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Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC 2WD – Driven and Reviewed

Paris Motor Show

New Honda CR-V at Paris Motor ShowThese are certainly exciting times for Honda. The Paris motor show was something of a showcase for the Japanese goliaths as not only were new models and face-lifts presented to The World, but we saw the reemergence of what’s undoubtedly the most exciting letter in the Honda alphabet – ‘R‘.

Back to the slightly more humdrum aspects of the Honda range, the hugely popular CR-V was thrust back into the limelight with a subtle facelift and the industry standard light upgrade. Perhaps more importantly though, it was announced that the 2.2l Diesel engine is to be mothballed and the 4WD model will adopt a more powerful version (160PS, 350Nm) of Honda’s 1.6l unit.

Earth Dreams Technology

Honda_CRV_1.6_2WD_WhiteWhat we have on test here is the 2WD CR-V, equipped with the same Earth Dreams Technology 1.6l Diesel, producing 120PS and 300Nm. We’ve been big fans of the CR-V here at Driving Torque since it’s launch;  it just does everything well, without making a song and dance about it. We’ve also made no secret of the fact that their 1.6l Diesel unit is a fabulous piece of kit; when we tested a Civic with it under the bonnet, we harboured strong suspicions that it may be moonlighting as a Diesel production plant – the fuel gauge stubbornly refused to move.

So, what happens when you put the two elements together? Do they compliment each other and work in perfect harmony? Or is it the automotive equivalent of garnishing roast beef with custard – two perfectly good ingredients that should never, ever meet.

Well – it’s good news! I can’t comment on the gastronomical qualities of substituting mustard for custard, but Honda seem to have come across another winning combination with this engine in this SUV.

Anyone unfamiliar with the CR-V can read my full review here; http://wp.me/pVgih-pn. In a nutshell, it’s a practical, beautifully built, mid-sized SUV that feels a cut above the competition in terms of quality, even if it doesn’t set the world alight in terms of tyre-screeching, face-melding performance.

Does it work with smaller Diesel unit?

Honda_CRV_white_sideThe oil-burner under the bonnet really is something to write home about though. I was a little concerned that it may not have the low-down grunt to adapt to life in the CR-V, due to the car’s extra weight and loss of aerodynamics. There’s currently no auto ‘box option with this engine, and a lack of torque could easily have resulted in an over-worked clutch pedal – a tired left leg soon gets boring and that would really have put a blot on this CR-V’s copybook. These fears were thankfully completely unfounded though; yes, you can detect a slight lack of oomph compared to the outgoing 2.2l Diesel, to deny that would be folly, but it’s undoubtedly more refined than its big brother, and the drop in performance doesn’t detract from the whole experience enough to warrant a mention.

Another big plus with the 1.6l is the slight loss of weight in the nose department compared to the 2.2l. No, it doesn’t turn the CR-V into a Nurburgring attacking monster, but it is more keen to turn in when asked to, just don’t expect tons of feedback from the slightly over-assisted steering.

Honda_CRV_white_rearHonda are obviously quite proud of their Earth Dreams project, and with good reason. This 1.6l unit isn’t just pretty good, it’s genuinely one of the best Diesel engines available today. Next year it’ll be tuned up and asked to power the full-fat 4WD CR-V, but if you don’t want or need all of the wheels to be driven, this slightly milder version comes in 2WD already, and it’s more than up to the task.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda CR-V 1.6l i-DTEC SR, Transmission – Manual, Layout – Front engine, Fwd, Power – 120PS, Torque – 300Nm, Emissions – 124g/km CO2, Economy – 60.1 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 113mph, Acceleration – 11.2s 0-62mph, Price – £27,315 OTR

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Nissan X-Trail Xtronic 2WD – Driven and Reviewed

new_nissan_x-trail_greyAs cars progress from generation to generation, there’s usually a theme or a certain look that’s carried over from the previous model – it helps with identification and establishes a feeling of a legacy being continued. Not so – the new X-Trail. It’s undeniably a Nissan – similarities to the Qashqai and the Juke are many, but put this all-new model next to the last gen X-Trail, and you’d be hard pressed to spot the lineage.

new_nissan_x-trail_grey_sideThis is without doubt a wise decision. Nissan have moved the X-Trail’s looks out of the realms of  ‘anonymous box’, and thrust it into the limelight with some edgy, swoopy lines and shapes that scream ‘look at me!’ Not least of which being that shoulder line that drops down below the door mirror and then lifts dramatically to form the top of the front wheel arch, giving the impression that everything forward of the windscreen rises up in a quasi power-bulge fashion.

