Honda CR-V 1.6 i-Dtec SX: long-time coming

By Botchi Santos Philippine Daily Inquirer November 21,2018

I recently got an e-mail from Honda Cars Philippines informing me that their latest Honda CR-V model received two major awards from the Asean NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) Grand Prix Awards 2018.

These included the Best SUV Car Award in Child Occupancy Protection and the Asean NCAP Excellent Award–Consistent 5-Star. NCAP is the industry’s leading independent assessment organization that conducts their own testing of cars being released and sold throughout the world.

It’s easy, therefore, to dismiss the CR-V as just another pretty face in a huge sea of vehicles that tend to overwhelm many Filipino buyers.

But the e-mail prompted me to finally write my own review of the CR-V, considering it’s been a long while since I actually drove it, although the memory remains freshly etched in my mind.

The biggest difference obviously is the introduction of a new 1.6-liter CRDi turbo diesel engine producing 120 hp and 300 Nm of torque powering the 5th generation CR-V, which shares it same basic architecture as the 10th generation Civic.

Another addition is the industry-best 9-speed automatic transmission that helps provide a very broad powerband coupled with excellent fuel efficiency at highway cruising speeds.

The low RPM at highway speeds also contributes to improved NVH isolation, adding greater comfort on the road over very long drives.

The CR-V in i-Dtec SX trim is also packed with a plethora of safety features: six airbags, traction/stability control, lane-departure warning and blind-spot alert, ABS-EBD brakes, Isofix mounts for child seats, plus all-wheel drive on-demand.

No wonder the CR-V is a very popular mom-mobile. It’s roomy: the CR-V now sits on a 2.66 meter wheelbase, and is a proper 7-seater crossover SUV.

The only challenge is getting into the third row does require a rather large stride to get in but headroom and legroom are decent for short drives even for someone of my height and girth.

Coupled with its pleasingly handsome look, the CR-V continues to be a sales success for Honda, which in 2018 says their SUV segment has really grown in the Philippines.

In total, there are now more than 70,000 CR-V sold throughout the Asean region.

So, how does it feel to drive Honda’s first diesel SUV for the Philippine market?

In a word: smooth. You won’t find the strong low-end punch of, say, a 7-seat diesel SUV from Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi or Ford. What you get is a decent, progressive and refined surge of power from Honda’s gem of a diesel engine.

It doesn’t feel fast or aggressive, but neither does it feel slow and dim-witted.

The 9-speed automatic shifts with CVT smoothness, further masking the rate of acceleration. It’s this smoothness that gives the CR-V its greatest strength: comfort.

Be it stuck in traffic, or going on a long-drive, few cars are as comfortable and as capable as the CR-V.

The 208-mm ground clearance won’t win any off-road fans, but the smaller overall exterior footprint means the CR-V is wieldier, and more maneuverable and responsive on challenging, winding roads.

There’s also minimal wind and tire noise out on the motorway, such that driving the entire expanse of NLEX, SCTEX and TPLEX is short work for the highly capable and comfortable CR-V.

Inside, it’s all high-tech. An LCD screen is utilized for the main instrument cluster, and another LCD screen houses the infotainment system.

The transmission omits the traditional gear lever/selector, and in its place are buttons, which also takes some getting used to as you press the appropriate P/R/D/D/S modes for the ZF-sourced 9-speed transmission.

In the city, the various safety systems help you monitor traffic around you. My biggest fear is crashing into underbone motorcycles who like to sneak in from behind you and overtake kamikaze style on your blind-side.

The CR-V’s blind spot monitoring system helps alleviate this with a modest beep and flashing lights to alert you of incoming objects.

The suspension is actually very smooth and comfortable, soaking up all the road imperfections well, but providing great stability on the highway, coupled with amazing compliance on winding provincial roads.

On my weekly sojourn up to Tagaytay, I averaged about 12.8 km/liter with quite bad traffic on the SLEX since it was a payday weekend.

In the city, I consumed a decent 8.7 km/liter in and around Ortigas and Greenhills CBD. I expect these figures to improve over time as the CR-V still had a tight, new engine (below 5,000 kms) when I had it.

If you’re in the market for a comfortable 7-seat SUV, but don’t want the bulk of a ladder-frame-based SUV, this is a very worthy alternative indeed.

The CR-V is Honda’s best yet in its crossover stable. Fast, efficient, ingenious, safe, roomy and comfortable, it’s everything a consumer would want in a comfortable roundabout vehicle.

It delivers everything as promised, and has the panache of being a Honda. Of course, it remains enjoyable to drive as ever.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it out yourself. After four previous generations, the best is finally here.

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