A Change of Heart
Change is coming. It’s something that has been said for far too many times than necessary, especially from 2015-2016. Don’t worry, we are not going political here. What’s important to take note of is how this word is necessary in the automotive industry in order to remain significant. As times and consumer preferences constantly change, so do the cars. Whereas Honda has always been globally known for its high-revving dual overhead cam VTEC engines, little does anyone know on this side of the world that Honda also does diesel engines. Take a trip to the European continent, and you’ll see a plethora of Hondas with odd i-CTDI or i-DTEC badges, at least to the eyes of an Asian, let alone a Filipino. Honda’s diesel arsenal has been present in Europe since the early 2000s, but it was only in 2017 when Honda decided to bring its diesel engines to this side of the world. In a market where large diesel pick-up based SUVs are priced within the realm of more refined and more agile compact crossovers, Honda needed to radically change the formula of its highly popular CR-V to not just compete within its segment, but to also attract buyers from the dominant midsize pick-up based SUV (PPV) segment. This eventually led the CR-V to shoot towards the top of the compact crossover SUV segment. How does Honda’s first ever diesel vehicle in the Philippine market stack up? Let’s find out.
Despite the CR-V growing dimensionally larger with each passing generation, Honda’s designers still managed to make the CR-V look sleek. Rather than looking fat, the CR-V looks like it managed to bulk up by going to the gym. The design is nothing radical like the one seen in the Civic with its coupe-like roofline, but it’s a design that’s very modern. The 18-inch wheels are perhaps the most interesting design aspect of the car. Up front, the LED headlights blend well together with the grille, which features Honda’s “Solid Wing Face” design. A pair of sleek and slim LED fog lights provide added illumination in poor weather conditions, but these also give the CR-V a distinct and modern look. The CR-V’s wide wheel arches and broad shoulders give it a very purposeful stance, and at the back, L-shaped LED tail lights give it a very sleek rear profile at night. The overall design bodes well with the CR-V’s overall theme, which is all about functionality and practicality, but in a sleeker and more attractive package. It even looks European in some places, especially due to the lighting elements, in which all are done in LEDs except for the reverse lights.
Honda has done a good job in updating the CR-V’s interior. While the overall vibe it still easily identifiable as a CR-V, Honda’s designers have added some neat details to enhance the cabin ambience. There’s plenty of soft touch materials on the places where your hands will frequently touch, while the matte faux wood finish looks very convincing, though I think I would’ve preferred the satin silver finish found in the 2.0 S petrol variant. While the overall design does not break any new ground, all the changes made to the CR-V truly uplift the cabin vibe. Like any new and recent Honda products, the CR-V’s doors feel very tightly built and give off a solid thud when closed. Perhaps the biggest and most noticeable interior aspect is the gear lever, or lack thereof. For the diesel powered variants, the CR-V utilizes a push-button shifter, which we’ll discuss its functionality later. All these design traits add up to create a very pleasant interior, even when travelling on long journeys.
Space and Practicality
The CR-V’s bigger dimensions are even more evident once you step inside. While this is still a compact crossover SUV by classification, the interior is filled with the Honda ingenuity that many consumers have come to know and love from the brand. Thanks to the placement of the push-button shifter and electronic parking brake, Honda’s engineers were able to create a center console bin that is downright ginormous. How ginormous, you ask? Well, let’s just say that a 9.7-inch iPad was able to fit inside it. Likewise to the front occupants, there’s plenty of space to stretch out. At the back, the CR-V has always been a great compact SUV for sitting three adults abreast.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect about its space is the CR-V’s additional third-row seats. The second rows can be adjust fore and aft, and when I moved the second row of seats just slightly forward, I was surprised to be able to fit into the third row seats, though it is a knees up affair. This compact crossover does a better job of fitting a 5 foot 10 adult like me compared to some bigger pick-up based midsize SUVs. As a whole though, the third rows are mainly best left for kids, since the legroom back there would depend on how much the second row passengers are willing to offer.
As a consequence to those third row seats though, the CR-V loses 50 liters (472 versus 522 liters) compared to the five seater petrol powered version with the third row folded down. Once you fold down the second row, 967 liters of space is at your disposal, which is 117 liters less when compared to the five seater version with all of its seats folded down.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
For its P1,858,000 price tag, the CR-V S i-DTEC comes very well equipped. It comes as standard with full LED exterior lighting, even down to the fog lights. It also has passive entry with push button start, walk away auto door lock, leather upholstery, and a host of safety features that range from hill start assist, electronic stability control, reverse camera emergency stop signal, six airbags, and Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera. I still prefer a more traditional radar-based blind spot warning system, which gives out audible and visual cues whenever there is a vehicle in your blind spot, but the LaneWatch camera proved to be useful in the CR-V. When driving through tight spaces and confines, the LaneWatch camera is a nice third-eye when you want to check the outer limits of your vehicle.
Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of all is the push-button shifter unique to the diesel-powered CR-Vs. The layout is easy to use and navigate. Though it takes some getting used to, it eventually became second nature to me, even when doing a u-turn. While the button layout should theoretically make changing from ‘D’ to ‘R’ faster than with the traditional t-bar shifter, the transmission takes about a second or two to actually change its gears, which sometimes leads you to thinking whether you selected the right gear.
Infotainment system duties are done through Honda’s Display Audio interface, which is a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system that’s relatively easy to use. Though touch response could be better, the user interface is easy to navigate as a whole. At least to American journalists, the biggest improvement of the infotainment system is the addition of a volume knob.
The most noteworthy news for the CR-V is actually its engine. It’s a 1.6-liter i-DTEC inline-4 diesel engine with a single scroll turbocharger. It produces 120 hp @ 4,000 rpm and 300 Nm of torque @ 2,000 rpm. This is sent through the front wheels via a 9-speed automatic transmission.
How It Drives
Pressing the engine start button brings to life an engine that seems to be out of place in a Honda, and that’s because of the traditional diesel clatter that emanates from the engine bay. Unlike the diesels you find from the Fortuner, Montero Sport, Everest, and the like, the diesel noise is quite minimal, on par with the diesel engines from Hyundai, Peugeot, and Volkswagen.
Once you get on the move, the CR-V diesel drives completely differently compared to the petrol-powered version, but in a very good way. Its 120 hp and 300 Nm diesel engine does not tell the whole story. It has nine gears at its disposal, with most of them having short ratios. As a result, power delivery does not feel boomy nor struggled at all. It delivers its power in a linear and smooth manner that it feels like a naturally-aspirated petrol engine most of the time. Whereas those naturally-aspirated VTEC engines we’ve all become familiar with needs a lot of revving in order to get some go, the i-DTEC engines barely need to pass 2,500 rpm just to deliver the goods. Peak torque is at 2,000 rpm, and as a result, the engines do not need to be revved hard. This leads to excellent fuel economy, whether in the city, or out on the highway. Out in the city, in gridlock C5 traffic, the CR-V managed 11.4 km/l at an average speed of 13 kph, a fuel economy figure that most small petrol hatchbacks eke out on average. Out on the highway, this rises to a stupendous 24.6 km/l with an average speed of 72 kph. All in all, I was able to take the CR-V to a 1,000+ kilometer trip with my relatives from the North, and its final average fuel consumption was at 14.4 km/l, making it the most fuel efficient car I’ve ever driven, beating out my previous record holder, which was the 2018 Honda Jazz RS at 13.0 km/l.
Despite its diminutive power figures that many people seem to laugh at upon first inspection, the reality is that, faster than all of the midsize pick-up based SUVs in a straight line, achieving a 0-100 kph time of 11 seconds. Credit goes to how well teamed the i-DTEC engine is to the 9-speed automatic transmission, which has those aforementioned nicely calibrated gear rations, and adding to its list of good attributes is its responsiveness to driver inputs. Nevermind the paddle shifters. You almost won’t need them, because the gearbox downshifts to the correct gear almost all the time, even skipping through the gears when needed. Combined with the relatively excellent tuning of its all-around independent suspension (MacPherson Struts up front, multi-links at the rear), the CR-V manages to straddle a fine balance between comfort and sport. It manages to keep body roll controlled when turning through tight corners, whilst being able to absorb bumps and potholes with relative ease. The variable steering is responsive and precise, feeling weighty as you speed up for more stability, but the lack of feedback from the tiller detracts the CR-V from being thee most fun-to-drive SUV in its class.
Still, as the CR-V name suggests, it does its job perfectly. Its overall demeanor means it’s a perfect all rounder, and that includes being a “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle.” Mash your foot on the throttle, and the CR-V overtakes not with urgency, but with delicacy. It won’t set the world on fire, but you mom and dad won’t complain, either. It’s the same situation with its refinement. The cabin stays quiet and refined most of the time, with only a little rattle from the engine making into the cabin under hard acceleration.
On The Downside
Perhaps the only major downside I can level against the CR-V would be its reduced trunk space due to its third row. Opting for the diesel means that the seven seats are a must, and as a result, the CR-V loses 50 liters (472 versus 522 liters) compared to the five seater petrol powered version. Once you fold down the second row, 967 liters of space is at your disposal, which is 117 liters less when compared to the five seater version with all of its seats folded down. Still, it does not deter the fact that the third rows can at least accommodate an average-sized human being.
The Honda CR-V is one of the few cars in the industry that made a complete change of heart. Not everyone undergoes such a drastic change. While many fear change, Honda has truly embraced it with this CR-V. While many scream for a Civic Type R or an NSX supercar to be sold in the Philippines, Honda’s decision to equip the CR-V with a diesel engine for the Philippine market is probably one of the brand’s best ever decisions in the Philippines. It easily climbed the sales charts ever since the i-DTEC CR-V was sold in the Philippines, besting the sales numbers of the Hyundai Tucson, Nissan X-Trail, and Subaru Forester. As ever, the CR-V manages to do many things excellently. While some may accuse it as the jack of all trades, but the master of none, the CR-V is what I would rather call the master of being the jack of all trades.
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★★
Overall: 4.4 out of 5