New_Nissan_X-Trail_Grey_noseThe ‘hawk-eye’ lights that some Nissans have adopted give a real look of attitude and purpose, although, from the front at least, it is quite difficult to tell the X-Trail apart from the hugely successful Qashqai. It’s a different story inside the X-Trail though. As every element is new on this model, the wheelbase is nearly 8cm longer than the outgoing X-Trail, and you can tell. For £700, you can add a third row of seats that sprout from the boot floor which, when combined with some very clever theatre-style seating in the rest of the car, is an option you’d be mad to omit.

new_nissan_x-trail_cabinThe rest of the cabin has some pretty effects here and there, and anyone familiar with previous X-Trail generations will be pleased to see the continuing presence of the cooled cup-holders for when you want to keep a can chilled. Our ‘Tekna’ test car represents the top of the New X-Trail range and it really is a tour-de-force of just what Nissan can do with electronic devices to make a car’s cabin a more pleasant and user-friendly environment. There’s the usual stuff we’ve come to take for granted these days, like auto lights and wipers and front and rear parking sensors, but then there’s a couple of toys that go somewhat beyond what you might expect in a Nissan SUV. Not least of which is what Nissan call a ‘360° Around View Monitor’ – roughly translated, this is a clever use of cameras which gives you a bird’s-eye view of the car when performing manoeuvres. Admittedly – it takes a little bit of getting used to at first, but once you’ve gotten over the initial ‘wow’ factor, I found it to be quite a handy tool.

Nissan's very clever bird's eye view parking approach

Nissan’s very clever bird’s eye view approach to parking

I don’t normally get animated at the size of a car’s turning circle but the X-Trail’s is surprisingly small, especially considering the size and nature of the vehicle. The X-Trail has been engineered to be a lot easier to ‘throw around’ than you might expect, with U-turns in relatively tight roads presenting no problems. When coupled with the parking aides mentioned above, the X-Trail is very easy to live with around town and prospective buyers shouldn’t be daunted in the slightest by its apparent dimensions.

New_Nissan_X-Trail_bootEngine choice in the New X-Trail is pretty easy as there’s currently only one available – a 130PS Diesel. It’s a tad rattly until it warms up if I’m honest, but once things settle down there’s very little intrusion of noise into the cabin, even at motorway speeds. There’s more choice in the drivetrain department though – you can opt for either 4WD or 2WD – I’m guessing the latter will be most popular – and if you do opt for 2WD, there’s also a choice of a manual ‘box or what Nissan call ‘Xtronic’; it’s a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) system which works by constantly adapting its gear ratios to suit the situation, but to all intents and purposes, looks and behaves like a traditional automatic ‘box. Opt for the 4WD though, and a manual ‘box is all that’s available.

new_nissan_x-trail_seven_seatsOur 2WD X-Trail is equipped with the Xtronic gearbox and it all works together very well. Things have come a long way since the idea of CVT became mainstream over a decade ago, and Nissan’s system is smooth and jolt-free, just as it was designed to be. My only grumble would possibly be that it can be a touch uncertain at times, and its constant hunt for the perfect ratio gets a little irritating when that search is ultimately fruitless.

new_nissan_x-trail_rear_greyIf you’re considering opting for a 4WD X-Trail for its superior on-road handling characteristics, it’s worth knowing that every single model in the range comes with Nissan’s Chassis Control system. The system monitors the car’s ride and handling and uses a combination of engine braking, automatic individual wheel braking and torque adjustment to correct things if they go slightly awry. Unlike some driver aids, you can really feel the Chassis Control working, especially as it navigates the car through wet or slippery bends. It can feel slightly strange at first but it’s a system that definitely improves the driving experience and, unless you plan on some ‘proper’ off -roading or towing, ultimately negates the 4WD model, especially as each element of the aid can be switched off individually if you desire.

