Honda’s handsome SUV, the CR-V, was once a best-seller, the leader in its segment, and had quite a cult following in India. But since the last model launched in 2007, the SUV market has become quite a different place. There is much greater and more varied competition than before, much of which offers higher specifications, rupee for rupee. But the car’s biggest downfall, always a thorn in Honda’s side, has been the lack of a diesel engine option. It’s no wonder then that while the company managed to sell 3,115 units in 2007, only 294 CR-Vs left Honda showrooms in all of 2012.
While the market conditions did play a role in last year’s relatively poor performance, it’s also likely that potential customers were holding out for the all-new, fourth-generation model they heard would be arriving in 2013.
These are our first impressions of the car.
From just about any angle, it’s quite clear that this is a CR-V—the design is more evolution than revolution. However, some of the fussy detailing has been replaced by neater, more cohesive elements in order to make the car appeal to a wider audience. The upswept headlights seem to grow out of the car’s grille, the high-mounted tail-lamps have been given a more 3D look, and the window line now kinks upwards into a prominent tilted “V” shape.
While the updated styling may make it look bigger, the new CR-V is actually shorter in overall length and lower than its predecessor. But thanks to clever interior packaging and a significant 225mm increase in cabin length, Honda has managed to make the interior roomier than before. The cabin feels altogether wider, and rear-seat passengers get plenty of room to stretch their legs. The boot, at 589 litres, is bigger too, and that’s before you flip the rear seat forward.
The design and layout of the cabin will be familiar to Honda owners, with a neat look and good quality of material. However, some of the plastics feel a bit hard to the touch, something that takes away from the car’s premium image. But the minimalist white-on-black instrument panel looks smart and the pair of screens in the dashboard gives the CR-V a modern feel.
When it comes to engines, what will disappoint most Indian customers is that there is still no diesel engine option. The good news is that the previous CR-V’s two very capable petrol motors are back, and have been updated for more power and better economy. The 154bhp 2.0-litre engine is available only in two-wheel drive, with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox. The 187bhp 2.4-litre engine is only available as an automatic with permanent four-wheel drive. All cars now get a novel “Eco” mode which, when activated, adjusts the gearing and the air conditioning to deliver maximum economy. Lights in the instrument panel also glow green when you drive efficiently, encouraging you to be more economical with your inputs.
We drove the 2.4, and while it’s very responsive, it is let down by the slow-shifting automatic gearbox; more gears and quicker shifts would have been ideal. Once past this hiccup, however, things get much better, and reaching high speeds is quite easy. It feels quick too, but the ever-audible engine can be an annoyance. That said, however, this car retains its predecessor’s car-like driving characteristics—after a while, it’s easy to forget you’re in a big SUV. The only difference is the electric power steering, which doesn’t offer quite the same feel as the old hydraulic power system.
The new CR-V is well equipped too. This top-end AVN model gets a sunroof and a 6.1-inch touch-screen system for audio, video and navigation. However, all models get leather seats, a rear-view camera, steering-mounted audio controls and cruise control.
The CR-V has always had a certain aura to it that made it stand out from the usual crop of SUVs. This could be attributed to Honda’s premium market position and the reliability its cars offer, or perhaps it is this SUV’s friendly, car-like driving manners and handsome looks. Whatever the reason for the appeal, suffice to say it is bigger and better than ever before with this new car. But is it good enough for Honda to replicate the success of the original CR-V and win back some of the customers it lost along the way?
The CR-V will be assembled in India for the first time, and this means prices are more competitive than the fully imported previous model’s—the base 2.0 litre model starts at a very attractive Rs.19.95 lakh and the top-end 2.4 AVN version costs Rs.23.85 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). The lack of a diesel engine is certainly a glaring chink in the CR-V’s armour, but if the gradual market shift back towards petrol continues, this is a car that holds a lot of promise.
Content powered by Autocar India.