(Go Flat Out REVIEW) 2015 Honda CR-V 2.4 SX: Situated In The Middle

The Honda CR-V is one of my favorite crossovers. Being the owner of a facelifted third generation 2.4 SX variant, back when Honda’s true focus was toward sportiness, the CR-V I have is what seems to be the CX-5’s duty now. What used to be the sporty crossover among its more comfort oriented rivals, the 2010 CR-V I have truly has sporty credentials, having been launched at an autocross track. The handling is sublime, thanks to its firm but generally comfortable suspension. When the 4th generation model was released in 2012, the ride had gotten a lot better, best in class, even. Unfortunately, this was at the expense of sporty handling. Personally, I wasn’t impressed since I inch towards sportier driving dynamics, which for this time around, made me prefer the Mazda CX-5 when it comes to sporty driving dynamics. When the facelifted fourth generation model was released in 2014, they said that overall feel of the vehicle was revised, in a bid to make it feel like a sporty CR-V again. Is the Honda CR-V still the default choice in the crossover segment? Let’s find out.

Exterior

The Honda CR-V’s three bar grille has been swapped by a one piece “Solid Wing Face” design, which is part of Honda’s “EXCITING H!!!” design language, and again, I’m not kidding when it comes to the upper case font and three exclamation points. Honda’s design language must be written in that manner. Anyway, behind that cheesy name for a design language, what it means to the Honda CR-V is that, it now gains a familiar grille, which first spawned in the Honda City and Jazz. There’s less black plastic cladding all around, and there’s a front and rear matte silver bumper garnish now fitted as standard on all variants. Slim LED daytime running lights are standard on all variants, giving the CR-V a sophisticated presence. A chrome bar now runs through the entire width of the CR-V, giving it the impression of being wide. For a mid-cycle refresh, the changes are very noticeable, and gives this three year old crossover a much better looking design. I personally like it, and hopefully, Honda Cars Philippines appropriately equips this 2.4 SX CR-V with the 18 inch alloy two-tone wheels offered in overseas markets.

Interior

Just as noticeable as the exterior changes, the interior also gets generously revamped as well. First and foremost, the materials. Any cheap feeling plastics from the original model was eliminated, now replaced with much more richly textured hard plastics. For the dashboard, the CR-V now enjoys a soft padded design with faux stitching. In key points where the driver or front passenger may have a higher chance of placing their hands on, the plastics are soft and richly textured. Unique to the 2.4 SX is this dark faux wood trim, which perfectly complements the interior color scheme. For the lower variants, however, the faux aluminum trim looks really fake, and you can really tell that the trims are just painted in silver. Leather seats are standard from the 2.0 S, and the leather feels nice and rich enough as well. My most favorite improvement, however, are the climate control switches. They really feel premium both in design and tactile feel.

Space and Practicality

The Honda CR-V’s rear design might seem a bit ungainly in some angles because of its almost vertical rear, but there’s actually an upside to that. The Honda CR-V’s interior is spacious, with only the Forester and X-Trail either matching or trumping it. The X-Trail’s interior is certainly bigger but it’s also physically bigger than the CR-V, so it’s a bit of a cheat, isn’t it. Thank to a virtually flat floor, a trait I personally love in our own 2010 2.4 SX CR-V, three large people will be comfortable in the back seat. Unlike the third generation model though, the rear seats don’t move fore and aft anymore. However, there’s also an upside to that. The mechanism to fold down the rear seats is very intelligent. Simply pull a lever located in the second row seats or in the boot, and watch the intelligently engineered one pull folding seats do its work. The seat bases pop out, and the rear seat backs fold down to the floor, giving it a very expansive 1,146 liter of boot space (590 with the seats up).

Another aspect I love about the CR-V are its rear doors. Many people overlook this, but once you get used to it, you’ll be looking for it in other vehicles as well. As typical of a Honda, the rear doors open nearly up to 90 degrees, which makes entry and exit easy and for women, a lot more dignified and lady like. I sometimes wonder why manufacturers can’t make their rear doors open this wide.

Up front, there are plenty of storage places to store your everyday clutter. There are three adjustable cupholders at the front, a large glovebox, large doorbins on all four doors, and there are a set of USB and HDMI (for smartphone mirroring) inside the center storage bin. Rear passengers benefit from rear aircon vents.

Features and Safety

Instantly recognizable inside the CR-V is Honda’s now ubiquitous Display Audio infotainment system. Unlike most touch screen interfaces, this one uses a modern capacitive touch screen type, therefore touch response is seamless and instant. While some people had issues in terms of ergonomics with the small buttons, I didn’t mind it because while I drive, I normally rely on the steering wheel mounted buttons for changing the volume. What’s a bit confusing though is that, the left thumbpad mostly controls the small i-MID (Intelligent Multi-Information Display) located on top of the Display Audio. Other than that, I personally like Honda’s Display Audio system, especially over those from third party brands (AVT, yes I’m talking to you). Navigation is also standard in the 2.4 SX variant. The map display is just okay. I say okay because the map doesn’t have the capability to display 3D perspective views, though overall, the navigation is very intuitive to use. Other connectivity features include Bluetooth Telephone and Streaming, USB, and HDMI ports for smartphone  (iPhones only) mirroring.

In the safety front, the CR-V is well equipped. There are four airbags, Hill Start Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist, and Emergency Stop Signal, which flashes the hazard lights multiple times in quick successions to warn drivers behind when you’ve braked abruptly, hopefully avoiding a rear end collision. At least in the Philippines, the CR-V debuts Honda’s LaneWatch Blind Spot Camera. Through a camera located on the right side mirror, the camera offers a clear and unobstructed view of your blind spot onto the Display Audio. It’s a very useful feature, and as time went by, I started relying on it completely instead of the right side mirror. The LaneWatch camera is activated by using the right turn signal, or by pressing a button on the signal stalk. Honda’s Multi-Angle Rear Camera makes it to the CR-V as well, and is very useful, especially since the guidelines move depending on the steering. For a mid-cycle facelift, the Honda CR-V’s changes are pretty generous.

