2018 Honda CR-V As a long-time player in the Philippine automotive market, Honda has been conspicuously absent in one of the country’s key segments — the seven-seater diesel SUV —fought over by the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Montero. While not quite a ladder-frame seven-seater SUV in the strictest sense, Honda is sending the message that they want a piece of that pie; and they’re using their consumer-favorite CR-V as the messenger.
Out of Honda’s seven-seater diesel CR-V lineup, the S variant stands a good chance of becoming the volume seller, thanks to its stellar value-for-money proposition and first-rate build quality. But does it have what it takes to become the crossover king? The competition is fierce, but Honda’s fifth generation CR-V is up to the task.
The 2018 CR-V is, in our opinion, one of the best-looking iterations of the model since the first generation debuted in 1997. It manages to retain all of the most-loved design cues of previous generations while adding some stylish bulk to the front and rear ends. Stylistic highlights such as the vertical lights on the D-pillar are done tastefully, blending seamlessly into its LED tail lamps. Up front, the CR-V’s beefy front bumpers contribute to a rugged stance seen from all angles. Inside, however, is where the bulk of the most interesting facets of the 2018 CR-V lie.
The cabin is decidedly upscale, with the kind of excellent build quality we’ve come to know from Honda. It’s a seamless blending of futuristic and classic design elements that forms a cohesive looking interior. The instrument cluster is almost completely digital, while a seven-inch touch screen (now with a much-needed volume control knob) sits on top of your basic air-conditioning buttons and knobs. The all black dash is accentuated by classy wood finishing, which keeps the cabin from looking too dreary and gives it a more premium feel.
In a daring move, Honda has decided that the traditional shifter has become obsolete, opting for buttons and switches to handle drive mode duties. Park, neutral, and drive/sport modes are available with the press of a button, while reverse is engaged through flicking a switch. It’s an odd decision, though Honda’s logic is understandable. Shifters on cars with automatic transmissions were meant to duplicate the feel of manual shift knobs, allowing for an easier transition for owners coming from a manual transmission. In an era of automobiles where manual transmissions become continuously rarer, the move to buttons and switches would seem like an evolutionary step that makes sense. Still, traditional shifters do have advantages over buttons, one of which is being able to shift drives modes on muscle memory alone, without having to take your eyes off the road to look at which button to press. The advantage of this layout is that there’s a lot more usable space in the center island, making it convenient to store items where you need them the most.
The all-leather seats are extremely comfortable, as we’ve come to expect from Honda, with excellent support keeping you planted even during harsh turns. The S variant doesn’t get the power-adjustable seats of the top-of-the-line SX variant, though it’s not really a feature we missed. There’s enough room for second row occupants to stay comfortable, with the second row capable of sliding and reclining for room as needed. The third row is, as you might expect, a bit on the tight side, with two 50/50 split reclining seats that are more suited to children. All passengers get easy access to numerous cubby holes, and a generous amount of USB slots for charging their devices.
Cargo behind the third row is a paltry 150 liters of space, which holds small grocery bags or some light shopping. Folding the third row seats down opens up the cargo space to 472 liters, and folding the second and third row seats down opens up a very usable 967 liters of cargo space.
Refined driving dynamics
As far as first efforts go, Honda has hit a homerun with their 1.6-liter, four-cylinder i-DTEC turbo diesel engine. It’s exceptionally smooth and refined, with hardly any discernible clatter or rattle. Outputting 120-hp and 300-Nm of torque, there’s plenty of available low-end grunt, and just enough overtaking capability at high speeds. What the engine truly shines with however, is its excellent fuel economy. We recorded 12.4 kilometers per liter on mixed city and highway driving conditions, with higher than normal traffic around the city. The CR-V’s range on a full tank varies between 700-1000 kilometers depending on traffic conditions, which is highly impressive.
At P1,759,000, the CR-V S diesel hits the sweet spot between features and practicality. It doesn’t have the panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, Honda SENSING safety suite, or all-wheel drive of the top-of-the-line SX variant, but it does keep all the bits that matter, such as the refined interior and excellent diesel engine for almost P300,000 less. The 2018 Honda CR-V is extremely easy to recommend, and gives the Mazda CX-5 a good fight for the best crossover SUV in the market.