IT is not the first time the Honda CR-V is locally available with a third row of seats — in the early 2000s the second generation of the model came with such an option. But the added seats on the present car, meant to take a pair of passengers instead of being pitched as accommodations for four, as those on the old CR-V were, are far more effective at doing their job. What is offered in the CR-V for the first time, and which adds to the present model’s appeal, is a diesel-fed power plant.
• The CR-V has never been more luxurious — not a small compliment considering the model has always been the benchmark in its class. In the top-spec variant high-quality leather covers the furniture, which is then matched by equally fine glossy panels and metal trim. The black color scheme is unpretentious, business-like and classy.
• All the noteworthy electronic gizmos expected in the cabins of premium cars are found in the top CR-V. These include information displays, smart entry, panoramic sunroof, multimedia player with a large touch screen panel and which can link to any digital device, parking sensors and reversing camera, a push-button tailgate, electric parking brake, plugs and sockets for various devices, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
• Controls and functions of the multimedia unit are clearly marked and its interface is logical and easy to learn. Accessing basic functions, like pre-setting radio stations or hooking up a Bluetooth device, does not mean delving into sub menu after sub menu.
• Smart entry one of the smartest among cars, immediately locking the doors once sensors detect the key is a couple of feet away already (provided the engine has been switched off, of course), and so lessening the feeling of uncertainty one usually gets from similar systems.
• Space for passengers in front is more than adequate while the trio in the back can slide their seats backward (and recline their seatbacks) if they want more room than what is reasonable. Of course, doing so means the pair of rearmost seats would lose legroom. But then this space is reserved only for occasional passengers anyway, so it matters little if the middle-row seats are slid all the way back.
• In instances when the rearmost seats are needed, reaching these requires only an easy flip of a lever. A section of the middle-row seats would then tumble forward, clearing the way into the back.
Backseat passengers get a pair of air-conditioning vents, fitted aft of the center console.
• CR-V’s suspension is supple and thankfully tuned for comfort rather than unnecessarily toward sportiness. This lets the car glide over bad road surfaces and even over ruts or small speed humps. The cabin is well insulated against vibrations coming from movements of the suspension.
• Engine is peppy, putting out maximum torque in the low revs so it never feels harried. Another benefit of this is excellent fuel mileage. In two weeks of driving during the Yuletide rush consumption always hovered in the low to mid-teens, and the daily cross-Metro Manila commute over the period only needed half a tank of fuel.
• Also taking credit here is the nine-speed automatic transmission. Its number of ratios means a broad range over which the engine’s power could be spread, and so the engine need not have to spin faster than what is necessary. Shifts are imperceptible as well, and the transmission is clever enough to downshift at the faintest hint — like when the driver eases off the throttle.
• There is no gear lever with which to do your own shifting though — the paddle shifters, as always, only allow the driver to row through the forward drive gears, but not to engage park, reverse, neutral or drive. For this the top CR-V gets buttons, and using these is less intuitive than grabbing a lever. Push-button shifters are hardly new — even some 1950s American cars have been fitted with these — and are just as scarcely wanted.
• While the transmission is quick to grab the next forward gear (regardless if it’s a higher or a lower one) it is slow to engage reverse or drive when it’s in neutral. You have to keep your foot on the brake during the transition, which requires pressing buttons, lest the car rolls forward or backward if it’s in an incline.
• Honda’s diesel engine lacks the refinement of those fitted to European cars — Volkswagens, for instance. It’s clattery both at idle and at speed, with the racket even audible in the cabin.
• Lane-keep system, which alerts the driver the car is veering off the proper path and steers it back into lane, is a bit too intrusive — when it kicks in it can feel like a front tire has considerably deflated, tugging at the steering wheel quite noticeably.
• Long ruled by pickup-based models, the seven-seat/diesel-powered SUV class gets in the top-variant CR-V the supple ride, genuinely luxurious cabin, advanced technologies — the sophistication, in other words — it deserves. — Brian M. Afuang
Honda CR-V SX Diesel AWD
Price: P2.086 million
Engine: 1.6-liter, inline-four, i-DTEC Euro4 diesel with turbocharger; 118hp @ 4,000rpm, 300Nm @ 2,000rpm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
Wheels/Tires: 18 inches, 235/60
Key features: Full LED head lamps with LED daytime running lights; LED fog lamps; electronic gear selector; multi-information display; multimedia with 7.5-inch touch screen and USB, aux-in, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity; leather steering wheel and seats; reversing camera; automatic dual-zone climate control; smart entry with push-button start/stop; lane-keep assist