The formal ceremony marking the start of self-rule, with the opening of the first parliament by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester in the presence of Rt Hon D.S. Senanayake as first Prime Minister of Ceylon was held at Independence Square and Independence Memorial Hall is a national monument built for commemoration of same. Today, understandably, the Square is a popular tourist spot and was the subject of a Japanese tour on the day of our test. While most of them had their eyes fixed on the concrete monument, a few were admiring something from their home country, the Honda CR-V parked and ready for us. What you are looking at here is the fifth generation of the not unfamiliar CR-V.
The fourth generation still looks so relevant and current that it is hard to imagine it is now six years old. This fifth gen, however, is a proper ground-up refresh, and brings things bang up to date. It is always impressive, to me at least, when a new vehicle is identifiable simply from its profile/design and yet looks fresh, and the CR-V pulls this off with considerable ease. It’s not-too-large dimensions and little details like the upswept rear quarter glass make it instantly recognizable, while the front end carries Honda’s signature smiley-face radiator grille and headlight (in this case, LED) combo which can be found across the manufacturer’s model range, including the very handsome Civic.
The sloping nose protrudes at the lower extremities (very likely to house that front mount intercooler) and has a very American/Acura vibe to it – a more butch looking version of the Acura CDX perhaps, with our test vehicle even sharing the same engine. Clearly Honda, like Nissan with Infinity, is trying to win more American buyers, evidenced by the fact that this new CR-V is assembled in Ohio and Indiana, in addition to its East and South East Asian factories. This makes sense, given the American SUV market is huge (read: YUUGE). Thankfully however, the CRV is nowhere near as fussy looking as its high end cousins from the west.
The rear quarter profile is where Honda has really hit the spot – purposefully wide rear wheel bulges, thick creases and three dimensional sculpted taillights that swell out of the sides give the CR-V lashings of muscular character in a sea of crossovers and SUV’s that try ever so hard to stand out. The powered tailgate opens down to the lower end of the vehicle’s rear, to aid loading. Minimal rear overhang from the short rear bumper add to the overall purposeful look of the CR-V. Why a 1.5 liter requires two exhaust outlets is beyond me, but it but certainly adds to the appeal.
It really is the little touches that make the CR-V look the way it does – matte black borders on the wheel arches connect the lower half of the front bumper to the side skirts and the rear bumper, taking away the dainty look some “SUV’s” suffer from, while still being subtle enough to not make the CR-V look base spec. I say well done, Honda.
Mech & Tech
As you may have noticed from earlier in the review, this decently sized SUV (this is not a compact crossover) boasts a mere 1.5 liter four cylinder. For the more mechanically inclined of you reading this, this is the L15B7 VTC Turbo – VTC is not a typo for VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control), but instead stands for Variable Timing Control, which provides continuously variable camshaft phasing across the engine's entire power band. The L-series engine was originally introduced as far back as 2001 with the Honda Fit, and in this iteration, features direct injection and 18.5psi of boost from the single scroll turbo.
All this is good for 180bhp and 244nm of torque, from as low as 2000rpm, making the engine quite usable, even in a vehicle of these dimensions. Interestingly, the much larger 2.4 liter “K24” option available in the CR-V produces just 10bhp and 4nm more. Needless to say the unstressed K24 will be around a lot longer but will cost a silly amount more, given our displacement-based import duty structure. One little niggle was that the 1.5 liter could have used a tad more refinement at the lower end of the rev range but it isn’t something one cannot live with.
Power is put to the road via an AWD system and CVT transmission. AWD means no low range, so don’t go chasing your friend in a Land Cruiser off the beaten path. CVT, while not everyone’s first choice in transmissions, is one of the most efficient transmission types in production today, thanks to the lack of repetitive engagement and disengagement of the power from the engine. For those unfamiliar driving a CVT equipped vehicle, it keeps the revs where torque and BHP are at their peak, as opposed to taking each gear through the entire rev range. The result? A droning-like sensation, but no apparent “shifts” or breaks in power when picking up speed.
At city speeds, the CR-V behaves as you would expect it to – it’s higher than average viewpoint affording you a better field of vision. Suspension is not too hard but not too firm either, thanks to some very thick rubber on the tires, scarcely seen nowadays. Overall, a very well insulated family mover. Quite frankly, I expected sluggish pace, looking at the size of the vehicle, vs. the size of the engine but I was rather pleasantly surprised when I put my foot down. While a hint of turbo lag is present, it is but momentary, and the transmission quickly does its thing, holding you at that sweet spot and hurtling you forward with a solid sense of urgency – more than adequate for overtaking vegetable lorries on the run up to Nuweraeliya, when you have just 40 feet of broken white line on the road, a family and a trunk full of luggage.
You may want to ease off the throttle before hitting the next corner following said overtaking maneuver though, as the CR-V’s suspension feels more set up for comfort than touge showdowns. Perhaps my expectations were too high, given that the brand is known for first class handlers from the early 90s such as the CRX to the DC2 Type R – regarded by some as the best handling front wheel drive car to this day. The CR-V can still hold its own around a hairpin though, should the need/desire arise. Braking is noteworthy and impressively strong, and will be more important to the target buyer I feel than clipping apexes.
Living with the CR-V
The interior is a fine place to be, subtle yet stylish design all round. The dash is dominated by a centre display that is much more likeable than the aftermarket looking dash-top mounted displays that are all the rage these days. Gauges are a screen here, with revs moving from left to right, borrowing from the S2000 and scrolling through the display’s functions offers you everything from basic trip info to driver alertness level. Sleek matte-finish wood inserts give the interior a sense of warmth and our test vehicle’s panoramic roof lightened up the space endlessly.
Most impressive of all was the space – while not a small vehicle, the leg space, both front and rear is truly mind blowing. One would imagine an incredibly small boot as a result but 561 liters is all you’re ever going to need – fold down the rear seats and this expands to 1,756 liters! Apart from all the usual niceties such as climate control and the standard power paraphernalia, the SUV also has a nine speaker sound system and a camera under the passenger mirror that comes on when the left signal is turned on – little things that help prevent accidents.
Strong ratings in global crash tests are indicative of Honda’s commitment to its buyers and the 2018 CR-V boasts airbags for all occupants, electronic stability control, daytime running lights and any other safety feature you can expect from a brand new SUV.
Fuel Economy & Price
We could not get a realistic idea of fuel consumption on our test but assume the negativities of small engine-big vehicle are offset by the CVT transmission and direct injection and estimate the CR-V will return ~12kmpl around the city. Price is where things really get attractive, as the brand new, agent price for the CR-V is Rs.9.5mn. This is a LOT of car for the money.
The CR-V continues a legacy of dependable, no nonsense family oriented motoring. The vehicle was introduced only 21 years ago, in an arguably unattractive package. Since then, things have only gotten better, and this latest iteration is no exception. From just being “a Honda SUV” to something the young and upwardly mobile can genuinely aspire to, the CR-V has never been more relevant than now.
1,496cc, four cylinder
180bhp @ 6,000rpm
244Nm @ 2,000-5,000rpm
Disc all round
Wheels & Tyres
235/60R18 all round
Kerb Weight: 1,594kg
Fuel Tank: 70L
Boot Space: 561L