DRIVEN: Honda CR-V facelift – easy like Sun morning

Honda CR-V Facelift Review 16

The recent Hari Raya holidays gave us a chance to catch up on cars that we might have missed. Instead of joining the exodus out of the Klang Valley, I decided to enjoy the rare occurrence of a deserted city by getting errands and home improvement work done, with some food hunting and catching up with old friends thrown in. What better way to criss-cross the city than with the Comfortable Runabout Vehicle?

The Honda CR-V is no spring chicken. The quintessential suburban family SUV is in its fourth generation now, with the current facelifted version appearing locally in January last year, two years after the RM made its Malaysian debut. That’s a long time in today’s fast-moving car world, and it does seem like rivals are younger, and perhaps fitter in the battle for SUV supremacy.

Is that true? Is this old hand’s tricks still magical after all these years? We revisit the CR-V.

The Honda CR-V has plenty of experience on its side. It had the original Nissan X-Trail as sparring partner back in the day when SUVs were square, but the rehashed second-gen Nissan failed to catch on in a changing segment. The CR-V evolved into the radical third-gen crossover, and continued to rake in the numbers largely unopposed, until the Mazda CX-5 came on the scene in 2012. More recently, Nissan re-entered the fray with the third-gen X-Trail, now full of curves and with no off-road pretensions.

The Korean tag team of Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage made quite a splash in 2010-2011 with design-led new models, but couldn’t sustain the momentum and are bit part players now. Ford – with the Escape and now the Kuga – had always been an outsider. Toyota overlooking this segment in this region is a mystery – only they would know why the RAV4 was never promoted in these parts.

That leaves three big players jostling for attention in the family SUV class – the old timer, its reinvented old rival and the young upstart.

Honda CR-V Facelift Review 13

The third- and previous-generation CR-V truly established itself as the perfect family SUV with fantastic packaging and novel ideas that aren’t outdated to this day. The fourth-gen car rides on the same template.

The CR-V is 4,590 mm long, which puts it nearer to the visually smaller CX-5 (-35 mm) than the big-bodied X-Trail (+50 mm). The Honda’s wheelbase deficit is even more shocking – at 2,620 mm, it’s unchanged from the third-gen RE, a massive 80 mm shorter than the Mazda’s, and 85 mm shorter than the Nissan’s. But if you’re going to completely ignore exterior dimensions on the spec sheet for just one time, let this be it.

The space on offer inside is nothing like what its wheelbase length suggests. There’s plenty of legroom at the back for adults – significantly more than in the CX-5 – and there’s room under the front seats for feet to tuck into. We didn’t have an X-Trail on hand to compare, but the Honda’s rear living quarters should be at the very least a good match to the Nissan, which let’s not forget, has an 85 mm longer wheelbase. There’s also a bonus of a flat floor.

The packaging magic employed here isn’t new, and we’ve seen this sleight of hand before in the third-gen car. Like its predecessor, today’s CR-V does not just provide ample space for the family, but the many things they bring along too. There’s no lack of storage ideas for bottles, mobile phones and accessories and knick-knacks such as keys, cards and wallets.

The handbag-eating gap between the front seats are no more, but the tray is spacious and modular (there are two removable dividers), with separate compartments for the mobile phone and keys. It is in addition to the centre console box, a small cubby near the driver’s right knee, and door storage. Besides the usual bottle holder and door pull, there’s a little tray in the “middle level” of the front doors. We’re pretty sure that’s enough to satisfy everyone and their kids.

There are two power outlets in front – one on the centre console tray and one inside the bin – along with two USB ports. That’s a good total amount, but since both of the USB points are inside the centre bin, rear passengers might need extra-long cables for charging. Rear air con vents are present.

The cabin space and storage available is above and beyond what its rivals offer, and cargo volume is also class-leading. The CR-V’s hatch opens to a massive 589-litre space, which is 39 litres more than the X-Trail’s hold. It’s also big enough for two mountain bikes or four sets of golf clubs, Honda says. Fold the rear seats and maximum volume is expanded to 1,146 litres, measured up to the window line.

Equally as impressive as the sheer size of the cargo area is the ease of operation. One motion and the 60:40 rear seats tumble and fold away neatly, headrests included. The pyrotechnics can be triggered by levers on the boot wall (one on each side), and if you’re coming from the side, a pull jutting out from under the seat. The tonneau cover is easy to remove and install too, but there’s no underfloor compartment for it like in the X-Trail.

