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The only real lack in the fifth gen Honda CR-V is engine capacity

Updated: Aug 26, 2018 00:06:29

By Hormazd Sorabjee

The high, sculpted bonnet and chunkier sides gives the new car much needed dose of muscle

The small tribe of Honda CR-V owners is a very happy lot. They swear by this trustworthy SUV and I have yet to come across an unhappy CR-V owner. You would then imagine the CR-V to be hugely popular, with loads of them flying out of showrooms, but curiously, there are hardly any takers for it and sales are miniscule.

The thing is the CR-V, however brilliant it is to drive and own, never ticked the important boxes to gain mass appeal. It’s expensive, there’s no diesel option and it looks more like a crossover than pure SUV.

Honda is now all set to launch the fifth generation CR-V this October and this time round it comes with an extra shot of practicality. Actually two shots: the first is the debut of a diesel engine and the second is an extra row of seats, which makes the CR-V a seven-seater. But is this enough to put it on an SUV buyer’s radar?

The car cabin is bigger and better appointed with a big step up in quality

Suave and sophisticated

The new car looks more grown up than the outgoing one thanks to an increase in length, width and height. The high, sculpted bonnet and chunkier sides gives it a much needed dose of muscle. The classy looking alloy wheels, striking tail light design and generous splashes of chrome also help ratchet up the CR-V’s road presence but, it still very much follows the sleek and sophisticated design template of the older car. The result is a car that’s nowhere near as imposing as the Fortuner or even the Skoda Kodiaq, but is unmistakably a CR-V. For the urbane SUV buyer, that’s no bad thing.

The CR-V is nowhere as imposing as the Fortuner or even the Skoda Kodiaq, but for the urbane SUV buyer, that’s no bad thing!

The cabin too is bigger and a lot better appointed with a big step up in quality.

The highlight is the all-digital instrument panel and the unique push button gear selector. There’s no gear lever anymore and this frees up a lot of storage space. The new CR-V abounds with cubbyholes, storage boxes and bottle holders, which is great for holding bits and bobs. There are many USB slots and Apple Car play and Andriod Auto will be standard on the India-spec cars.

There’s a big improvement in seat comfort too. The front seats are heavily bolstered and embrace you the moment you get behind the wheel. Generous cushioning and lots of thigh support makes the middle row very comfortable too, whilst the flat floor and wide cabin doesn’t make three abreast seating a squeeze.

What is a tight squeeze though is the third row, which can be accessed by pulling a pair of fiddly straps to flip and fold the middle seat. There’s hardly any legroom in the ‘economy class’ section of the CR-V and quite frankly only children can use it or if you’re from Lilliput.

The car’s highlight is the all-digital instrument panel and the unique push button gear selector

Highway to hell

The big question on everyone’s mind is does the CR-V with its 120hp 1.6 diesel engine with its 9-speed automatic gearbox have enough punch? Initial impressions are that the lowly power output isn’t as bad as it seems. The CR-V diesel pulls quite smartly off the line and is quite responsive at low speeds and in city traffic. It’s an astonishingly refined engine too and apart from a bit of diesel clatter at idle, the noise subsides with speed. It’s on the highway when you want to drive in a hurry that the disappointment sets in. It builds up speed quite slowly and overtaking on single lane roads requires a fair bit of planning. Performance is far from effortless and makes you feel shortchanged. I just wish it had another 20 or 30 horsepower to make it a pleasure to drive. Redeeming the power deficit to some extent is the new CR-V’s much improved ride and handling, which gives it a reassuring feel at speed.

Expected at an estimated price just shy of Rs 30 lakh, the new CR-V won’t be cheap but what you do get is a high quality and well-equipped SUV that will appeal to a broader swathe of buyers than just the CR-V loyalists. If only it had more power.

Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India

Sunday Drive appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, August 26, 2018

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First Published: Aug 25, 2018 20:29:07


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