|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
The CR-V allows the wife to shove a week's groceries (and some shopping) with room to spare. For the daughter, she can drive it with ease thanks to the ideal ride height and "command view" seating. And for the husband, it's flashy enough to impress the boss at the different country clubs while allowing for a set or two of golf clubs to be loaded with ease. So when people were asked what they want changed or improved in the CR-V, the list was remarkably short. Some wanted softer seats and a quieter cabin, while others wanted even more cubby holes while improving connectivity. Without directly conferring with the Pinoy buyer, Honda has managed to address all these issues and more with the all-new 2012 model.
The extent to which Honda has reworked the CR-V isn't immediately apparent until you see the old and new model side-by-side. Upfront, the CR-V wears the new three-bar grille which will be the design direction of all future Hondas. The headlights, tautly pulled from the grille to the fenders are sportier and shapely than ever before, while the side's new "boomerang" D-pillar offer a much more dynamic appearance. Even the backside has been given a thorough rework with the trademark pillar-mounted tail lights arched and pulled over the rear fenders for a very Volvo-like appearance.
Inside, the CR-V's interior pushes space utilization and ergonomics further than the outgoing model. There's a new instrument panel featuring a massive speedometer front-and-center and a multi-information display nestled inside to provide trip details, exterior temperature, and a few other must-knows. Flanking the speedometer are two semi-circular bits of trim that glow green the lighter you step on the throttle, while traditional gauges for the revs, engine temperature, and fuel line the sides. The steering wheel comes with a new round dial that allows the driver to manage basic functions like the audio and cruise control while allowing access to the "Intelligent Multi-Information Display". This full-color display shows the clock, music information, fuel economy/range, or even a custom wallpaper which is all within the eye-level of the driver.
Bluetooth connectivity and Apple iPod support are welcome additions to the CR-V, with a USB and aux-in jack mounted in the center console. There is also a wealth of cubbies from the double-tier door pocket to the massive console and deep glovebox. However, the most welcome addition to the CR-V is the back-up camera which allows for millimeter-perfect reversing. It even has a demarcation line to allow the hatch to open unimpeded. It's that smart.
On the outside, the new CR-V seems smaller than the previous model, but the interior room remains expansive and comfortable. There's ample room for five adults with comfortable seats for both front and rear occupants. The rear cargo space is slightly smaller than the previous model according to scientific measurements, but there's much more usable space thanks to a lower loading floor. Sadly, despite being priced north of P 1.6-million, the CR-V 4WD does away with leather seats. That said, the seats are much cushier and much more comfortable than before, but it has the propensity to cause an annoying jolt of static electricity.
Under the hood, the CR-V 4WD soldiers on with the 2.4-liter engine which is largely carried over for two generations now. Fortunately, some work has been done to improve the overall output: 180 horsepower and 230 Nm of torque. Honda seems confident that this tried-and-tested engine can still work its magic in the face of competition with smaller displacements, turbochargers, and direct injection technology. And in the face of rivals offering 6-speed or CVT gearboxes, Honda seems equally confident with their standard 5-speed automatic as well. The result is a driving experience that's largely evolutionary of the outgoing model. It's unremarkable, which puts a heavy emphasis on comfort more than sporty. The steering feels numb on the CR-V. There's no on-center feel and even less transmitted through the wheels. Still, soccer mom couldn't care less as the electric power assisted steering makes tight city maneuvers easier. Also, the new CR-V shines with a quieter cabin and better noise insulation than before.
New on the CR-V is the "Econ" button which was debut first on the Civic. It all seems like a gimmick, but this dash button does work. It controls several parameters including limiting the engine output, adjusting the drive-by-wire throttle, and reducing electrical load. It's apparent when climbing up hilly roads, where the CR-V feels sluggish half the time with the Econ button switched on. Switching it off however, makes the CR-V much more aggressive with the engine revs and even downshifts. Keeping the Econ button for 99 percent of the time though still didn't return stellar fuel mileage figures for the CR-V, where it managed just 12.5 km/l in almost purely highway driving (around 6.8 km/l in the city).
All said and done though, the CR-V still remains as the safe choice for the quintessential Pinoy buyer. A less than stellar on-road behavior won't dissuade soccer moms and geriatrics from lapping these up. It's a careful evolution of a proven formula that will keep buyers coming back. Still, those looking to add a bit of spice to their driving life may want to look elsewhere.