Another advantage that the Nissan has over the CR-V is a third-row of seats. The X-Trail’s “+2” seats are an asset to families that need the occasional carrying capacity, but for those who are content with a five-seater, the Honda is the most family-friendly SUV in its class by some distance. The CX-5? It’s a selfish sports car in comparison.

Honda CR-V Facelift Review 43

Up front, with all your gear stowed away without fuss, it’s very easy to get comfortable. An eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat is standard across the range, and the chair itself is wide and comfortable. Our 2.4L 4WD tester came with a seven-inch touchscreen head unit with navigation (2.0L 4WD gets the same HU without navi), and the D-pad on the left steering spoke is easy to use.

Ease of use is a main goal of this “soccer mum” machine, and we’ve not seen a speedometer that’s as legible as the huge central dial of the CR-V. The fonts are simple and big and the 110 km/h mark is conveniently located at the 12 o’clock position. Also helpful is the multi-angle reverse camera and Honda LaneWatch, the latter exclusive to the 2.4L.

First sampled in the Honda Accord in 2013, LaneWatch provides the driver camera feed from the car’s left side on the central screen. The camera is housed on the left wing mirror and is effectively a “live” version of the BLIS blind spot assist lamp popularised by Volvo and common in European cars. It can be activated manually (tip of the lamp stalk) or set to come on automatically together with the left side signal.

I used to think of LaneWatch as gimmicky but after a few days of use, grew to appreciate the extra assistance it rendered. As the central screen is large and close to the driver, attention can still be directed forward when changing lanes. It’s useful, and adds another point to the “ease of use” column.

The design of the fourth-gen CR-V’s dashboard is traditional, and those who are into the sporty flavour of the CX-5 are likely to dismiss it as too old school. However, its cascading and wide layout adds to the impression of space, and the trim improvements/changes introduced for the facelift (leather-like panel with stitch facing the occupants, piano black trim with metallic accents, upgraded AC knobs, dark wood trim in the 2.4L) are successful in raising the ambience to a more upmarket, more Accord-like level.

The way the CR-V drives is familiar, but unique. Familiar because we would have known that it’s a Honda in a blind test. The K-series 2.4 litre makes 190 PS at 7,000 rpm and 222 Nm of torque at 4,400 rpm in this application, and the DOHC i-VTEC motor loves revs like I love Thai food. Low down torque is not its forte, but once you’re into the meaty mid-range, there’s only one way to go – a mad rush towards the 7,000 rpm redline and a similar jolt in speed.

As recently enjoyed in the previous-gen Accord-based Proton Perdana, the K24’s fine mechanical grind is typical of Honda. It’s nice if you, like me, like revvy naturally-aspirated engines; but if we’re being honest, such a character is probably not the best fit for a big SUV or sedan. It almost feels too racy in the CR-V.

A motor with inverse characteristics (strong off the blocks before tapering off) may be less pleasurable to wring out, but it would be more practical in the daily urban grind. When the time comes for it to finally retire, I’ll be very sad to see Honda’s K engine go.

The five-speed automatic is the perfect Robin to the motor’s Batman. The torque converter unit is quick, perceptive enough and does what’s required of it without hesitance. The 2.4L comes with steering paddles, but they’re not really needed – like a good football centre-back partnership, the drivetrain duo cover each other nicely.

That’s the familiar bit. Unique because the CR-V feels peppy where the Mazda’s efficiency-foucsed drivetrain feels occasionally lazy. The X-Trail, with its CVT gearbox, is all about getting to speed effortlessly with minimum noise and fuss. Speaking of noise, while today’s CR-V has better NVH levels than the previous generation of Hondas, it’s still not the most isolated SUV in town. That livewire engine ensures that.

Away from the attention-grabbing drivetrain, the CR-V’s steering is light and easy – a big contrast from the chatty helm of the CX-5 – making it a cinch to navigate in the city. It’s agile enough for what it is, but the tyres sound their warning pretty early on when pushed hard, which CR-V drivers rarely do. The ride is a little more knobbly over poor surfaces than I remember, which could be due to the 2.4L’s 18-inch wheels. Nowhere near uncomfortable, though.

It may be in the final third of its life cycle now, but the CR-V doesn’t look out of place in Honda showrooms, thanks to the Solid Wing Face look last year’s facelift brought. The new mask is a more assertive one, and the C-shaped LED DRLs (standard across the board along with HID headlamps) are distinctive. Equally striking are the shuriken-style dual-tone alloys of the 2.4L, although the 17-inch items on the base model look rather unique, too.

