Compact and comfortable, the all-new Honda CR-V, is likely to appeal to a wider audience

The Honda CR-V, once among India’s most popular import cars, has come a long way since its launch. And even today, it remains one of the most car-like SUVs around. The SUV segment has picked up since then and the competition has heated up. Honda has been quietly working to bring the fourth generation CR-V to India. Expected sometime in early February, the all-new car will be the first CR-V to be assembled in India, which should also help Honda price it more competitively.

While the new CR-V is easily identifiable as a CR-V, it’s different in many ways as well. Full of sharper-looking details, the body panels have been clothed in a tighter-fitting skin and there are plenty of cuts and creases all over. The high-mounted tail-lights are evolved from the current car and it is instantly familiar from the rear as well.

The most interesting detail, however, is the rear window that tapers down to a point; a detail that’s sure to draw plenty of attention. Also, the new car is not as quirky as the previous model and that could mean the new CR-V is likely to appeal to a wider audience. Although photos make the new CR-V look bigger than the old one, it is actually shorter and lower slung. The driving position is more car-like than in the current CR-V, something Honda says has been done with the intention of emphasising its car-like driving manners.

Well-utilised space

The space on the inside has been utilised very well, nearly every area now larger. There’s an additional 225mm in the cabin of this car, which helps it feel more airy and open, and the quality of materials on the inside has been improved as well. While the basic interior design seems evolved from the current car, with the gearlever jutting out of the dash, the design is much more sophisticated and less angular. The high-quality steering wheel sets the tone and the wow factor is considerably upped by the classy instrument panel. Well-finished, watch face-like and with minimalist white numbers on a black dial, the instrument panel also incorporates a digital display at the centre, along with a layered 3D effect between the various numbers displayed.

Just as in the earlier CR-V, there’s plenty of space for passengers at the rear. The cabin feels wider, the completely flat floor makes it a genuine five-seater, and the big back seats offer plenty of comfort. The new CR-V will be a great car to be chauffeured around in. It also has more luggage space — 589 litres with the last row of seats in place, and 1,648 litres with the 60/40-split rear seats folded down — an increase of 148 litres.

The new CR-V will be offered with a pair of Honda’s impressive twin-cam i-VTEC engines, one displacing 2.0 litres and the other, 2.4 litres. The 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol now makes a more impressive 185bhp (which could be de-tuned to around 180bhp for India) and all-wheel traction is taken care of by a new, faster, electrically actuated four-wheel-drive system. The five-speed automatic gearbox, however, is carried over from the current car, and that’s bit of a shame in this age of seven- and eight-speed gearboxes. The motor is smooth and refined at low speeds, coming alive higher up in the power band in typical Honda fashion.

The base CR-V will get the smaller 2.0-litre engine, now making 153bhp (de-tuned to around 148bhp for India) which, in truth, is more than sufficient for the car. And it’s likely to come with the option of a manual gearbox as well. The new CR-V also features revised suspension geometry, a stiffer body structure and a full-length underbody tray to help keep out as much road noise as possible. It’s not nearly as much fun to drive, though; the new CR-V gets a more efficient electrically assisted steering system which doesn’t give you as much feedback as the old car.

Local assembly implies Honda should be able price the new car quite competitively. While base models could start at around Rs. 20 lakh, the fully loaded 2.4 automatic is not expected to cross Rs. 22 lakh. The diesel version is not part of the current plan and is unlikely to come within the first year, but with prices as competitive as these, there should still be healthy demand for the petrols. The diesel Hyundai Santa Fe, for example, costs Rs. 25.3 lakh, so if Honda prices the 2.4 automatic around Rs. 22 lakh, it will mean diesel owners will have to drive approximately 45,000 km before they see the benefit of diesel.

Even though it won’t be as much fun to drive as the older version and a diesel option won’t be offered initially, the new Honda CR-V is definitely good enough for the consideration of those looking to buy an SUV.

The added factor that petrol cars are making a strong comeback should only go towards making the case stronger for the latest CR-V.