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2018 Honda CR-V Diesel AWD First Drive Review

What is it?

Why I would buy it:

Spacious and comfortable cabin, seven-seat capability (diesel), car-like driving manners, safety features 

Why I would avoid it: 

Diesel engine lacks punch, firm slow speed ride

After much waiting, Honda has finally given in to the Indian market’s demands for a diesel CR-V. And it doesn’t end there. The new CR-V, that’s slated to be launched in India on October 9, is actually an all-new generation CR-V. So, when compared to the current model, it is longer by 47mm, the wheelbase has been stretched by an extra 40mm, and it is also wider by 35mm. So effectively, Honda targeted the added dimensions as an opportunity to carve out enough space to throw in an extra pair of seats.

When it comes to looks, the familiar silhouette gives away the CR-V identity. However when you look closer, you tend to appreciate the tweaked details. For one, especially upfront, one can spot the sharp headlamps with wing-shaped LED DRLs which is further complemented by a chiselled bonnet above it, and an angularly shaped lower bumper. In profile though, the A-pillar rake is noticeably more slanting and it ends at the C-pillar with a larger chrome-tipped quarter glass.

But, it definitely has to be the strong shoulder line coupled with the flared wheel arches which give this CR-V that unmistakeable butch stance that was clearly absent in the previous model. On the other hand, the rear portion draws mixed expressions due to the slab of chrome that connects the headlamps, and the rather busy sheet metal treatment on the boot lid. 

How is it on the inside?

Getting into the new CR-V is a breeze due to doors that open really wide. And once seated, you’re instantly greeted by the thoroughly modern layout and overall premium feel of the interiors. In fact Honda has tried everything in the book at one go. This is evident from the use of beige and black interiors along with a combination of silver inserts, matt black and piano black trim, matt-finish wood inserts and soft touch points throughout the upper portion of the cabin.

Going forth, although the all-digital instrumentation panel may definitely look snazzy at night, it failed to impress us while driving in sunlight. Furthermore, Honda has done a good job of placing the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment screen higher-up on the dash, which certainly eases its use on-the-go. But, we were left wanting more when it came to screen resolution, graphics and frame rates. 

Surely enough, the unique centre console that’s designed to keep the transmission and electronic parking brake buttons closer to the driver is a smart move. But we felt that the matt black trim around it, the instrumentation, air-con vents, cup-holders and the door handle didn’t really mirror the same premium feel as the rest of the cabin.

Now, the absence of a parking brake lever has liberated a considerable amount of space in the lower centre console. Which means, there’s ample space for all your accessories and cups. The large centre armrest also incorporates a tray that can be repositioned in three configurations as per the occupant’s requirement.

Driving the CR-V is less of a chore thanks to the great visibility out of the glass area, the extravagant view from the large door mirrors, and most importantly, the blind-spot view that’s relayed to the touchscreen when you actuate the left indicator. A neat trick indeed. When it comes to the well bolstered front seats, they offer good support (with lumbar adjust) and lots of legroom and headroom. Our only grouse was the absence of appropriate thigh support. 

As for the middle row (slides back and forth), there’s plenty of legroom and the bench itself offers immense support. However, as the seat is placed lower than we would have liked it, one ends up sitting with their knees higher than usual, and this affects thigh support. Also, tall passengers may find the headroom somewhat restrictive. All said and done, the third row is more comfortable for kids as the dimensions and seating posture doesn’t exactly suit an adult. 

It needs to be mentioned that the middle row gets floor mounted air-con vents, plus two sets of roof vents that also cater to the last row. With all rows up, the boot space is just 150 litres or some bags at most. But with the flat folding seat feature and the last row folded, the boot space swells to 472 litres. Plus, there’s all of 936 litres of luggage space when both rows are folded. On a lighter note, we appreciated the low boot lip which makes loading luggage easy.

On the features front, the CR-V gets a two zone air-conditioner, roof air-vents for seven seater, a seven-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a fully digital instrumentation cluster. There’s also paddle shifts (diesel), a push button start/stop, driver’s seat with electric functions including lumbar adjust and a panorama sunroof. In terms of safety, the new CR-V gets ABS with EBD and brake assist, front and side curtain airbags, ESC, agile handling assist (torque vectoring), left blind spot camera view, motion-adaptive power steering, driver attention monitor, electronic parking brake, automatic brake hold and hill assist.