Honda CR-V Facelift Review 2

The CR-V is one of those cars that can blend into your motoring life seamlessly. Despite its age, the Honda’s roominess and versatility are still highlights in the class. It has unusual verve too, this 2.4L 4WD, although experience tells us that the 2.0L will have adequate go and possibly a more cushioned ride from the smaller wheels/thicker rubber.

The big Honda’s ease of use as a family chariot stands out for me, and my wishlist for the next-gen car is: slimmer A pillars for better visibility into corners, and auto brake hold. The latter, which is good help at traffic lights and in jams, should be a given as the function is standard in the HR-V and new Civic.

A true Comfortable Runabout Vehicle, but there’s one more question to answer. The RM138,754 2.0L 2WD is nearly RM30k cheaper than this RM167,620 range-topper – and with the CR-V’s unique selling points not dependent on spec, the entry-level variant could be the pick of the range.

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Danny Tan

Danny Tan loves driving as much as he loves a certain herbal meat soup, and sweet engine music as much as drum beats. He has been in the auto industry since 2006, previously filling the pages of two motoring magazines before joining this website. Enjoys detailing the experience more than the technical details.



  • nabill (Member) on Aug 09, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    The secret is as mentioned… The packaging…. Almost unbeatable in that respect…. And jus as CRV’s competitors, non actually have shining engines….those NA engines are jus barely enough… Barely…. Thats y i think the 2.2 diesel in the cx5 is gonna change alot of ppls mind….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4
    • Zidane on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:29 am

      the new Kia Sorento 2.2 D is top money now.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 7
    • AutoFrenz (the original) on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      People are buying cx5 n xtrail now…crv is so yesterday…and the best part is even rav4 which is not sold in Malaysia is leading in terms of sales compared to crv worldwide…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 8
  • Azril on Aug 09, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    hey guys, you promoted the use of child car seat right. In a segment where it involved a family, should’t you stress the maximum number of occupants allowed in a particular vehicle? maybe you should start your review to include/stress more than just the safety technology stuff that already in the brochure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 7
  • sugarhill on Aug 09, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    But entry level crv oni hv 4 airbags..n they r for the front passenger n driver. What about my kids at d back? A proper family ride shud hv at least 6 airbags n honda shud offer them as standard across d range..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 7
    • Airbags are dangerous to kids on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:01 am

      Haven’t you read about airbags killing kids? Airbags are meant for bigger sized occupants, are dangerous to kids, especially if they are small enough for you to have to put them in the back seats.

      Don’t get caught up by the airbag count. Airbags are passive safety devices, meaning they only help you if you crash. We should pay more attention to active safety measures, meaning they help you prevent crashes in the first place.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 34 Thumb down 14
      • Its not because airbags that kill. That is why the usage of child car sit is important. Active or pasive both is important. The problem is when driver and passenger did “use” it wrongly. Both pasive and active safety need to be use and function within their respective purpose and design.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
    • Hayenadeblue on Mar 12, 2017 at 10:55 am

      Airbag at rear only curtain airbags. These have not kill a person, mind you. I support sugarkill in this matter. Only airbag at the front kills people/hurt children. Honda, pls improve.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • Planta on Aug 09, 2016 at 11:33 pm

    Thanks, we need more reviews of bread and butter cars under RM200k. Better under RM150k. Or under RM100k.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 4
  • Another enjoyable write up from Danny. Love your way with words man, keep it up.

    I disagree with the 2WD as pick of the range though. My argument is that the 2.0 4WD is the one to go for, as it is closely speeced to the range topper and just losing out things like engine size (but saves on road tax), rim size (but 17s are more comfortable and cheaper tyres to replace) and navigation (it is 2016, everyone uses better maps in their smartphones with live traffic info now). If only HM upgrades the touchscreen to incorporate Apple Carplay/Android Auto like in the new Civic, we will be able to enjoy spotify daily too.

    But if ETCM wakes up and offers an X-Trail variant with a 2.0 engine AND 4WD with 6 airbags, then that will be one competitive SUV. And if they offer that coupled with a Hybrid powertrain, I would be standing in front of their showroom waiting for them to open for business with cash in hand to place a booking!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 10
    • Anything But P1, Greedy P2 on Aug 10, 2016 at 12:58 am

      No point because the CRV AWD is a full time front wheel drive and part time AWD when needed. I suggest you the Subaru’s symmetrical full time AWD where it saves fuel by giving traction to four wheels when planting to power to the ground on everyday city use. I got close to 600km from one tank in the Subaru XV. Consider the $120k Forester if you want more space and more airbags. I agree that the CRV has the best interior in its class!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 5
      • I bought a Subaru XV for my wife. So yes I know all about XV ownership and no doubt the handling is the best for this class of SUVs but interior styling, space and external design and features is not in its favour. The facelifted Forester is much better I agree, but even in the XV the engine and transmission combo is not so great and I wished for a turbo for more grunt then, thus the Forester XT would be the natural pick but its crazy expensive.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
    • littlefire on Aug 10, 2016 at 6:19 am

      For base 2.0L SUV segment, Subaru recently already hit the spot by offering 7 airbags and AWD as standard… With all the discount given in, you can get it from RM120k~140k depending on spec. trim.. :D

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 3
    • camtakpro on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Still waiting for real hybrid/petrol SUV.
      A 4wd 2.5L hybrid SUV extended from Camry platform, why not?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
    • The 4WD 2.0 is so underpowered. Even 2WD version also lack of power, make 4WD even more transmission loss and high fuel consumption.
      For me , i think the Civic’s 1.5 Turbo engine and the CVT gearbox should be plonked in this CRV. Cheap roadtax , better low end torque for a heavy car and a smooth transmission.
      X-trail is CKD by Tan Chong. It’s build quality is horrible. 4 months old car, already so much rattling sound. If you sit in the middle row, its so uncomfortable as the body roll of the car is so bad. The first generation X-trail is so much better.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • The 2.0 2WD has better acceleration which is vital to safely exit a junction, join a roundabout and merge with expressway. It is actually pretty well-equipped for a base model. Would be better if Honda equip it with better safety suite (6 airbags) and provide OEM options such as leather upholstery instead of bodykits.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • Sitting outside my driveway parks a base spec CRV for the past 4 months, with the FWD 2.0l R20 engine. This one used exclusively by my parents as age advances calls for a higher car with more space and practicality.

    I’ll start with a few bits I dislike about the base spec that may affect people on this end of the market. The lack of front parking sensor is one, In a car this huge(in relativity to the cars I’ve driven), you’re purely relying on intuition and the reflection of its LED lights for judgement and it can be sometimes unnerving finding where your front passenger-side bumper actually is since its probably in the next postcode. The lack of curtain airbag will put off many, and I think is the defining weak link in Honda’s lineup since they have been prograssively standardising 6 airbags. Than there’s the power, or lack thereof. The R20 is not something you could call upon overtaking in uphill stretches with confidence, it takes judgement, planning and strategic manuever to commence a overtake uphill. And than there’s styling, the facelift brought the CRV very much upmarket in the segment and in a darker colour, there’s a shade of continental finness to it, but the rear hump really ruins the line and makes it the hunchback of NotreC-segment SUV with a Tom Hiddleston smily face.

    But to the point I love about the CRV. Like the writer states in his high spec 2.4 4WD, the Comfortable Roundabout Vehicle is as stated, very damn easy to live with and especially if you have family. This is when I was cross shopping with the potential of the CX-5(than in pre facelift from) and the interior space and rear bench really makes it feel claustrophobic in comparison to the cathedral that is the CRV; the Windows may play a role too, visibility out of the CRV is excellent with the exception of motorcyclist that may lurk on the passenger side C-pillar, the excellent visibility aided by large door mirrors. The CX-5 back than had, in my opinion, a very dated interior, the CRV usage of more slope dash design and split air vents for me felt a lot more futuristic. The CRV is absolutely littered with cubby space to keep family user happy.

    The R20 engine feels lethargic I’m comparison to Mazdas and nissans offering. Thou the 5 speed which some suggest is inadequate, does the job pretty well, the lack of torque to propel the 1.5 tonnes of Honda uphill becomes a problem in higher speeds as peak torque is hidden in the upper stratosphere of the Rev. But in daily driving, is more than adequate for the job. It’s steering is no skyactive, being slightly light to my comfort, but light enogh that scooting about PJ old town small street is actually a breeze once you grasp the dimension of the car. The brakes also acts with confidence. Stability at high speed is limited by engine rather than body integrity, the car feels reasonably planted even on the Karak highway that you can confidently put it into a corner slightly past 3 digit speed, only limited by the engines grunt on the uphill stretch. It’s no CX5, but will handle the duty of a family roundabout far better. What suprise me most is NVH, noise does become an issue if you paddle it past 130, but normally, I’m actually suprise on how quiet it is for a Honda, whoes cars usually mean a pin drop outside can be heard from inside.

