– Great fuel economy
– Cabin space and practicality
– Decent handling
– Basic gearbox & no low-range
– Noticeable road noise
– Hard cabin plastics
The Honda CR-V has been a sales hit ever since it debuted in 1995 as an answer to the Toyota RAV4, the latter essentially inventing the compact crossover segment a year earlier. The all-new 2012 Honda CR-V barely hit showrooms when we got our hands on a test vehicle, but apparently the new model is a runaway success in the GCC already.
The new CR-V certainly looks better than the controversial outgoing model. It also looks longer, but in reality, it is still roughly the same size as before, even as cabin space has been magically increased. Our top-spec car had 18-inch alloys, which were the only external indication that it was a top-spec car, aside from the HID headlights at night. It now competes in pricing with fancier vehicles like the Ford Edge and the VW Tiguan, which can’t be a good thing.
The cabin will be familiar to any previous CR-V owner. Entry is easy thanks to the low floor, while that high-mounted gear shifter on the centre-console has become a trademark. The hard plastics also return in this new model, with only the armrests receiving any sort of padding, aside from the creamy leather seats. Still, the textures look nice enough.
Space inside is remarkable, with great legroom and headroom all around, and moderately-bolstered front seats as well as mildly-reclinable rear seats. We wish it had a wee bit more knee-room up front, although we improved that by re-adjusting to a lower seating position and extending the telescoping steering-wheel. Boot space is great under that lightweight tailgate, and can be further increased by flipping down the split rear-seats flat at the pull of a lever. There are plenty of cup-holders too, with three covered ones up front and two in the rear armrest, as well as bottle-holders and pockets in all doors.
But the quirkiness of the old model is gone now. For instance, there is now one glovebox instead of two. The boot does not have a double-decker configuration now. And there is no walkthrough centre-console any more, replaced by a traditional one.
The feature set is good though, at least in the top EX-L model. Our car came with a half-decent 6-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with AUX/USB ports, working Bluetooth, LCD info screen with rear camera function, HID headlights, power driver’s seat, strong dual-zone auto a/c with rear vents, cruise control, front and side-curtain airbags, keyless entry, sunroof and a few other items. There’s even an overhead “conversation” mirror to look at rear passengers from the front, and it also doubles as a sunglasses-holder, but there ‘s nothing fancier than that, such as smart keyless start, panoramic sunroofs or even overdone LEDs.
It does come with an updated 2.4-litre 4-cylinder “i-VTEC” engine, now good for 188 hp at 7000 rpm and 222 Nm of torque at 4400 rpm, still mated to an aging 5-speed automatic. But Honda says they’ve still managed to eke out better fuel economy, because that’s what the people wanted, damnit. The trip computer spit out a figure of 11.2 litres/100 km, which is very impressive and very believable, as we barely used half-a-tank of petrol over our May weekend test. It is also quicker than before, but only just, as we recorded a consistent 0-100 kph time of 10.2 seconds.
It is not a fast car by any means, but the high-revving motor performs adequately in traffic situations, largely thanks to the smartly-tuned gearbox. It even takes off from a standstill without any wheelspin, due to a new all-wheel-drive system that now also works in dry conditions as needed.
Handling is very good, entertaining even. Body roll is limited, cornering lean is quelled quickly, and grip levels are more than adequate from the 225/60 tyres. Even with the limited feedback from the mildly-weighted steering and the soft brake-pedal feel, it can be hustled as quickly as any compact hatchback. But don’t get too cocky, as the ABS-assisted brakes are average rather than neck-snapping.
The consequence of this nimbleness is that the CR-V rides a bit firmer than we’d expect from a family car, just like the old model. The ride is smooth as long as the road is smooth, but some rougher surfaces bring out a bit of jitteriness, while road noise and wind noise are prominent after 100 kph. There is no floatiness though, so you’ll never feel like puking up your lunch when the roads go up-and-down in quick succession.
If anyone thinks they can take their CR-V offroad, and we know some who think they can, we’ll warn you right now to stop dreaming. Despite that offroad-ready front bumper, the CR-V was not designed for anything more than the beach, and does not come with low-range gearing. Theoretically, the new all-wheel-drive system will handle soft sand better than before, but there is no recourse if you get stuck.
So the new Honda CR-V is same and different, depending on how you look at it. If you were fine with the ride, space, power, efficiency and ambience of the outgoing model, you’re guaranteed to love this one. But if you were one of the 13 oddball CR-V fanboys in this world who actually used the double-decker boot and can’t live without two glove-boxes, then you will be disappointed. Somehow, we think the majority of buyers won’t even notice those things missing.
Current Model Introduced in:
Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
Observed Test Fuel Economy: