Latest Honda CR-V no pushover with smaller engine

By Lee Pang Seng

IT MIGHT have taken the Continental carmakers to set the pace but the Japanese brands are beginning to take up the challenge, some of them anyway. This is the use of small displacement engines but with efficiently managed turbocharging systems to give them big displacement engine power.

Honda has started with its 1.5-litre turbocharged engine that was first introduced here in the latest generation Civic. This is now followed up in the new CR-V and the strong sales since its launch in mid-2017 has established the success of the 1.5-litre turbo variants. These models, all three of them including the 4WD variant, account for more than 70 per cent of current CR-V sales. The remaining share is taken by the only normally aspirated 2.0-litre model that serves as the entry-level CR-V!

Our recent weekend acquaintance with the CR-V 1.5 turbo in the two-wheel drive version returned vehicle performance that was expected. Although this was in the pricier flagship 1.5 TC-P variant that comes with Honda Sensing and other goodies, it didn’t detract us from the overall impression of the new CR-V’s performance.

In displacement (1498cc), the engine might seem similar to the one powering the current generation Civic but it is electronically tweaked to deliver more. This approach has to factor in the fact that the CR-V is a much bigger vehicle (being an SUV or sport utility vehicle) over the Civic, making it heavier too (by up to 280kg for the 4WD model that tips the scale at 1595kg).

The CR-V’s engine churns out 142kW (193PS) at 5600rpm and 243Nm from 2000rpm to 5000. The power figures for the Civic’s 1.5 turbo engine are lower at 127kW (173PS) at 5500rpm and 220Nm that peaks lower at 1700rpm and holds till 5500rpm. Both have the engine output channelled to the front wheels (CR-V 2WD) via the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which is electronically managed to meet the performance demands of the respective vehicle.

As it were, this is reflected in Honda’s performance claims. Despite being the heavier vehicle, the CR-V 1.5 Turbo 2WD accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in a reasonably quick 8.8 seconds against 8.4 for the Civic. Similarly, Honda has kept the top speed conservative at 200km/h, the same as that for the Civic.

Given this scenario, we found the CR-V’s urban and highway performance well up to mark. It would mosey along in urban traffic without us feeling the SUV’s weight (1549kg kerb for the 1.5 TC-P 2WD that we drove) as we would use the accelerator pedal in much the same way that we would in our much lighter Perodua Alza1.5-litre. We hardly need to push the engine to move as it worked effortlessly in the low 2000rpm range for city traffic.

The only difference was that when we needed some quick overtaking, we had to put on a bit more pressure on the accelerator pedal to give us that get-up-and-go thrill, thanks to the quick acting turbo power. While we could feel that it was marginally slower than the Civic in linear acceleration, the CR-V was quick enough to ruffle our feathers.
Having digital road speed readouts for the speedometer kept us sober as the number that flashed across the screen made us conscious of the fact that they often did not tally with the legal road speeds posted on the respective roads and highways. Then again, the ease with which the CR-V 1.5 turbo picked up speed, we just got carried away sometimes.

Driven at saner levels, the CR-V should be economical on fuel. At the legal highway speed of 110km/h and a bit beyond, the CVT keeps the 1.5-litre engine running at an easy pace of 1800rpm. This was a similar scenario in the Civic and this is all due to the electronic engine management system making vehicle performance so efficient. By the way, Honda says the combined fuel consumption of the CR-V is 7.0l/100km or about 14.3km/l. We would accept that as we hardly moved the fuel indicator after three days of mostly city driving.

We also checked out the new CR-V’s larger profile through the tight parking areas in a few shopping complexes and didn’t find it too sizeable for comfort. We could even manage a few tricky manoeuvres quite easily as the all-round view, especially from a higher elevation, was pretty good.

Of course, there was also the slew of electronic conveniences such as the rearview camera that came in handy and warning sensors all round that gave us an idea of how close we were to the concrete walls. Would you believe there are four corner front sensors and four corner reverse sensors?

We also like the Honda Lane Watch camera fitted to the passenger side door mirror. This was useful in multi-lane highways when we wanted to change lanes. With this feature, we could tell how close the traffic was in the other lane before making the move, especially during merging situations.