    Than there’s spec, missing dearly are front parking sensors and side airbags but somewhat makeup for its standard suit of everything else, HID lamps, DRL, dual-zone climate and that magic show of a rear seat folding(can’t get enough of how trick that feels). The infotainment on my particular CRV is upgraded with dealer installed navi, but normally the 2-din setup should be adequate for most aunties in their pasar trip.

    All in all, I love the CRV as a family car, offering comfort for the passenger, and ease of mind for the driver. something which I find the competition missing. It strikes a balance between the sporty and emotional CX5 while avoiding the snooze feast of an interior of the X-trail. The engine and arse may starting to show its age, but that dosent degrade on what a hell of a easy to live with car the CRV is for people with a grown up family, and I think it really lives up to its name, a comfortable runabout vehicle.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 44 Thumb down 5
    • FIST (Member) on Aug 10, 2016 at 10:27 am

      thanks for the great user insight. but how about the fuel consumption…?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
      • Is actually abit better than I expected. I haven’t done a detail calculation, but trip computer gives me average of 11km/l. But a RM80 full tank takes me about 500km, and I’m not known to have a light foot

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
    • QChan on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:44 am

      Runabout – dear AVH. Peace :)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2
      • Ahh I changed the last sentence but not the first.
        Noted with thanks

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
    • Sam "Hailat" Loo on Aug 10, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      I heard from many people that the CRV rear bench is uncomfortable on long trips because of the missing reclining feature. Is that true…?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3
      • Rear bench reclines abit, not as much as I like but is a fall miles better than the seats of the CX-5, which I find way to upright. Also the rear bench gets air vents. But for outright comfort, I find the Nissan’s seat to be better suited for longer journey b

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2
      • DPCraft on Aug 10, 2016 at 3:08 pm

        The rear bench can be reclined just a bit, but it feels much better after doing so. And it is quite comfortable during long trips.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  • The 3rd gen 2.0 4wd still beat the 4th gen 2.4 4wd hands down. In terms of practicality and nvh. The 4th gen loses the space between driver and co driver, loses hand rests for front passengers , boot space partition board missing which is very very handy to store things and open/ close the boot space door very very difficult /hard due to poor engineering?. The previous gen did everything right in these areas. 4th gen drives wobbly and road noise is loud. 3rd gen drives very very sedated and quite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3
  • Laurie K Gilbert on Aug 10, 2016 at 11:43 am

    This car would be top of my list early next year when I change and upgrade from the Citroen C4 Grande – except for one critical reason. If Honda Malaysia are still selling new cars with Takata Airbags that kill Malaysians I will walk away from the Honda brand and never return. My Citroen does NOT have airbags made by Takata and if Honda Malaysia really cared about PASSENGER SAFETY they would remove this blight from their corporate image and organise to buy airbags from elsewhere. Honda Malaysia are you listening?? Offer me a CRV with airbags from a company who does NOT have a heritage of killing Honda passengers around the world and I will order one from you almost immediately.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2
  • I am looking for SUV and test drove all the latest SUV including CX5, Nissan X-trail, Hyundai Tucson, Kia sportage, CRV.

    In term of pick up/acceleration, CRV is the worst among all.

    My choice will be Nissan or Hyundai/kia with best pick-up and spacious interior.

    Conclusion, Nissan X-trail will be the best among all with lower fuel consumption with CVT and plus 2 extra small seats.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 6
    • Honda Fan on Aug 10, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Unfortunately you have missed out one in your list SUV to test drive, the Subaru Forester. I challenge you to test drive it first and then go for the rest and tell us which one your prefer. Purely from the outlook and the brand, I will not even shortlist the Forester. But after test drive, I said take my money now.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1
    • Jchong on Aug 10, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Perhaps you should visit Nissan X-Trail T32 Malaysia Club facebook page before making a conclusion.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
    • are sure ar? i test drove xtrail 2.5, the pick up was so disappointed…and the 2 extra small seats can’t even fit my 3 & 6 years old kid’s legs…so what is what?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • Still Junk.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6
  • Too bad all the mentioned suvs have cvt gear boxes. Except Honda crv still conventional gear box. So it is more reliable and solid in the long run.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  • Haha, Ask the Subaru to improve the external look design before asking for a test drive.

    Exterior look is important when you buy a car. You just cannot accept the box design with ugly head.

    Give free also need to consider.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 9

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