Published on October 10th, 2017 | by Subhash Nair


Honda CR-V Preview: Breaking The Mould

The first ever Honda CR-V is often credited for pushing the local market into a crossover craze. Yes, there were SUVs that came before it, and the wave was coming anyway, but the CR-V is the one model that made a lot of middle-class Malaysians reevaluate how they felt about a car with a high ride height and 4 wheel drive.

Now, in its 5th generation, amidst stiff competition from Korea, Europe and even Japan, the CR-V is reinventing the mid-sized crossover. Its got the tech, the convenience, the look and the performance to go up against every one of its rivals. And to top it all off, the CR-V is bringing ‘Honda Sensing’ to Malaysians for the first time.

There’s a lot to cover and a lot of detail to go into. Here’s what we found last week when we took a few variants of the CR-V down to Johor for a 3 day test drive.

There are 4 variants on offer. Here’s what they roughly look like:

Like the Jazz and City, Honda’s approach to product planning has been to stagger the top tier.

This means that consumers can decide which features they prefer to pay more money for. You can have either the 4 wheel drive system or keep the standard front wheel drive setup but pay a little extra for Honda Sensing and a powered tailgate.

This makes sense, as forcing consumers to go for a no-compromise top tier would mean pricing the top spec way above what the market expects. Most consumers have grown to understand that front-wheel drive is sufficient for SUVs in this category anyway.

All variants use Honda’s G-Design Shift CVT. The engine and gearbox in tn the 1.5TC models are similar to what’s used in the Civic TC models, but with modifications to the engine and gearbox logic as well as redesigned fins in the turbocharger. The 4WD system of course is a CR-V exclusive in Malaysia.

The two variants we tested are the most popular ones: the 1.5TC 4WD and the 1.5TC Premium 2WD.


Keeping in line with Honda’s new design philosophy, the CR-V looks modern and bold. Lots of curves, folds and daring empty spaces. The biggest change can be seen at the rear. It still has the vertically-aligned taillamps, but there’s now a horizontal element to it, visually broadening the vehicle.

The earliest CR-V featured a rear-mounted spare tyre. This was moved elsewhere and replaced with a centrally-mounted number plate in later models. The current model moves the number plate lower, leaving a wide area in the centre of the tailgate empty. It’s a bold move that many Japanese car designers shy away from, but Honda have pulled it off well while retaining the essence of the CR-V design language.

The interior is a huge leap forward for the CR-V. In the units we tested, there is wood trim, and a premium look to the cabin. Little things like the glossy black buttons on the headliner, liberal use of LED lights instead of halogen bulbs as well as the design of the speaker grilles make the CR-V feel a lot more expensive than it is.

The infotainment units in the cars we tested (higher spec), feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Visually and functionally, these head units are the best in the business. What’s more, the instrument cluster is almost entirely digital. Just like the Civic TC, the fuel and temperature meters are semi-digital, with LED strips indicating the level.

But unlike the Civic, the CR-V’s tachometer is pretty horizontal in its alignment. It’s less sporty, but leaves a lot of room for the CR-V’s other Honda Sensing functions to be displayed.

A big feature of the interior is the centre storage compartment. It features a semi-open design that customers can configure. You can have a little tray for your smart phone or open things up and put a handbag in there. The options here are very fresh, nice to see Honda is shaking things up. The semi-open design is also gadget friendly, as it lets occupants run charging cables through the USB ports without interference.

Speaking of USB ports, the CR-V is full of ‘em. The front occupants get a 1A and 1.5A with one of these being designated for Smartphone integration. The rear occupants get two easy-to-access 2.5A ports that give faster charging speeds.

The CR-V feels like it’s built with the rear occupants in mind. Yes, there are nice, fast charging ports and air-cond vents as expected, but it’s genuinely a nice place to be regardless of the amenities. Seats are plush and reasonably supportive. Legroom and headroom is half a foot more in every direction than what you’d expect. The cupholders are large enough for 2 beverages on each side and there are another 2 hidden in the centre armrest.

Being a family-friendly SUV, the CR-V isn’t made for all-out performance. But being a Honda, it’s no slouch either. The 4WD and 2WD models we tested both had tricks up their sleeves for tackling corners.

Agile Handling Assist (AHA) is a system that brakes the CR-V’s inner wheels when making sharp turns. So, despite the CR-V being quite a bulky SUV, it was still very good at overcoming its physical limitations. All we had to do was find the courage to push it a little harder every time. The system came through for us every time.

Where the CR-V really excels is in passenger comfort. It handles really great, but the ride & handling in the CR-V isn’t a zero sum game – the passengers aren’t punished just because the driver is rewarded. The balance between comfort and drivability in the CR-V is spot on.

Honda Sensing actually plays a huge role in the identity of this new Honda. Yes, it’s only offered on the most expensive variant, but it shows what Honda is prepared to give Malaysians.

Honda Sensing is a group of technologies that provide a little extra comfort and safety. There are number of aspects which we will go through in a separate article. Essentially, it gives the CR-V the ability to stay in its own lane, to match the cruising speed to the car in front of it, to apply mitigate collisions, to follow the car ahead of it in traffic and a lot more in between. It’s not quite semi-autonomous driving, it’s better to think of it as aids that take the strain off during long trips or when the driver is inattentive.

From our comparison with Honda’s main competitors, the CR-V 1.5TC models certainly stack up well. These cars have power and comfort in the right ratio and the looks and tech to make it easy to recommend. Normally, a Honda CR-V sells itself because it rides on the most solid reputation. This CR-V is one that breaks the mould and sells itself because it’s desirable and superior in just about every aspect.

We only got to test the two more expensive models that are on offer, but from what we’ve been told these are extremely popular. Even the 2-litre base model looks like a great deal, at least in terms of spec. You still get 6 airbags, 17” rims (as opposed to 18” on the other models), the same infotainment and speaker setup, and leather seats.

Honda CR-V 1.5 TC Premium Specifications

Engine: 4-cylinder turbo
Capacity: 1498cc
Gearbox: CVT
Max power: 190bhp @ 5600rpm
Max torque: 243Nm @ 2000Nm
Top Speed: 200km/h
0-100 km/h: 8.8 secs

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Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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