Apart from design changes, the CR-V also received changes underneath the sheet metal. USA’s NHTSA developed the Small Overlap Crash Test in 2012. They introduced this type of crash test because they discovered that many car companies overlook a car’s front corners, being devoid of any structural strengthening. This type of crash occurs when a vehicle’s corner hits a narrow object, such as a pole or a tree, and it’s this area where car companies failed to concentrate on. Honda’s CR-V failed this test, and now, this 2015 model’s body has been revised, now passing the NHTSA’s small overlap crash test, and receiving the full 5-Stars of the ASEAN NCAP’s rating.

Powertrain

The 2015 Honda CR-V 2.4 SX is powered by a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder i-VTEC engine, producing 185 hp at a lofty 7,000 rpm, and 220 Nm of torque at 4,400 rpm. The engine is mated exclusively to a 5-Speed Automatic Transmission. Honda’s Eco Assist (ECON Mode) feature is equipped in this powertrain as well, and if you want to have a little fun, paddle shifters are now fitted as standard.

How It Drives

Transitioning from my 2010 2.4 SX CR-V to this new one, I was quite surprised how familiar it felt upon stepping inside the car. While design-wise it is different, the layout is pretty much familiar, and will certainly keep Honda CR-V fans happy. Pressing the engine start button, and the 2.4 liter i-VTEC comes to life with the smoothness and refinement that K24 motor has always been known for. In the city, the Honda CR-V’s ride is a bit firmer than the pre-facelifted model, due to the fact that the suspension has been revised to deliver a balance between comfort and sport. Those who loved the pre-facelift CR-V’s ride may be disappointed though, as that CR-V had one of the best comfort that any crossover could ever have, though I’m happy with what Honda made. Immediately, the first thing I noticed was that the steering is less light than the 2012 CR-V, but still lighter than my 2010 CR-V, again a balance that Honda made to have a good compromise between comfort and sport. Driving around town, the engine is adequate for overtaking maneuvers when nipping through traffic. Despite the fuel efficiency methods Honda has done to the CR-V, my city fuel consumption was almost the same with my 2010 2.4 SX CR-V, hovering around 6 km/l to 7.5 km/l. So far, not so much improvements then in terms of the city fuel consumption.

Out on the open road, I reset once again the trip computer, and I was doing 11 km/l at an average speed of 75 km/h, and when putting it on ECON mode, an extra 2.5 km/l has been eked out of this motor, which is a little improvement over my CR-V.

After comparing the fuel consumption of both CR-Vs, I tried to have a little fun with the car around a few long straights and turns around Cavite and Daang Hari. With the CR-V placed into Sport mode, putting the transmission in pure manual mode, I dropped it down a couple of gears, and the CR-V accelerates. With 185 horsepower on tap, the CR-V is one of the most powerful in the segment, and is a 19 hp difference over my 2.4 SX CR-V. However, acceleration and overtaking maneuvers are adequate, rather than tire spinning, and it felt pretty much the same with my CR-V. This is due to the fact that the torque is on the higher RPM range, typical of Honda’s i-VTEC engines. It’s only above 3,000 rpm when things only become interesting. On the bright side, the engine note is racy and sound really good, a typical trait of Honda’s K-Series engines. Thanks to a revised suspension, the handling of the CR-V is more secure, with plenty of grip and willingly changes direction, and also thanks to the revised steering, steering feel and response has been improved.

The Honda CR-V has always been known as one of the best all-rounders out there. It perfectly balances all traits, and this time around, another improvement I noticed is the thicker sound insulation all around. Road noise is less compared to the 2012 CR-V, and even less compared to the 2010 CR-V I have.

On The Downside

Despite the changes made to the suspension and steering, I still find the Mazda CX-5 and even my 2010 2.4 SX Honda CR-V more fun to drive. While steering feel has gotten better over the 2012 CR-V, the CX-5 and even the 2010 CR-V still has more feel and heft when carving through mountain passes, and when it comes to handling, the CX-5 is still the best handling compact crossover in the market.

Going back to the car’s infotainment system, while I personally didn’t have issues with the absence of a knob, I think it would be a help to many people if there was a knob for tuning and changing the volume, though on the bright side, the touch response is responsive and not laggy.

Verdict

Perhaps maybe my biggest gripe on the CR-V is that, it feels remarkably familiar over the past generations in terms of how they drive. As it stands out, the Honda CR-V’s characteristics mostly lies in the middle. It balances sportiness and comfort, technology and ergonomics, everything is always balanced. Honda has always stuck with this formula for the CR-V, and no doubt, this formula will certainly keep the CR-V a default choice in the crossover segment. Globally, the Honda CR-V is still one of the best selling compact SUVs. Locally, however, the Subaru Forester has already become the country’s best selling compact crossover, and the Tucson slightly eclipsing the CR-V thanks to the Tucson’s diesel option, which drops the Honda CR-V to third. The CR-V is still an excellent crossover. It generally drives and ride well, has plenty of technology, and has an expansive cabin. Honda still manages to sell a lot of CR-Vs, but it seems that Filipinos now want an SUV that is excellent at one or two aspects, rather than an SUV that’s only in the middle.

Rating

Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Quality: ★★★★☆
Practicality:  ★★★★★
Features: ★★★★☆
Acceleration: ★★★★☆
Handling: ★★★★☆
Comfort: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆

Overall: 4.1 out of 5