Honda CR-V review and first drive

Honda's premium SUV, the CR-V has gone through a lot of change with the fourth generation. On sale in India since 2003, Honda has managed to sell 14,000 units of the SUV to date and it hopes to continue making an impact on the small, premium petrol SUV market.

First things first, the CR-V is now assembled in India and that should bring down the price considerably. The bad news is, you don't still get a diesel option. On offer are the same 2.0 litre and 2.4-litre, four-cylinder i-VTEC petrols. The former comes with a 6-speed manual and 5-speed auto option while the latter is a 5-speed auto only with paddle shifters. There is quite some power jump too; the 2.0 now produces 155 bhp of peak power, up from 143 bhp, while the 2.4 now churns out 188 bhp, up from the 166 earlier. Fuel economy is now 13.7 kpl for the 2.0 and 12 kpl for the 2.4, all ARAI.

 

While it does look larger on the outside, it actually is 30 mm shorter in length, while the wheelbase is identical. Honda claims the car is lighter than the last car, but gives no number to it. It also has 9 per cent better torsional rigidity. The looks though are more evolutionary, yet it makes the CR-V more aggressive from the front and svelte from the rear - Volvo XC60 like in fact.

On the inside, Honda has tried to make amends by stacking it up with features. All versions come with six airbags, cruise control and an audio system with lots of features. The top-end 2.4 auto gets a touchscreen with bluetooth and navigation too! Changes to the seating layout have meant better headroom and more luggage room too. In fact, the second row of seats can be flipped forward using a lever in the boot. Clever! Sadly, there is still no third row of seats, though.

 

What will catch your attention is the way the new CR-V drives, rides and handles. The third-gen had a pretty good reputation in that regard and the new one just enhances it further. Two big changes are a new rear suspension setup and an electric power steering instead of hydraulic power steering. The steering is a bit light and lacks the fluidity of the hydraulic one, but is a boon around town and easier to use. The suspension has made the car feel a touch more pliant and less bouncy, though we spent most our time on well-paved, arrow-straight highways. Handling, in the absolute sense is predictable, even in the 2WD 2.0 litre CR-V.

 

Performance from both motors are par for the course. The 2.0-litre feels sprightly and the 6-speed manual is a joy to use. Snickety and with a light clutch, the manual CR-V is for those who enjoy driving. The 2.4 though feels rather powerful and we don't doubt that it could hit 100 kph in under 10 seconds. Both engines have the typical Honda snarl that make them egg you to shift closer to the redline.

What Honda really needs to do is price it sensibly. In a market where the diesel SUV dictates the rules, Honda could do good to price it just under Rs 20 lakh, ex-showroom for the base manual, topping out at Rs 24 lakh for the fully-loaded auto. It may still not help gain marketshare much, nor turn things on its head, but will mean the petrol SUV still has a chance in India.

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