When the CR-V nameplate started in the mid-90’s, there were only really three (if memory serves) crossovers: the RAV4, the Sportage and the CR-V. What a difference nearly two decades has made, as now the class has burst out of its shell with numerous models from carmakers around the world, including the premium categories.
How -in this crossover-saturated sea of models- could this updated 4th generation CR-V stand out then?
As the acronym goes, CR-V started out as the ‘Compact Recreational Vehicle’, though it soon changed to ‘Comfortable Runabout Vehicle’. Honda wanted to highlight its use of a more pliant unibody/monocoque platform used in cars as opposed to the body-on-frame construction of classic SUVs.
Design-wise, the updated CR-V does impress. The front end that has a sleek sense of dignity about it, tapering up to convey a more prominent SUV presence. For 2015, Honda has updated the front with the new, LED DRL-equipped headlamps and a restyled front. The rear, however, seems a little bit too flat, a bit too vertical (something that will come into play later on). The vertical taillamps look nice though.
The interior, however, is a different story. I like the interior design of the new CR-V; an opinion I never had of the previous version. The cabin feels quite premium, with a use of materials that really gave a high quality feel overall. The leather and fabrics feels great on the steering wheel and the seats. The buttons reach near european levels of quality. The plastics on the dash -like the Civic- are quite hard, but that’s the only issue I found.
This being the top of the line 2.4L model means this CR-V SX gets some pretty nice features. Standard is the new multi-media system found in the Civic, giving the driver full control of the audio system via the multi-directional switch and buttons on the left side of the wheel. iPod connectivity is standard USB (no special cables needed), cruise control is standard for the SX, and of course, the usual array of power features. For safety you get the stability control program along with the usual ABS and airbags, while a reverse camera and even a rear-facing camera on the right side mirror take care of making parking easier.
What’s remarkable about the new CR-V is the abundance of interior space. It’s still a 5-seater compact crossover, but the roominess they generated felt akin to the larger and wider (but now discontinued) Mazda CX-7. Second row leg, hip and headroom is good for the class, however, it’s really the cargo space in the back that is of note. Remember that rather flat, vertical tailgate? Having it that way, along with a boxy rear does provide plenty or room for stuff in the back, even with the rear seats up.
This EX model gets a 2.4 liter K24 i-VTEC motor, good for 185 PS and 220 Newton meters of torque. Honda didn’t change much, as the previous model had the same engine choices (2.4L or 2.0L). Even the transmission for the 2.4 model is still a 5-speed auto with all-wheel drive, but the 2.0 gets a CVT with front wheel drive.
What Honda went to work on was improving efficiency all around. They’ve fitted an ECON mode (activated by a button) on the dashboard, changing the transmission’s shift program for better efficiency and adjusts the drive by wire throttle’s response. With ECON mode off in the city (moderate traffic) fuel economy hovered around the 6.9-7.2 kilometers per liter range. With ECON on, the CR-V returns an extra 0.4-0.8 km/l under similar driving conditions. Not bad, considering the size of the engine and the size of the vehicle. On the expressway with ECON off, the CR-V gives 9.9-10.2 km/l. With ECON on, I was getting a 10.5-11.2 km/l under the same (light traffic) driving conditions, making for an extra 0.6-1.0 km/l. ECON works.
As a drive, straightline performance and handling is still not the CR-V’s strong suit, though the 185 PS 2.4 engine is pretty decent. Where it does excel is in driving and riding comfort, as the suspension (especially the rear double wishbone suspension) does very well to soak up the worst of the Metro’s streets and rough concrete. The seats are very comfortable too, and excels in minimizing fatigue over long drives.
The CR-V 2.4L SX AWD retails at Honda dealers for PhP 1,688,000, and therein lies a challenge. There are plenty of new contenders in the market ever since Honda launched the current generation CR-V in 2012. The choices have really gotten better since that time, but nevertheless the well-rounded CR-V 2.4L SX impresses overall, just enough to take the new players head on.