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2018 Honda CR-V Petrol First Drive Review

What is it?

Why I would buy it:

Smooth drivetrain, car-like handling, quality interiors

Why I would avoid it: 

CVT isn't for the enthusiasts, firm low speed ride 

 

Although not many are aware, it is true that no other premium segment is as swarming and buzzing as the luxury SUV segment. Dominated by the ever popular Toyota Fortuner, the segment has countersigned plenty of action in the last couple of years, with multiple additions including the Ford Endeavour, Skoda Kodiaq, Hyundai Tucson and the VW Tiguan. Now, cherry-picking the right posh SUV is even more difficult thanks to the entirely new 2018 Honda CR-V which is due for launch on October 9. We have already had a go in the diesel version and found it to be quite impressive. Here we have the petrol CR-V which will take on the likes of the Tucson and the Fortuner.  

Unlike its predecessors, the 2018 CR-V seems to be driven by style. Slightly longer, wider and taller than the old version, this 2018 model looks absolutely contemporary, with a high-brow front-end look that looks premium. This is down to the all-LED headlights and fog lights which look smashing when lit. The aggressively styled headlamp units with the wing-shaped daytime running lights and the flared wheel arches give the CR-V a grand road presence. The 2018 model looks noticeably wider than the old car and that’s because of the strong shoulder line that tapers upwards towards the rear. At the back, you no longer get a split-tailgate arrangement but it’s worth noting that the CR-V retains its low loading lip which is crucial when you have heavy luggage.   

How is it on the inside?

The cabin treatment is not only aesthetic but also premium and oh-so Honda in appearance and material choice. Like all premium models from the brand, the build quality is solid and nothing in here feels cheap. That said, we did find the steering mounted buttons (carried over from budget Honda models) to be flimsy. Unlike the Fortuner’s insides which feel rudimentary at a lot of places, the cabin design and layout is a big highlight of this car, given its in here the owners will spend time, it’s a big draw card for choosing the CR-V over the competition. Compared to the old model, the design is more upmarket, with a good mix of materials used cleverly. The dash, for instance, is all black with shiny gloss black trim pieces whereas the door pads are a mix of beige, wooden inserts and gloss black trim pieces. Somehow, this amalgamation of materials works well to create a soothing ambience.

Sadly, we cannot say the same for Honda’s infotainment system. While the 7-inch display is placed high and looks premium, the system itself is not exactly user-friendly – the UI looks aftermarket and switching between the menus takes some getting used to. What’s more, the graphics aren’t what you would expect to see in a car of this segment. Similarly, the fully digital instrument cluster isn’t that impressive under sunlight as the screen looks dull and not as crisp as we would have liked. That said, it does make for a visual treat at night, standing out from the rest of the interior bits.

In terms of space and comfort, the petrol CR-V is different from its diesel sibling, but we will get to the changes in a bit. The front seats are snug and supportive and foot well is generous as well (despite the wide centre console). Visibility, too, is excellent with a huge glass area and slim A-pillars. What also helps is this unique camera-based system which enhances driver’s view of side traffic. Using a camera on the passenger-side mirror, the driver can have a live feed on the infotainment screen, of the traffic or pedestrians in the car’s blind spot. Space in the second row is equally impressive as there’s loads of legroom and the rear seat itself is nicely contoured and offers adequate thigh support. So what about the changes? Well unlike the diesel powered CR-V which is a 7-seater with a 5+2 configuration, this petrol-powered model seats five only. The latter also doesn’t get rood mounted AC vents and a sliding rear bench. That said, the backrest can be reclined and you do get conventionally mounted rear AC vents between the front seats. 

How does it drive?

The 2-litre petrol engine paired to a CVT engine isn’t the finest weapon in this segment when we talk displacement. Nonetheless, it makes 154bhp of power and 189Nm of torque and with the new CR-V petrol weighing 1,545kg, it offers decent grunt for everyday driving. While this engine/gearbox combination comes across as a bit lazy under light throttle, it gets along fine when you floor the pedal some more. The CVT, however, is unobtrusive around town and dulls the throttle response heavily although to be fair, it has been tuned in line with the relaxed nature of this drivetrain. It is a little slow to react and hardly engaging when you are up for some fun behind the wheel. That said, the rubber-band effect in here isn’t as obvious in this car as there is a nice, gradual build-up of revs on part throttle. All in all, the CVT, although silky smooth, somewhat dampens the effect of the 2-litre petrol motor which as always, is quite refined and free revving.

The CR-V fares much, much better when it comes to ride and handling. Unlike ladder-frame SUVs which cannot mask their weight at speed, the CR-V genuinely drives like a car, ducking into corners eagerly and staying flat mid-corner. The body control is fantastic though what’s even better is the steering feel – it’s light, direct and offers just the right amount of resistance as you go off centre. Modest drivetrain aside, the CR-V is genuinely fun to drive and as such deserves a better gearbox. 

The comfort-oriented suspension offers good ride quality under most situations, thought it can be a little firm in the way it recovers from bumps at low speeds. Despite the trick dampers which comes with two different sizes of tubes, one for small vertical movements and the other one which is engaged when it senses longer suspension travel, the CR-V cannot coast over sharp bumps with the same level of plushness as the Fortuner. On the contrary, it’s body control is much better with none of the jolts that you get from the Toyota or the Ford Endeavour.

Should I buy one?

As a posh urban SUV, the 2018 Honda CR-V nails the brief quite nicely, featuring a refined drivetrain, comfortable seating and a top-notch cabin that’s loaded to the roofline. Although what sets it apart from the rest is the all-round ability to take on bad roads as well as winding tarmac with ease. So if you are in the market for a petrol SUV that’s thoroughly practical and fun to drive, the CR-V is a worthy choice, if you can get around the middling drivetrain, that is. 

Where does it fit in?

The 2018 Honda CR-V petrol will go up against petrol versions of the Hyundai Tucson and the Toyota Fortuner. It will be launched alongside the diesel-powered CR-V on October 9 so stay tuned. 

 

Photos by Kaustubh Gandhi 

Click here for our first drive review of the 2018 Honda CR-V Diesel AWD

Photos

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Honda CR-V Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Bangalore₹ 35.19 Lakhs onwards
Mumbai₹ 33.32 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 31.61 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 32.38 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 33.79 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 33.52 Lakhs onwards
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