Monday, 19 March 2007

First Drive: New 2007 Honda CR-V

By Dr Long

First visual impression didn’t come across as particularly striking for this 3rd generation Honda SUV. Could it be due of the over-distinctive and opinion-splitting 2nd layer grille seen up front? Driving it however was otherwise. On the road, it was pretty silent, both in ride and engine decibels - desirable for a vehicle of this price and stature. Its suspension has an appreciable tighter feel than the last generation CR-V. Being reasonably agile and sure-footed as a crossover, the vehicle exudes confident composure on paved roads. Unfortunately, no winding trunk routes or hilly roads were taken in the interest of time. Ride comfort is mostly good even though damping is now firmer. None of the wobbly and bouncy sensation even over speed humps, a bane usually associated with a ‘heavy’ SUV like this.

Engine is smooth but not quite keen for revs beyond 4000rpm. It could be that the R20A motor was not well run-in or could it be a familial trait, not unlike the Civic's R18A? Torque is just adequate, though it did pulled a little stronger up slope than the 2.0VTi Accord. I reckoned it was just powerful enough with only two occupants in the vehicle. With a full load, things may be a little different. Honda’s current 5A/T is smooth shifting here, as expected, but lacks that manual shift override function.

Versus the cheaper Civic 2.0S, this new CR-V desperately needs a pair of Xenon HIDs to match those sharp looking projector lenses headlamps. After all, it’s wearing a near-RM150K price tag. Switches’ buttons, stalks and knobs all work with that well-oiled precision and solid tactile feel. Something that Honda has found near-perfection, even when compared to some established teutonic makes!

The sky suddenly opened up during the short run. Not all was lost since it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. At least, the roof was noted to be silent enough in the torrential downpour. Yup! Still pleasant here, unlike that tinny raindrops-sound-on-metal-roof ever so annoying in the Honda City and rumoured to be in the Civic as well. Brakes are grippy but pedal is a little lacking in modulation. Not a big issue here since I think all owners will nicely adapt in no time.

The new CR-V also has more features now. Most noticeable is that adjustable intermittent wiper function, a small gadget that has been elusive to even the Accord range (except 3.0V6 model) since the 70s...even now! Finally, there is a trip computer too, within the meters cluster. I guess those are ‘milestones’ achievements for Honda in Malaysia indeed. The double-decked load compartment in the cargo area is yet another clever idea. Seats are decently sized, well contoured and comfy. Wrapped in dark coloured fabric that’s a notch or two better than the Civic 1.8S. The driver’s high eye point – a selling point for SUVs - is maintained despite riding on lower platform now.

Though an all-new model, there are a few gripes that are too glaring to be overlooked. The interior door handles are moulded from silver-greyish metallic-dyed plastic. It's shaped more like a Hasbro's hard-surfaced plastic toy sword handle. A darker grey or black soft-texture grip handle would be better appreciated and aptly more upmarket too. Strangely, all doors unlock as soon as car is shifted back to ‘P’ at the gear lever. This may foolishly expose the owner to unwarranted/higher risk of carjacking. Absence of gas struts support for front hood is quite unbecoming for a medium-sized SUV of a reputable Japanese brand.

In final analysis, I couldn’t help but wonder if the new CR-V could have an even wider mass-market appeal if it is made available in 7-seater form, somewhat like the Volvo XC90.
Yet, my parting shot with this well-rounded new product from Honda is overall a pleasant one but I am still not very convinced with that extra smiley of the second layer grille….(even though the pricey Modulo bodykit featured mesh-grilles expressed a somewhat lesser degree of ‘idiotic’ grin)

Test car courtesy of Peringgit Sri Auto, Old Klang Road, KL.

(An authorised dealer having a registered demo car almost immediately after a new model launch is very commendable, seeing that the other non-national market-leader brand don't even bother to do the same, especially NOT at its dealer outlets!)

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