This Lane Watch item is only activated when the indicator is used to turn left. The image of the traffic scenario comes out crystal clear on the seven-inch multi-info display located on the centre of the dashboard. Best of all was the lack of image distortion and that helped us to gauge the other vehicle’s proximity better.

The Honda Sensing system covers mostly lane discipline, following traffic and highway cruising. If you change lanes without using the indicators, the system ‘senses’ that you are drifting out of your lane and electronically warns you through the steering via a vibration and a stiffening up of the steering movement.

We found this rather annoying although we recognise the good habit of using the indicator to make lane switch. However, when the highway is clear there is obviously no need to do so. But we learnt to live with it after a while and we tried not to change lanes too often to avoid that irritation.

When following traffic, the system also warned us if the vehicle in front was too close based on the speed that we were driving. It flashed a warning on the instrument panel and we saw a fair bit of the orange pop-ups during our highway drives, although we tried our best to keep along with general traffic flow.

Another thing that we had to learn to adjust to was the brake pedal pressure. The brake system – ventilated discs in front and solid discs rear – was a touch too grabby for our liking. A slight touch on the brake pedal got the brakes working a bit too efficiently. We had to dab the pedal gingerly to enjoy progressive braking power, rather than the sudden stop drama.
We also enjoyed driving the CR-V through our favourite winding roads. As an SUV, it is a tall vehicle but Honda has sorted out the suspension system to give the CR-V good dynamic performance. Basically, it has a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear but the suspension components and geometry are tuned to meet the performance desired.

This does not mean the CR-V could be thrown into a corner with abandon but we did take most of our favourite corners at higher speeds than expected without the Honda SUV losing its composure or grip. The anti-roll bars are probably of the right thickness to keep body lean well checked and that kept confidence high. There was also adequate directional feedback from the electric power steering.

Initially, we were not sure how the Toyo Proxes R45 (235/60 R18) tyres would fare in such dynamic manoeuvres but after a few corner bashing, this tyre brand earned a new respect from us. They were a bit noisy over some road surfaces and slightly harder than expected running over bumps, but their overall performance appeared to complement the CR-V’s suspension nicely.

Here, it would also be prudent to note that the CR-V’s Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) comes with Agile Handle Assist (AHA). This is a vehicle dynamic safety electronic control system and it probably played its part in making the sizeable CR-V a confident vehicle to take on winding roads surely and dynamically.

Honda has chosen to keep the CR-V a five-seater SUV and that means the luggage space could easily accommodate travel paraphernalia for all on board. The luggage door could be closed electronically with the touch of button that is within reach of most Asian heights. That passenger configuration also means a roomy interior for everyone, which should be a big plus for those in the market for such SUVs.
We also took delight in the little conveniences here and there. The electronic parking brake is one of them. The parking brake is released once you engaged Drive mode and you are ready to roll. And if you want to drive manually, the steering wheel paddles are there to be used. Just slot the gearshift into S mode.

Yet another likeable feature is the flexible storage design of the central console. There is a removable tray that could expand the capacity more than two fold. The tray itself comes in useful with a wide compartment for flattish items to complement the cupholders and a deeper tray in front for keys. The power seats for the front are standard (more seat adjustments for the driver of course).

However, if you sit too low, you might encounter a problem swiping your Touch and Go card on the parking machines at some of the shopping complexes, especially for small Asian frames, like ours. As we are the type who likes to sit higher to enjoy an even more commanding view, this wasn’t a problem for us.

The CR-V comes with a host of auto functions to befit its status as the top Honda SUV model in Malaysia; Auto headlights (Auto High Beam for the 1.5 TC-P), Active Cornering Lights, Auto Wiper, side mirrors with turning lights among them. While we might be partial to the HR-V for its more compact body size, the CR-V did indeed grow on us the more we drove it. That is because the merits of driving a bigger and more comfortable SUV are there to be enjoyed as well.


Honda CR-V 2.0 2WD

Honda CR-V 1.5 TC 2WD

Honda CR-V 1.5 TC 4WD

Honda CR-V 1.5 TC-P 2WD

Retail Price Without Insurance (Inclusive GST 6%)