Sixth-Gen Honda CR-V Continues Winning Ways in Chiangmai

By Lee Pang Seng

THERE is a reason why almost 130,000 Honda CR-Vs have found a sweet spot with Malaysian SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) owners since it was introduced here. Right from the start, it has the looks, performance and social functionality that seemed to gel with Malaysian vehicle owners.

Now into its sixth-generation model, the Honda CR-V continues to charm with its contemporary body styling, new hybrid power option and more interior space for passengers to lounge in. Our recent impression with the latest CR-V in Chiangmai and Chiangrai remains consistent with our past acquaintances with it, right from the first model more than 20 years ago – a nice easy performance stride with handling dynamics to match in a practical and highly functionable package. This complements its name CR-V that stands for Comfortable Runabout Vehicle.

Yes, the latest CR-V comes with a new body design that appears to have evolved along a family slant. The rounder lines of the fifth-generation model have taken on a squarish profile at the front, taking a cue from the HR-V and WR-V. The styling changes at the rear are less dramatic as Honda appears to retain a familiar design here in the fishhook rear combination lamps, with the bottom ‘hook’ being a slimmer one for the new CR-V.
It is also a bigger SUV in body dimensions as it is developed on a new platform that gives it a longer wheelbase of 2700mm, an increase of 40mm over the fifth-generation model. Body-wise, it is longer by 71mm and wider by 10mm. However, we learnt that the new CR-V is only slightly heavier than the previous model (1549kg) despite a larger body.

We were also told that the aerodynamic efficiency of the new body profile was more or less the same as the previous model. That means the new CR-V should enjoy the same fuel efficiency as before, what more with the new e:HEV RS hybrid option that has an Active Shutter Grille on the lower front bumper to realise that even further.

It continues with the Advance 1.5-litre VTEC turbocharged engine that powers the previous model with 193PS and 243Nm going to the front wheels via a CVT (continuously variable transmission). The 2.0-litre hybrid engine is similar to the power unit in the HR-V and Civic e:HEV although Honda says the new CR-V is the first in its line-up to get an e:HEV powertrain with an improved Hybrid Traction Motor to enable a higher top speed.

This has improved the torque output from 315Nm to 334Nm while power stays constant at 184PS for the Atkinson engine. Another new feature is the Electric Continuous Variable Transmission (e:CVT) with a new framework that is said to be a first for Honda in Malaysia to provide ‘significant driveability, high agility and smooth acceleration’.

In the Chiangmai-Chiangrai drive event, Honda Thailand provided four new CR-V models, three with the 1.5-litre turbo with Real Time AWD (all-wheel drive) and one e:HEV. We were allocated the e:HEV on the last day but decided to forego the drive impression for lack of time.

With four media people to a vehicle and taking turns to drive for the 200km drive between Chiangmai and Chiangrai, we had a pretty good all-rounded impression of the new CR-V. Our turn to drive covered the highway section with tight and fast sweepers and the latest CR-V didn’t disappoint with its good dynamic performance. Body lean was well controlled and steering feedback was good to encourage fast speeds through the sweeping curves.

We found the steering feel on the CR-V for the Chiangmai to Chiangrai section to be somewhat off, which we believed was probably due to slight wheel misalignment or balance. The return drive on the following day in another CR-V 1.5 Turbo felt much better in steering feel to encourage even faster corner taking manoeuvres.

This was especially so since the 1.5-litre turbo engine gave us a good turn of speed every time we hit the pedal hard. Carrying robust highway speed was very much the norm. We did attempt an impromptu acceleration performance with the media guys in the CR-V e:HEV although no conclusive results were achieved. We figured the difference in acceleration performance should lean towards the e:HEV as its higher torque output comes in much earlier.

Honda Thailand has provided the CR-V with Malaysian made Toyo Proxes R45 235/60 R18 tyres and they seemed to complement the vehicle’s MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension system. We had our fair share of road bumps, potholes and rumble strips (which were used as lane markers on some sections of the winding highway) and the ride comfort from all perspective was a very positive one.

We also enjoyed the low wind noise generated by the smooth flowing body aerodynamics and minimal road noise coming through the suspension linkages. This was clearly felt as we could carry a normal conversation along the way and listen to streamed music without turning up the volume any higher than usual. And there was definitely good interior space all round to drive and travel in comfort with the improved leg, elbow and head room.

The latest CR-V comes with more goodies such as the Hands-Free Power Tailgate with Walkaway Close, Multi-View Camera System, upgraded Honda Sensing system with wide-angle radar and camera, and Sonar Sensor for low-speed braking control. The Lane Keep Assist System is also improved with better line tracing and steering control.

Given the strong momentum the CR-V has achieved in the Malaysian SUV market, the sixth-generation model should continue to dominate in the non-national segment. Let’s hope it would remain competitively priced when it is launched in December 2023 to carry the drive to new milestones.