Some might say that the CR-V’s success was due to Honda’s foresight to stick their foot in the door of the SUV market and establish its name before its populartiy really took off. But if that was so, the CR-V would have been a flash in the pan. And yet, four generations on and the CR-V still reigns as the most popular SUV here in Malaysia.
What better way to examine the CR-V's success than having the chance to spend a day behind the wheel of the facelifted Honda CR-V 2.4L 4WD on a road trip from Damansara to Port Dickson.
2015 Honda CR-V 2.4L 4WD Specifications
Engine: 2,354cc 4-cylinder i-VTEC
Power: 190hp @ 7,000rpm
Torque: 222Nm @ 4,400rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Rated Fuel Consumption: 8.49L/100km
Call it an exercise in reacquaintance, but spending a day with the facelifted CR-V reminded us why, despite the growing number of pretenders to the throne, the CR-V’s place in the market is still unassailable. Forget all notions that SUVs – who were descended from rugged 4X4 vehicles – are bought by people who want to do a spot of off-roading on the weekends. Though subjecting the CR-V to small sandy inclines and stone-littered fields was part of the itinerary, the CR-V’s off-road capabilities are better described as token.
Its 4WD system would only send power to the rear wheels when neccessary, and when fitted with smooth road-going tyres, the CR-V is only good at taking on the occasional spot of light off-roading, and nothing more challenging than that.
Not that it mattered, Honda knew that the CR-V wouldn't be bought by people who traverse fields and dunes on their daily commute. Instead they focused on families, giving them what all families need, space, and this fourth-generation CR-V is the perfect embodiment of this ideal. Though it isn’t just the abundant of rear legroom and headroom that makes the CR-V stand out. It is the way it utilises that space.
King of Space
To demonstrate the CR-V’s utilisation of space, Honda parked their CR-V next to two of its biggest competitors, the Mazda CX-5 and the new Nissan X-Trail, both of which were procured from owners. Side-by-side the boot space of both the Mazda and Nissan doesn’t come anywhere close to the CR-V’s cavernous 589-litres of space. But the CR-V’s piece de resistance is how easy it is to utilise it.
Should you need to lower the rear seats, the job is simple with the use of its one-touch folding seat mechanism. At a single pull of a lever a spring loaded mechanism would be released, automatically dropping the rear seat head rests, fold the lower seat cushion upwards and forward, while the rear seatbacks tumble down to form a flat floor without any additional effort needed on your part to move the seatbacks. A brilliant display of mechanical motion that easily boosts the boot space to a commodious 1,146-litres, with both parts of its 60:40 split-folding seats folded down.
By comparison, getting the rear seats folded in either SUV proved to be a bit of a chore. This was especially troublesome on the X-Trail which had a tiny third-row of seats that got in the way, lacked the second row seatback release levers found on both the CX-5 and CR-V, and a second row of seats that proved difficult to fold down.
Furthermore thanks to its wide rear aperture, high roofline, and low floor, loading bulky items onto the CR-V was notably easier than it was with the CX-5, with its narrower tailgate opening and lower roofline, and the X-Trail’s high floor. If you need to pack in necessities for your toddler or elderly grandparent on a regular basis, the CR-V’s generous space and ease of loading cargo can prove to be a real boon.
Mind you, the CR-V's load capacity and versatility hasn't been changed with the facelift, and yet none of its newer competitors has come close to what the CR-V has to offer in terms of practicality.
Adding a Facelift to its Looks
Though in previous years Honda's facelift work would rarely amount to anything more than added chrome striping here and there, the new facelift work done on the CR-V is a little more extensive. Its new HID headlight cluster, complete with LED daytime running lights, is complemented by a twin chrome grille bar that lends it a sleeker and modern front fascia. Round the back the tailgate gets a big chrome garnish over the number plate holder, and the 2.4L 4WD variant gets striking new 18-inch rims.
On the inside, the CR-V is furnished with added silver trimmings and garnish which lightens up the cabin, and this being the top-of-the-range model, the 2.4L 4WD comes with an exquisite duotone woodgrain finish that shimmers in the sun certainly adds a touch of sophistication to the 2.4L 4WD’s interior.
Also new to the 2.4L 4WD is a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is hooked up to Honda’s LaneWatch system. First introduced on the current Accord, the LaneWatch system utilises a small camera mounted to the left wing mirror to help drivers peer into the CR-V’s blind spots. The LaneWatch system is activated automatically if the driver turns on the left indicator, or can be activated at the press of a button that is mounted on the indicator stalk.
Unlike the standard Blind Spot Information System, which uses sensors to detect objects in the car’s blind spot, often at the discretion of the electronics' own logic, the LaneWatch system is more effective by letting drivers see for themselves what objects are in their blind spot.
Aside from the LaneWatch, the 2.4L 4WD is equipped with all the necessary safety features, including six airbags, stability control, ABS, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, and ISOFIX child seat anchor points.
Ride and Handling
Though the CR-V had established itself as a SUV with car like manners, there has been a number of competitors that had outclassed the CR-V's handling prowess since, from newer rivals such as the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Kuga. But that is not to say that the CR-V is a swine to drive. While the facelift work hasn't touched the CR-V on-road nature, its still rather good to drive with a precise steering and good cornering stability thanks to the ample amount of traction delivered by its 4WD system.
Its 190hp/222Nm 2.4-litre 4-cylinder i-VTEC engine on the other hand is an eager revver, whereas its 5-speed automatic has all the right ratios and is ever willing to keep the gears low and the revs high at the slightest provocation of the driver’s right foot. Even so the 2.4L 4WD CR-V remains as one of the only SUVs in its class to retain steering-mounted paddle shifters, which will make the job of cycling through its ratios all the more easier. A strange addition to the CR-V considering Honda Malaysia's insistence that such shifters were 'non-essential'.
That being said, therein also lies the chinks to the CR-V’s appeal. For starters the engine’s peak torque of 222Nm is only available from 4,400rpm, which is too high up the powerband. Even for a rev-happy i-VTEC engine and adequate torque figures, it takes a little too much effort to get this big Honda up to speed.
Though the CR-V’s suspension is well sprung, it curiously lacks proper fine damper tuning that enables it to iron out any rough patches of road. As such the CR-V’s otherwise smooth ride is often interrupted by slight jolts when going over the odd lump of debris, or unflatten asphalt, leaving it a strange ride quality that can be described as 'wooden'.
Nevertheless those shortcomings aren't deal-breakers, and even though better handling and fancier equipped rivals has come along in an attempt to steal the CR-V’s thunder, Honda SUV retains their place in the hierarchy by having all the right ingredients to suit everybody's tastes. From the family soccer mom to the active outdoor youths, the CR-V's versatility is its main strength.
Not only has the facelift work improved the CR-V’s looks by several increments, the addition of the LaneWatch feature on the 2.4L 4WD variant is an excellent complement to the CR-V’s already comprehensive list of safety features. Its ingenious utilisation of space and sheer practicality in its commodious storage spaces still remains unrivalled in its class. At the end of the day, that is all the necessary essentials you would need and appreciate from an SUV.