new_nissan_x-trail_grey_front_3/4Nissan have established a fairly tight grip on certain segments of the SUV market in recent times, and even invented a whole new segment with the Juke. The X-Trail has always sold well but the previous generation was looking very dated. With its striking new looks and advances in the technology department, this latest X-Trail could quite easily prove another winner for Nissan.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Nissan X-Trail Tekna, Engine – 1.6l Diesel, Transmission – Xtronic CVT, Layout – Front Engine, FWD, Power – 130PS, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 11.4s, Maximum Speed – 112mph, Torque – 320Nm, Economy – 55.4mpg combined, Emissions – 135g/km CO2, Price – £30,645 OTR, £31,895 as tested

New Honda CR-V – First Drive

2013 Honda CRV front side

Honda’s New CR-V

Let there be no confusion at all here regarding the importance of this new CR-V to Honda. If you are under any illusion, just count how many of them you see on your next car journey, they really are everywhere. Since it’s launch in 1995, its accumulated sales of over 5 million, over 3 generations and, being a Honda, most of them are still on the road today.

Having won over 140 awards worldwide during it’s career, one could say that this 4th gen CR-V is under a certain amount of pressure to perform and, from the offset, it seems to handle it very capably. A reduction in CO2 emissions of 12% across the range is always a good place to start these days and, although it may not set the pulse racing, it’s this fact that will probably prove to be a huge attraction to many potential buyers. The fact that the CR-V continues to be assembled right here on home soil, as it has since 2000, can only add to it’s pulling power as it adds a sense of patriotism to the mix, albeit with a Japanese twist.

The CR-V is offered with the familiar 2.2 i-DTEC Diesel and 2.0 i-VTEC petrol engines from launch but by providing stop-start technology, engine optimisation and coupling them to a choice of five-speed auto or the excellent six speed manual ‘box, emissions have been cut to a potential 149g/km and 168g/km respectively.

Honda CR-V 3 gens

The CR-V through the ages

One feature that’s available for the first time on the CR-V is permanent 2wd which historically has proven to be very popular on ‘soft roaders’ in this country. It’s only available on the petrol engined variant from launch which is somewhat surprising but if the demand was sufficient for the 2wd to be mated to the torquey 2.2 Diesel, surely this model could come into fruition?

Visually, this 4th gen model is full of clean angles and lines. The most prominent of which is the line starting at the front three-bar grille, following the headlights, running smoothly with the belt-line and rising to a point at the D-pillar before joining the roof line. Losing the ‘lantern-jaw with moustache’ look of the 3rd gen CR-V has resulted in a far prettier face and overall, it’s a combination of ruggedness and charm that’s fresh and appealing.

2013 Honda CR-V interior

CR-V interior – well thought out and attractive

The story continues on the inside of the car with much work obviously undertaken to keep the CR-V feeling innovative and modern. Everything is thoughtfully laid out and within easy reach, with ‘less is more’ being the order of the day. Honda have kept the switch-gear to a minimum which cleverly sidesteps that sensation of being overwhelmed by buttons. One button that is hugely enticing is the ‘Eco’ mode – it not only activates the essential ‘stop-start’ facility, but illuminates two boomerang shaped lights around the centrally positioned speedometer. I had pondered initially whether these lights would prove too ‘nanny state’ and result in my rapidly deactivating ‘Eco’ mode but far from it. I actually found the lights quite attractive and the game of keeping revs low and green lights lit is surprisingly addictive.

Honda CR-V eco lights

It’s actually pretty easy, being green

The interior quality is usual Honda fare but one huge improvement is the grade of material used. If leather seats are your thing, there’s no, near-ruched, cow-hide present anymore, it’s high-grade all the way. Visibility is excellent as you’d expect from a car with such a large glasshouse, the D-pillar is quite wide but the oversized nature of the door mirrors seems to combat this issue.

Space in the rear of the CR-V is excellent and it passed the ‘six-footer behind six-footer’ challenge with flying colours – at no point did I feel cramped when I sat behind my own driver’s seat. The relatively low belt-line would mean any children travelling in the rear should have a great view of outside and thus hopefully avoid any feelings of travel-sickness. The story continues in the boot of the CR-V where it’s actually class leading with a 589 litre capacity, easily beating the likes of Toyota‘s Rav4 and Volvo’s XC60.

