First drive: 2015 Honda CR-V in the UAE
Some carmakers change a couple of headlights and shamelessly call their facelifted model an “all-new” car because, you know, we’re all idiots. However, Honda held a rather late media-drive event for their already-launched 2015 CR-V and they kept reiterating that it is, indeed, just a minor update. But from what we could see, there seems to be some substantial changes under the familiar skin.
Aside from exterior changes that include new LED-lined headlights with optional HIDs, new 17-inch and 18-inch wheel options, new bumpers and slightly-redone tail lamps, there’s a whole host of revised features.
Inside, the spacious cabin newly gains a partial soft-touch dashboard to break up an otherwise hard-plastic interior. The padded door armrests and inserts are welcome though, as is the centre-console that has a space for a phone and cup-holders that can be reconfigured to hold an iPad, with provisions to plug them to USB ports in the cubby under the the central armrest. We also appreciated the amazing engineering that went into the rear seats to fold them down at the tug of a single lever, including the extra step of folding forward the rear seat-bottoms first, all without the use of electric motors, although they do have to be put back in place again manually.
All versions have a little colour info screen on top of the dash. Higher-grade models get a large touchscreen instead of a stereo head unit, with tiny buttons along the sides of the screen. That screen also serves the rear camera as well as Honda’s unique “LaneWatch” blind-spot camera mounted on the right side-mirror that’s more handy than it sounds. Standard features like rear a/c vents, cruise control, Bluetooth and smart keyless start make it pretty competitive.
The big news is the revised 185 hp 2.4-litre powertrain, which now features direct injection, a choice of front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, and — wait for it — a CVT automatic. Oddly enough, it’s all for the better as Honda claims there’s more torque at lower revs now and that the CVT’s behaviour was apparently retuned specially for the GCC. And it shows.
The throttle response on the mountain roads around Hatta was very agreeable in combination with the CVT, without any of the hesitation shown by the Hyundai Tucson’s horrendous automatic gearbox or the awful rubber-band effect of the Nissan X-Trail’s CVT automatic, both cars made available for us to drive at this event. Just like in the Honda City we tested earlier, we figure Honda has the best version of the CVT on the market.
The steering is well-weighted with a hint of feedback, much better than the lifeless wheels of the aforementioned rivals, and on par with that of the Toyota RAV4 we also drove. The overly light brake pedal took getting used to, and is likely a side-effect of the additional brake-assistance that Honda says they’ve dialled into the new model.
Honda says the CR-V’s suspension has been retuned and more sound-proofing has been added. It certainly handled the long curvy roads with confidence-inspiring stability at 140 kph, with none of the wobbliness of the Hyundai that made us absolutely hate the latter. We didn’t drive the X-Trail or the RAV4 on the same twisties, so we can’t comment on those, but we can say that ride-comfort levels were about the same on all these crossovers, that is to say, reasonably smooth. Honda has finally solved the issue of high road noise with the additional sound-deadening, leaving only moderate levels of wind noise to pound your ears now.
From our limited drive, it looks the 2015 CR-V is truly an improvement over the outgoing model, even with the switch to a CVT. Hondas cost a bit more than their rivals nowadays, but aside from offering better driving dynamics than most, at least the feature set is more generous now. Not bad for a mid-life facelift.
For prices and specs, visit the Honda buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and Honda Middle East.