There’s really no way to go about this review except making it seem like I had “extra incentives” to say good things about the fifth generation Honda CR-V but it was really that good.
If anything, you should be paid if you can find any faults with it – whether on its exterior, interior, ride comfort, space or even performance – because again, it was really that good. Features wise, if you look closely at the brochure, Honda hasn’t been stingy with the features either. From the base model to the second highest variant, almost everything were similarly provided as in the highest spec.
The only thing exclusive to the highest spec 1.5 TC-P 2WD were features like the Honda Sensing, LaneWatch Camera and a Powered tailgate – features of which, most would have no qualms doing without. There will be mentions on how much more improved the AWD system is compared to the previous generation CR-V but for all intents and purposes, focus will be given on the high-spec 1.5 TC-P 2WD model.
Honda was so confident with its product and so eager to demonstrate it to the media that before loading up the CR-V en route to a long drive down south to Johor, they arranged a series of test for us on an airstrip, in the administrative capital of Putrajaya.
The course was setup to allow me to sample a few things – the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system, the all-wheel drive system and the range of Honda Sensing offerings – specifically the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low Speed Follow and the Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS).
It’s not easy to trust the system, given that some would prefer to be in full control behind the wheel and although we should never entirely rely on these systems, suffice to say, they work effectively enough to mitigate further trouble on the road should our senses, attention and skill fail us.
On a straight, clear stretch of tarmac, we were required to get up to speeds of around 70-80 km/h between two vertical lines while tailing a car ahead to test the ACC and LKAS system. While it may be slightly intrusive, the system cleverly and gently pulled the car back into the middle of the lane without being too unsettling.
Setting the ACC system to follow the vehicle ahead within a certain distance, it did exactly that and as the car ahead slowed down, so did the ACC – progressively and intuitively. It’s not easy to trust a car to brake on its own, trust me, I had my foot by the brake pedal eagerly waiting to jam the brakes but that was not at all required.
The AWD system was another massive improvement – we say this because Honda even provided the previous generation AWD CR-V for us to test and compare the difference. Told to hold the pedal firmly even through mid-corner, it was clear how late the AWD system reacted to drag the car back into the bend as it understeered just so slightly upon entering the bend at an “unusually high speed”.
In the fifth generation, the difference was instantaneously noticeable. Going into the bend at the same speed as in the previous gen, almost immediately you feel all four wheels keeping you inwards of the lane, at the entry of the bend, without the profound understeer as experienced in the previous model – truly impressive stuff. The AWD system which powers the front wheels most of the time, only sends power to the rear axle as and when is necessary – ticking both the optimum traction and efficient drive boxes.
With the VSA, it was more straightforward and to an extent, FUN. On a wet slalom course, I was told to switch it off – now that’s not something you get to do everyday to fully understand the extent of the system. With the VSA off, the back simply whaled out with a rigorous flick of the steering and while a simple counter steering may have aligned the vehicle, it may not be so ideal to experience such a reaction on the road. With the VSA on, you can almost feel the system adding and subtracting power to and from the wheels to immediately flip the car back into position – the importance of VSA on a car of such proportions and weight were clear to see.
Inside, the rear legroom deserves a priority shout-out. Probably safe to say there is no SUV in this segment and price point that offers that much space. Frankly, even the living room of a condominium could be embarrassed by the spaciousness of the second row – there is no way you can be uncomfortable even in the most uncompromising, obscene sitting posture.
The seats, which one could nitpick to be in need of slightly softer padding, folds flat which is a plus for almost whatever kind of cargo you’d want to carry in a precious CR-V. Rear air vents and dual USB ports complete what is the most satisfying rear section of an SUV I’ve ever been in. Have I mentioned how spacious it was?
Over at the front, the ergonomics is nothing less than what you’d expect in a Honda – even in its SUV. Visibility was good beyond the sensibly laid out dashboard and control panels. Functions on the 7-inch touchscreen display were simple and straightforward to manoeuvre through and the controls around the almost perfectly-positioned gear lever were simply where you’d expect and want it to be.
The front seats offered plenty of support especially in the rib section and despite the mention on the cushioning of the rear seats, at the front, it was rather pleasant on the long haul down to Johor. The centre storage compartment sure deserves a highlighting – you can almost store a fridge in there, enough said.
There is one thing I would point out, although I’m already expecting majority to disagree – the wooden trims. While I lament that it’s there to add a touch of luxury, the shade, the surface, the sight of it, just wasn’t for me. I’d take the silver trims on the 2.0-litre NA model any day of the year. On that front, maybe it’s fair to point out the simplistic elegance of the new Mazda CX-5‘s almost full black interior, it’s arguably more plush too.
Speaking of plushness, while cabin comfort and ride quality would no doubt invite more positive remarks and negative criticism, the NVH while tolerable, still falls behind the CX-5. I may have had a few individuals agree with me on that but second opinions are always welcomed – you know where to leave your thoughts.
Behind the wheel though, that thing can fool you for a rather competent saloon. Steering felt taut and rather precise for something of such height and centre of gravity with minimal body roll. Despite how much I dislike CVT gearboxes, this one felt rather responsive and man, the way the little 1.5-litre engine pulls, all the way to its top speed well in excess of double century figures, makes you question if it only had 190 hp and 243 Nm of torque.
It was simply relentless – unlike most cars, in fact unlike most 1.5-litre engines that would lose its breath beyond a certain high speed, this one kept going and going before fizzling out at a speed you would not think a tiny engine in such a heavy car can be capable of. Off the line, the 2WD variant was clearly the more eager one as reflected by its 0 to 100 km/h time of around 8.8 seconds but it’s silly to talk about these things with regards to a SUV. The sensible family man or woman would not bother about these things.
Like I said right at the beginning, there is little to none about the CR-V that I can eagerly and passionately fault. To believe me, a test drive is all it takes and onwards, I hope you’d take my word for it. That said, arguments are always welcomed.