KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — Let’s talk about the latest automotive trend here; If you have been shopping for a new car lately, you will notice that SUVs and crossovers are rapidly becoming the most popular choice of vehicle among consumers.
Today, if you want to buy an SUV or a crossover, there is a myriad of choices in sizes and specs that would suit your budget and needs. Chances are your neighbour, colleagues, friends, family or relatives probably own an SUV themselves.
An SUV appeals to mainstream family buyers who need a vehicle that’s space-efficient inside and out, practical and family friendly.
In fact, SUVs do it better than almost other body styles in the market; the higher ride height makes it easy for you to get in and out of the vehicle — so you don’t have to bend and stoop like you would in a hatchback or sedan – it drives much like car, has plenty of cargo space to haul your brood and groceries, and all that without having to skimp on style.
If you haven’t joined the SUV bandwagon yet, now is the best time to do so as Honda Malaysia has recently rolled out the best-selling SUV in its segment, the fifth generation Honda CR-V. Available in four variants, and after having tested the top-of-the-line CR-V 1.5 TC Premium 2WD as well as the CR-V 1.5 TC 4WD variant for a couple of days, I have plenty of reasons to tell you why you should buy this crossover compared to other compact SUVs in the market.
The 5th-generation CR-V marks the introduction of the 1.5L VTEC Turbocharged engine – the same engine that is found on the current Civic but with the output cranked up to 193PS and 243Nm of torque, which is 20PS/ 23Nm more than on the Civic.
Mated to a super smooth Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT), the CR-V does the century sprint in 8.8 seconds for the 1.5L Turbo 2WD variant and 9.2 seconds for the 1.5L Turbo 4WD variant. Top speed is electronically limited at 200km/h.
The 1.5-L Turbo VTEC Turbocharged engine is such a peach to drive around town and also on the highway. I could barely notice the vehicle moving through its gears, which contributes to the CR-V refined driving experience.
I also like the handling of the new Honda CR-V. There’s minimal body lean and the new CR-V felt more balanced when driving through sharp corners compared to its predecessor. Supple MacPherson struts at the front and multi-link suspension at the rear handle undulating roads with ease and deliver a pleasantly quiet driving experience.
Outdoor enthusiasts might want to opt for the 1.5L Turbo 4WD variant as it is capable of providing sure-footed traction on various road conditions like muddy, sandy or rocky roads.
However, if you are a city dweller, a two-wheel- drive variant is a more sensible choice for you because, let’s face it, the nearest your SUV will get to an off road situation is probably a gravel car park! I also noticed that the 4WD variant suffers a slight lacks of "punch" when you need that extra speed to overtake a slow-moving vehicle due to the fact that it is 52kg heavier compared to the 1.5 TC 2WD variant.
Besides, one can expect a slightly higher cost of maintenance with the 4WD variant, besides the fact that it does not come with all the cool bells and whistles such as Honda Sensing and Honda LaneWatch which is available in the top-spec CR-V 1.5 TC-Premium 2WD trim.
I would have expected the 4WD version would also have a "top spec" variant, but I suppose it is due to Honda trying to keep the cost sensible. Anyway, you never know, if enough people ask for it, Honda Malaysia, a company that always listens to its customer, may respond with the next minor change.
One of the biggest advantages of driving an SUV is that it gives the driver a commanding view of the road ahead due to its high-riding position. For some consumers, being able to sit higher up gives them extra confidence and helps them to be more alert than they would driving a vehicle that’s lower to the ground.
With the all-new Honda CR-V, you will have an excellent all-around visibility of the road ahead thanks to the improved ground clearance at 198 mm (2WD)/208 mm (4WD) as compared to the previous generation CR-V’s clearance of 170 mm.
Aesthetically, one of the most striking features of the new CR-V is its piercing LED headlights, LED Daytime Running Lights, and the LED tail and brake lights. Meanwhile, the newly redesigned solid-wing mask and angular body lines give the model a more premium look.
The CR-V’s clean lines and simple design makes for a stress-free environment when stepping into the cabin. The premium dashboard design is complemented with a 7-inch touchscreen display audio that now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a welcome improvement to the SUV especially for tech savvy buyers, plus, adding more entertainment options like Spotify.
