Saturday 24 February 2018

Cars: A lesson in the gym reflected on the road

CR-V's 1.6 litre engine packs a punch

Punch: Honda CRV's 1.6 litre engine
Punch: Honda CRV's 1.6 litre engine
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

IT was a powerful gym lesson. There was a big man and a small, blocky fellow lifting what appeared to me to be similar, punitive, weights. The big lad was grunting like a scrum going backwards; the little lad puffed his cheeks and lifted.

I couldn't help but notice the competitive edge as I breathlessly sipped water between my pitiful attempts to jog on a treadmill at two miles a fortnight.

After a couple of failed lifts, the big lad emitted a roar of frustration and disdainfully took himself to a quiet corner to mutter. The little lad puffed his cheeks and lifted again.

It was a more-than-timely example of small beating large because outside I had the new, smaller, 1.6-litre diesel in Honda's all-wheel-drive (AWD) version of the CR-V crossover. Smaller by some margin, it should be said, because it used to be powered by a 2.2-litre diesel.

However, it would still be reasonable to assume some fall-off in power or pace from the 1.6-litre. No, like the little lad in the gym, this 1.6-litre is more powerful (a resourceful 160bhp) than the 2.2-litre.

And it gets by on a lot less fuel (from 4.9litres/100km/55.4mpg). That's a potential saving of €1 in every €5. Not the way I drove it, I'm afraid, but if you give it half a chance that engine can greatly improve your capacity to save money on diesel.

There is more. This little brother CR-V version now costs up to €4,500 less than its big brother because the reduced fuel usage means lower emissions. And that drops it into lower road and Vehicle Registration tax bands.

You also get the benefit of the additional traction from all-wheel-drive (AWD) - people love it for its grip and security.

So it's all good news then? Well, yes. And no. Yes, because in addition to the major new elements outlined, they have also improved the cabin, increased front and rear track for better handling/stability and generally spruced up this popular crossover.

I found it noticeably quieter- they've dampened intrusive road/engine noise and say they've improved the steering and suspension. Standard equipment levels are upped too.

On the downside, and despite improvements, I felt there was a vacuum between the low-dash mounted gear lever (great positioning) and the central arm rest. It is a 'lost' area which looks awful even if it is supposed to be a cupholder-cum-handy slot.

And I'm not sure about the improvements to the suspension and steering. I'd like a tauter feel. But that is my taste - and it is not a universal one.

The new infotainment system is okay - no more. I found it a bit clunky and counter intuitive and some items took too long to sort out.

I loved the seats but the lumbar support is just a two-way 'in and out' - I'd have preferred an 'up and down' as well so I could pinpoint where I wanted the backup (forgive pun).

It is always good to get back into a car I haven't driven for a while. The CR-V was a lot roomier than I'd recalled; plenty of space across the second row. I think the boot is one of the more usefully spacious because there are no impediments or high sills.

Engine apart, the key thing in my test was the all-wheel-drive. I can see AWD becoming widespread not just on the likes of crossovers but increasingly on mid-size saloons over the next decade.

I never sensed I needed it but that's the thing with such systems; they react and intervene so quickly you don't notice - and your drive is all the safer as a result.

Little things are, in many ways, becoming the deciding factors these days, in not alone choice of marque but of individual model.

The 1.6-litre diesel in the CR-V is a good example of how someone could be persuaded to buy a vehicle they might well have otherwise ruled out because of engine size. But as my gym interlude proved, size is no longer a gauge of power in man or machine.

Facts & Figures

Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC all-wheel-drive diesel, 160bhp, 6spd manual, €270/€280 road tax. Price €44,495. 'Sensing' option (adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, lane assist) adds €1,890. CR-V prices start: €31,995, delivery/related charges extra.

Core equipment on tested EX version: leather upholstery, 4WD, infotainment system/sat nav/7ins touchscreen, safety pack, electric tailgate, panoramic glass roof, cornering lights, 18ins alloys, rear-view camera, dual-zone climate control, front fogs, automatic wipers/lights, trailer stability assist, stop/start.

My side of the road

She'd been waiting longer than me for a parking slot nearer the supermarket and sat tensely awaiting movement. A car began to emerge from a space just behind her. She slowly reversed to avail of the space. Only she couldn't. Because a middle-aged man in his newly-arrived posh car aggressively refused to yield. He honked and gesticulated. She relented. I told the bully she had been there before both of us. I'll leave his venomous reply to your imagination. I'm seeing more of this 'parking rage'. Are you?

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