How does it drive?

Absolutely car-like. The electric power steering did everything expected of it. To begin with, there’s just the right amount of weight that’s coupled with some well-judged progressive response off the straight-ahead position. It’s reasonably accurate too and we were always able to point this CR-V in the intended direction and get favourable results. 

However, we didn’t have the opportunity to test the cornering manners on our drive in Jaipur, but we did witness only minimal roll at speeds up to 100kmph. This, along with the direct and fairly light steering makes the new CR-V nimble and very car-like to drive. Now, powering the diesel CR-V (both FWD and AWD) is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder, DOHC i-DTEC motor with 120bhp/300Nm that works in tandem with a nine-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifts).

We drove the AWD version for this review, and although the torque figure sounds right, the rather modest 120bhp has all of 1725kg to lug about, which we will come to in a bit. On cranking this diesel motor, its clatter is quite subdued within the cabin at all times. Thankfully, the insulation jobs carried out keep external noises to a bare-minimum. Now, on the move, this motor gets off the mark effortlessly which is then complimented by a linear flow of torque all the way up to 4000rpm.

But revving this motor makes it extremely vocal. Sure, there’s just about enough grunt for regular driving situations, but the power delivery is far from aggressive. This is even more pronounced when you compare it to the segment competitors that get 158-174bhp. Of course, the nine-speed automatic transmission shifts with reasonable pace, but it is nowhere as quick as, say a VW DSG ‘box. 

It does, however, offer the choice of slotting into two gearbox modes - ‘D’ or ‘S’, the latter being for sportier driving. But having said that, even slotting into ‘S’ mode doesn’t really a make a huge difference - both from standstill or the in-gear drivability tests view-point. When slotted in ‘D’, the gearbox tends to allow the motor to coast as soon as one gets off the throttle. So the only way to derive any engine braking in ‘D’ is to manually downshift using the paddle shifts. Or, just slot into ‘S’ where the coasting feature is eliminated and a lower gear is retained for better response. 

In comparison to ‘D’ mode, which allows the motor to rev to about 3500rpm before upshifting, ‘S’ mode gets it to just breach the 4000rpm mark. Which is why it feels mildly quicker. Honda also added that the new CR-V diesel 2WD returns 19.5kpl, and the AWD that we’ve driven for this review gives you 18.3kpl.

In terms of ride, the CR-V’s ride quality tilts towards being firm at slow speeds. However, up the pace, and the ride gets markedly flatter. Honda explained that the new CR-V is equipped with a double-tube damper set-up that allows only the thinner tube to work when it encounters smaller bumps. The larger tube (more absorbent) is mechanically engaged when it goes over a larger bump, and yes, we tried it. 

We went over a large bump at speed and it absorbed quite well. And the 208mm of ground clearance means you don’t really have to worry about scraping the underbody either. On the downside, there’s no running away from the tyre and road noise which filter into the cabin via the wheel wells.

Furthermore, based on the driving conditions at any speed, Honda’s AWD system kicks in automatically by minimising wheel spin and sending power to the rear wheels accordingly. The system also decouples drive force to the rear wheels when not required, such as when cruising. We shall test this feature later for a road test review.

Should I buy one?

Let’s begin with what could have been better in the new CR-V diesel. Its diesel mill tends to get vocal when revved hard for any sort of peppy output, and it has a slightly firm slow speed ride. Plus, there’s the ordinary touchscreen graphics which could have done with better resolution and faster frame rates. Even the instrument cluster looks too basic, its short on overall thigh support, the last row can only accommodate children at best, and there’s limited boot space with all rows up.

On the positive side though, the larger dimensions of the new CR-V makes it more spacious, and the cabin not only looks modern and premium, but also scores high on the ergonomics front. Then there’s the comfortable seats with spades of legroom (1st two rows), the excellent visibility along with the smart blind-spot view, the car-like steering/road manners with a flat ride, and of course, the popular ‘SUV’ stance which is simply unmistakable. Good job Honda!

Where does it fit in?

Although prices are yet to be announced, the new CR-V will take on the likes of the Ford Endeavour and the Toyota Fortuner whose prices hover about the Rs 36.84-39.87 lakhs price-point for the Endeavour, and Rs 37.92-40.2 lakhs for the Toyota.

Pictures: Kaustubh Gandhi

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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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