

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The only real weakness of the CR-V is the price inflation that Honda and other automakers have been incurring over the last 2 or 3 years alone. This CR-V has a starting price of PHP 2.1 million which is a whopping PHP 422,000 more than the previous equivalent model. That is an incredibly high jump.

Granted, the 2024 CR-V is all-new from the ground up but the significant price increase is something that cannot be ignored. As for the VX AWD and RS e:HEV, those are selling for PHP 2.280 million and 2.590 million, respectively.

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Despite its higher price tag, HCPI has already sold 380 units of the CR-V as of last week. We won’t be surprised if the automaker has already breached the 400-unit sales mark as of today. This shows that there is still a line forming for the all-new crossover SUV, but not anywhere near as much as before.

Honda seems to be at the mercy of their pricing strategy, exchange rates, rising costs, inflation and the like. The problem for Honda, however, is that while their prices go up, in comes more potential crossover competitors (particularly from China) that can rival what the CR-V is supposed to be but at a much lower price. They know that, so instead of trying to drop the cost of the car by going bare with the features, Honda instead went the other way and packed everything into the car that they reasonably can.

They're aiming to be more premium, and that makes more sense to them even if it may not for many Honda fans.