As for the rest of the interior, other cool features that I particularly like the most are the black interior colour and wood panels, leather-trimmed seats and a modern-looking meter cluster with a multi information LCD Display found in the top-spec CR-V 1.5 TC-Premium 2WD variant.
Of course, practicality is among the CR-V’s biggest selling points and maintaining Honda’s signature concept of “Man Maximum, Machine Minimum” design principle, the CR-V’s rear legroom is now roomier with 90 mm more space. It makes for a pleasant place to be in especially on a long-distance journey. Since the Malaysian market CR-V does not come with a sunroof, there’s extra headroom available especially for over six-foot tall passengers.
There are also cup holders, rear air conditioning and two USB ports available to charge your mobile devices for occupants sitting at the rear. For once, I felt eager to sit on the second-row seat while my co-driver was behind the wheel because I could enjoy the comfort of the back-seat space all to myself during the3-day drive.
The CR-V has maximised the cabin space not only for occupants but for goods as well. The flexible configuration of the rear seats also provides convenience for owners to transport various sizes of goods- the seats can be laid flat to give an extended cargo space of up to 1,084 litres. Honda has developed the cargo space for full utilisation, with up to 250 mm extra space compared to its predecessor.
Aside from that, my test unit (1.5 TC-Premium 2WD) is also fitted with a Programmable Power Tailgate as a standard feature, a convenient and handy feature for owners to control the height and opening of the tailgate with a one-push button.
This means that tall people can avoid hitting their head on a low-slung tailgate while parents can set up their tailgate to a lower height for easier operation by children. I’m not a big fan of this automatic tailgate because personally, I think a manual tailgate requires less time to open.
One of the things I’m most excited to talk about is the Honda Sensing system, an advanced safety technology to assist drivers in potentially dangerous driving conditions. This is the first time the CR-V is fitted with this state-of- the-art safety equipment and Malaysia is the first country in Asean to receive it.
Honda Sensing however, is only available in the top-spec CR-V 1.5 TC-Premium 2WD variant. Self-driving technologies are the new hype now, and purchasing the Honda CR-V equipped with the Honda Sensing systems is your first step to autonomous driving.
The Honda Sensing safety suite consists of seven features which include Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Low-Speed Follow (LSF), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW).
The adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Low Speed Follow (LFS), for example, is a driver cruising aid that allows you to cruise at a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you without having to manually accelerate or decelerate.
All you have to do is to set a fixed cruising speed (from 30 kph to 180 kph) and the distance behind the vehicle ahead and the Honda Sensing systems will basically do the accelerating and decelerating for you so you can actually take your foot off the throttle.
Integrated with ACC, LSF will automatically adjust the CR-V cruising speed when the vehicle in front changes speed, even up to a full stop if necessary.
LFS starts and stops automatically with the flow of traffic and it operates at speeds starting at 0 kph. LSF basically does the braking for you so you don’t have to set you right foot on the brake paddle.
Out on the open road, the ACC and LFS works like a charm but since I set the system to leave about three to four car lengths of space between me and car in front, it is basically a huge invitation for cars or motorbikes from the left to cut me off.
As the Honda Sensing does not have enough time to detect and react to the other vehicle’s sudden swerve to your lane, it might not be able to automatically apply the brake on time for you.
Then again, Honda Sensing is only a driver-assist technology to guide and help improve driving safety. It still requires the driver’s hands, eyes and judgement to intervene in certain situations so you still have to be prepared to take control at any time.
Aside from that, Honda Sensing is pretty impressive. It seems like it was only yesterday when I was marvelling over the semi-autonomous technology found in the premium segment, and now you can have it in an affordable vehicle like the Honda CR-V. Once you have gained more confidence and are more comfortable with the Honda Sensing systems, you might not want to go back to driving your own car again.
At this point, it’s quite hard to imagine a compact crossover that is better aligned with the needs of most buyers than the new Honda CR-V specifically the top of the line CR-V 1.5 TC-Premium 2WD model. It is a superior car to its rivals and an SUV that is well thought of for its consumers. I would happily highly recommend this vehicle on top of your shopping list if you are in the market for a new compact SUV.