We’re getting used to manufacturers extracting more from less, and in a way the updated, 2016 Honda CR-V DTi-L is a prime example of that theory.
With a smaller (a significant 600cc smaller no less) turbo-diesel engine than before, you’d expect less power, but you actually get more, albeit the same torque figure. This DTi-L is a limited edition variant too, something the mainstream manufacturers don’t do all that often these days.
Read our initial news and pricing story on the updated Honda CR-V DTi-L here.
As tested here, the Honda CR-V DTi-L costs $44,290 plus the usual dealer and on-road costs.
The oddly named ‘Earth Dreams’ technology means you get 118kW from 1.6 litres against the old 2.2-litre’s 110kW, and the same 350Nm in the torque department. Impressively, the new smaller diesel engine has an ADR claim that drops from 6.9 litres per 100km to 5.9L/100km.
The result is a quiet, refined but still snappy turbo-diesel engine that is genuinely engaging to drive. Has Honda rediscovered some of its lost mojo? Can Honda use this engine in F1? It would be more reliable than the current powerplant almost certainly, if a little underpowered.
This medium SUV segment is the crossover point where a turbo-diesel engine – especially if you cover a lot of kilometres annually – makes real sense. It’s not just about real world fuel economy either. An SUV of this size with a diesel engine is usually more enjoyable to drive, especially at lower speeds around town, where the CR-V will see much of its work as the family taxi.
The aforementioned Earth Dreams engine is impressively quiet and refined right from start up. You’d hardly pick it as a diesel from the minute you press the start button, and even less so once it settles into a smooth idle. It’s responsive, with the torque coming into play just off idle.
The other big news here is the new nine-speed automatic gearbox, which is a revelation. It’s crisp under any load and the shifts are as imperceptible as you can get regardless of road speed.
When the engine does rev out to redline, it does so smoothly, and roll-on acceleration on the freeway is another strong point. While the torque kicks in nice and low in the rev range, it continues to surge through the mid point of that rev range, meaning you’re never left wanting when you need to dart from 60 or 80km/h up to 100 or 110km/h.
We liked ‘Sport’ mode, which seemed to simply be a calibration change for the transmission. Selecting Sport mode sharpened the shifts up and also kept the engine spinning to redline. In short, it made an impressive driving experience better, rather than detracting.
‘Eco’ mode was a strange one. It turned the gauge cluster green and softened up the throttle. Behave yourself and the gauges stay green, be a little naughty with the throttle and the green disappears. I suppose if you’re someone who chases the lowest fuel usage number you can possibly get it might be fun, but for us it wasn’t.
On the subject of fuel usage, the official ADR quote is 5.9L/100km. When we collected the CR-V we headed out into some lovely Sydney traffic – so heavy that we covered approximately 13km in well over an hour. At that point, the average fuel figure was sitting on 10.5L/100km, but keep in mind we were sitting idling in traffic for long periods.
The next morning following a 50km freeway run between 80-110km/h, that figure had dropped to 7.5L/100km. The return 50km run saw the figure drop even lower to 6.8L/100km.
After a day of running round town as part of our photoshoot, the figure was back into the mid sevens, which is what you’d expect as a genuine figure – certainly until the engine is properly run in. Our test CR-V only just ticked over 1000km during our tenure, so it was pretty fresh.
The ride is mostly comfortable and composed, but it can be a little firm over repeated corrugations. Under any other circumstance, the CR-V is as close to perfect for this segment as you can get. We fired it at some sharp speed humps at 40 and 50km/h and it dealt with them effortlessly. It also settled quickly when disturbed by a nastier bump, with no pogo-ing or bouncing through the chassis.
Quality Michelin tyres added to the overall driving experience, with the combination of AWD grip, precision and lack of noise, something we appreciated. The handling and braking proved assured, and you’d have to drive the CR-V a lot faster than any owner will to unsettle it.
The steering, which was a little heavier than the Hyundai Tucson we tested at the same time, is nonetheless beautifully matched to around town, low-speed running. It’s a vital cog in the wheel that makes the CR-V so easy to use in the environment for which it’s intended.
Visual changes are few, and the CR-V remains a stylish and classy SUV from the outside looking in. Importantly, the exterior styling hasn’t compromised the view out from the driver’s seat. The low waistline, expansive glasshouse and thin pillars mean you get a broad view from behind the wheel.
The swooping bonnet allows you to position the CR-V easily into forward-facing parking spaces as well. Reverse parking is enhanced by strong rearward visibility too, something that isn’t always the case with swooping rooflines and diminishing glass areas at the rear of modern vehicles.
To look at, the front seats seem a little flat, but they are properly comfortable once you’re seated. The absence of a highly sculpted side bolster makes getting in and out a cinch, and you never slide around them when you’re on the move. They are heated, which will be a bonus in winter, but you don’t get cooling, which is a shame given some of the competitors do have that feature.
The leather trim feels quite premium and in typical Honda fashion, the carpets have an expensive look and feel about them as well. The very cool Japanese-spec floor mats are the only option fitted to our test model and will appease the JDM fans.
We appreciated the design and layout of the dash area. In a button-heavy environment, where some manufacturers are determined to plug away with the 'more is more' philosophy, Honda has delivered a stylish, understated control centre. Ergonomically, all the controls are sensibly placed and laid out. The central gauge cluster and 7.0-inch touchscreen are both clear and easy to see from any angle. Overall, the interior feels premium, but it’s also quiet and insulated right up to highway speeds, even over stretches of coarse-chip bitumen.
It’s not all roses though, with some shiny, harsh plastic surfaces that detract from the overall experience. It’s only those few items that hold the CR-V back from delivering on a genuinely premium interior and they don’t quite match the rest of the interior finish. Truth be told though, buyers probably won’t care a jot.
Still on the interior, the floor height seems high, certainly compared to the Hyundai Tucson we drove back-to-back for our comparison test. What that means is the position of your feet relative to the seat base is different to what we’re used to in a medium SUV. The seating position is great though, and delivered adjustability to suit various drivers in the CarAdvice office. The driver’s pew is electrically adjustable, while the front passenger gets only manual adjustment.
Strangely, given the inclusions as standard and Honda’s predilection for technology in general, the second row seats get no power sockets or USB inputs. There are second row vents for the HVAC though and there’s room for adults back there, even with long-legged occupants in the front row.
A key selling point in the CR-V has always been its cargo space, which is an excellent 556 litres expanding to 1648L with the rear row folded flat. And by flat, we mean flat, given Honda's outstanding one-touch Magic Seats feature.
We scored the current CR-V in petrol form a 7.5 overall, and this diesel variant pushes it up to an 8. It’s a great all-rounder, comfortable and practical with room aplenty. It looks stylish too, which means your family SUV doesn’t have to be bland for the sake of it. This segment is increasingly competitive and increasingly impressive too, but Honda has ensured that it now has a combatant that deserves buyer’s consideration.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Christian Barbeitos