With prices starting at £21,395 for the 2wd i-VTEC S model and rising to £32,650 for the range topping i-DTEC EX auto, we tested three models in varying guises and specs to gain a true perspective of the CR-V.

Honda are confident that petrol engines remain relevant in SUVs, a fact compounded by their reluctance to offer 2wd as an option on their Diesel variant. If petrol is resolutely your fuel of choice, the free-revving 2.0 i-VTEC on offer here does very little wrong. It’s smooth, quiet and will potentially propel its occupants from 0-62mph in just ten seconds. One area where the petrol engine does suffer is an apparent lack of torque and I found myself having to work the manual gearbox quite vigorously to maintain momentum. This can of course be avoided by opting for an automatic ‘box on 4wd variants. Doing this however, will not only make the CR-V more sluggish, but the economy, emissions and driving experience as a whole suffer to a point where the petrol engine is increasingly difficult to justify

2013 Honda CR-V frontHaving driven both, the 2.2 Diesel engine would undoubtedly by my engine of choice. Although only available as 4wd, the emissions and economy are still impressive and with the latest generation of Honda Diesel engines proving to be nearly as quiet and responsive as their petrols, it all just makes sense. The absence of Diesel rattle both in and outside the CR-V is almost eery, this coupled to some useful low-down grunt means the CR-V suits the i-DTEC engine perfectly.

If changing gear oneself isn’t your preference and you usually require an auto, I’d still give the manual a chance to shine before making a final decision. The automatic can feel lazy and sluggish in comparison and somehow doesn’t do justice to the rest of the mechanical components. When the 2.2 Diesel engine offers such impressive levels of torque, changing gear to suit a situation sometimes just isn’t required and the car will pull on through regardless.

Honda have evidently put a lot of effort into the ride quality of the new CR-V in order to achieve a more car-like quality from an SUV. They’ve utilised McPherson struts on the front and on the rear it’s multi-link suspension. I tested the ride on a particularly challenging stretch of road that runs the length of Loch Long near Glasgow. It incorporates rapid changes in camber, direction and height – oh, and it was raining too. The CR-V felt surefooted at all times, inspiring confidence. No, it’s not going to get from point to point as rapidly as, say, an Impreza but then, no-one ever said it was.  To eliminate body roll as well as Honda have here whilst maintaining comfort is quite admirable.

2013 Honda CR-V

2013 Honda CR-V

When considering which spec to kit your CR-V out in, there are four levels to choose from – S, SE, SR and EX, with EX representing the top of the range. With features such as dual zone climate control and vehicle stability assist provided as standard across the range, there really isn’t a requirement to overspend here. As pleasant as heated, electric leather seats can be, I found the SE spec to be the perfect compromise of kit versus cost, especially when any higher spec incorporates upgrading from 17” to 18” wheels. Doesn’t sound like much, I know but I felt that that extra inch had a negative effect on an otherwise compliant ride.

Overall, I’d say that this 4th gen CR-V represents a huge step forward for Honda in terms of desirability that should continue the model’s enduring popularity. If you’re in the market for an SUV but find Toyota’s new Rav4 anonymous and the Freelander’s reputation for unreliability worrying, the CR-V ticks many, many boxes.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; 2.0l i-VTEC S, Layout – Front engine, fwd, Power – 155ps @ 6500rpm, Torque – 192Nm @ 4300rpm, Emissions – 168g/km CO2, Economy – 39.2mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 10.0s 0-62mph, Price – £21,395 OTR

2.0l i-VTEC EX, Transmission –  manual, Layout – Front Engine, 4wd, Power – 155ps @ 6500rpm, Torque – 192Nm @ 5300rpm, Emissions – 177g/km CO2, Economy – 37.2 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 10.2s 0-62mph, Price – £28,900 OTR

OUR CHOICE  2.2l i-DTEC SE, Transmission – manual, Layout – 4wd, Power – 150ps @ 4000rpm, Torque – 350Nm @ 2000rpm, Emissions – 149g/km CO2, Economy – 50.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 9.7s 0-62mph, Price – £26,105 OTR

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