During my holiday trip in San Francisco, I pulled my back and unsettled some bones which inadvertently started slipping a disc.
A couple of days after my arrival in Manila, the disc was bulging completely causing my bones to compress on a nerve. I have never been stabbed by a knife, but I am almost certain that this is what it feels like. It only lasts for a second or two, but in that time you’d rather be dead. Trust me. So please do excuse us for the slow start to the year. This responsibility falls on my lap.
Because of this, I’ve been staying in our den to avoid getting stabbed in the stairs and ultimately falling to my demise. Unfortunately when my family’s visitors come over, they end up knocking at the door to use the toilet, which means they see me completely incapacitated. I think I have shared that I am rather anti-social, but I kick it up several notches when I'm in excruciating pain.
Naturally, an extra chatty guest whom I don’t particularly like entered and did the usual small talk, which I absolutely hate. He gave his own diagnosis on what’s wrong with my back and made himself comfortable by sitting down on the couch across me. Perfect. And then came the inevitable. He asked the question I evade the most, “What car should I get?” To which I answered, “Ferrari F40”. Absolutely oblivious to the fact that I was getting annoyed, he said, “Something more realistic to replace my car”. As if I knew what he was driving, I said with the most poker face I could come up with, “Porsche 911 Turbo S”.
He eventually takes the cue, stands, and says, “I just need an extra car like an Altis or a CR-V”. As he made his way out, it hit me. The Toyota Altis and the Honda CR-V are really the default spare cars in a household that can afford it. They are categorically boring cars that people buy on the grounds of reliability and comfort. No teenager who is about to get his or her driver’s license aspires to drive an Altis. A Honda Civic or a Mazda3 runs rings around it in the character department. There’s just too much of an absence in personality in what is supposed to be a very colourful time in one’s life. It's the same for the CR-V.
Capable and connected.
I drove the previous generation CR-V early last year and had nothing to say about it. That’s why an article never came out, despite Miguel’s and Maan's efforts to shoot the car. It’s easy to write awful things about a car that sucks, in the same way that it is easy to write about a fantastic car. You could have a million things to say about a delightful pan-seared foie gras drizzled in raspberry vinaigrette and equally as much about a poorly marinated well-done ribeye steak, but you wouldn’t have much to say about a piece of wheat bread.
The old CR-V was just that, a blank piece of paper that you can leave laying in your desk for months. It is so much of a non-entity it becomes invisible over time. It isn’t bothersome enough to throw in the trash bin, neither is it interesting enough to simply pick up. It drove alright, the ride was decent, but the engine was appalling and so was the interior. That automatic gearbox came with paddle shifters, but they simply didn’t work. Tapping the paddle was a suggestion, and most of the time, the answer was 'no'.
My sister had the first generation CR-V. I remember the day she brought it home. It was rock ’n roll. The Toyota Rav4 was Adam in the book of Genesis and the Honda was Eve. It was also so much better. It had more space, the ride was good, and it felt like a proper Honda. Of course today, it is a rolling piece of plastic, but back then, it was pretty good. The CR-V was a hit because the segment was new, but nowadays, with evolutions like sports utility coupes rolling out assembly lines, the crossovers from Asia have become a thing we’ve all gotten used to. With better versions sprouting out from South Korea, Honda ought to walk the CR-V to the grave and have it rest in peace. To my delight, they did.
And then came this one, the resurrection of the all-new CR-V. At first glance, the new one is bursting with personality. Not the annoying kind like the crazy-eyed Nissan Juke, but interesting enough to catch your attention. I appreciate its design, a perfect fifth evolution since its inception. It’s got nicely integrated LED lights up front, a sensuously flared body, some funky wheels that only a Honda can pull off, and new sweeping LED tail lights that go from the rear pillars to the tailgate. It’s rather sensational. I’m also not a big fan of red cars, but this Passion Red Pearl paint job looks good. If it were up to me though, I’d have it in Olive Green Metallic. It’s got space age material vibes going on.
Confidence every day.
Inside is where I am most impressed. Honda’s crossover was never known for its interior. They were always just enough to get you by, but this one is a different story. It is svelte as it is refreshing. It has all the latest design cues from the more recent Hondas but kicked a notch above. There’s a generous serving of leather and unpolished wood, which I really, really love. A gigantic glass roof hovers above for those who prefer to drive with a bed of stars as their roof. Apart from it being significantly more upscale, it is more ergonomic too. The previous CR-V had a really stupid double screen setup which did nothing but confuse anyone who had to operate it.
The new model only has one high resolution screen. It is still far from being the best system out there. It still takes its sweet time and it isn’t the easiest to navigate through, but once you’ve gotten all your settings done, the rest of it comes easy. After all, it’s equipped with Apple Car Play. The seats are really good too. I usually struggle finding the perfect driving position in most crossovers, but in this one, I did. It has great lumbar and thigh support, while providing just enough cushion for those long drives or days stuck in Metro Manila’s carmageddon. There’s a third row too that I believe is strictly limited to midgets and babies.
Driving the CR-V is unique. You see, I link Honda to gasoline VTEC power. It’s like spaghetti and meatballs. Whether good or bad, any Honda you get behind the wheel of has a distinct ‘Honda-ness’ about it. It is true from the Jazz all the way to the Accord. I’m not including the Legend because, well, that’s an Acura in a Halloween costume. And while it is impossible - visually - to forget it in the CR-V, it isn’t when you’re driving it around thanks to its 1.6-liter turbocharged diesel engine.
The oil burning power plant changes the character of the car so much, it could very well be a Peugeot, a Kia, or a Volkswagen. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just different. Think Santa Claus, but with a completely shaven beard. Wait, that’s not right. Think of your significant other getting a heart transplant. She’s the same person in character, but at the back of your mind, you know something's different.
"It has all the technology you’ll ever need in a car before these things go completely autonomous."
This power plant is sensational for what it is and it was an essential move for the CR-V to exist, in the Philippines at least. The 9-speed automatic is smoother than a newborn baby’s butt, it feels like it has no gears at all. It has also aided in making this crossover so economical, ranging 13.5 kilometers per liter on a combined cycle - including being stuck in Makati traffic for two hours. Does it pack a punch? It’s no rocket, but 300 Newton meters of torque helps especially when you’re already on the move.
It is so frugal, that no trace of guilt will come to play should you decide to cruise at 160 km/h. Just watch out for those speed cameras, the flash is bright. Everything you can find on a Mercedes-Benz S-Class a decade or so ago, you will find in the CR-V. Just know that it has cameras everywhere, it warns you when it senses an accident waiting to happen, it can keep you in your lane, it can guide you out of it, and it can increase or decrease your speed automatically based on the car in front. Just read the brochure.
A Tech safety convention.
Do I like it? Yes, it is good looking, spacious, economical, and comfortable. It has all the technology you’ll ever need in a car before these things go completely autonomous. I think its greatest achievement is that it is now back on the map as far as sparking an interest from consumers. I’m not talking about a pale accountant that needs a car to get from point A to B, but those that take an interest in well-made vehicles.
The CR-V is now enthusiastically back in Sunday dinner conversations and by no means will I be hesitant to recommend it. No longer is it a default extra car, but rather something that everyone in the family, regardless of age, can aspire for. As it stands today, it is my benchmark in the segment. And to you, my guest who’s a shade too fresh, here’s a serious answer: get yourself a diesel Honda CR-V.
Raise the bar.