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Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough?

Arvind · Dec 5, 2023 09:00 AM

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 01

Catchy marketing taglines, more often than not, serve to create hype and bravado about a car but are rarely precise in the grand scheme of things.

Brochure taglines will convince you that a car is exclusive when it flies off showroom floors, that it's powerful when the car has just enough to climb hills, or that it’s sporty and dynamic… when all it has is more plastic bits! And if nothing else works, manufacturers can always polish and rehash the ‘ol lifestyle mantra.

Also read: All-new 2023 Honda CR-V: Dec launch, now with 2.0L hybrid, bookings open in Malaysia

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Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 01

However, the upcoming 2023 Honda CR-V tagline consists of just four words: “The SUV Is Here”. In my opinion, no tagline has promised so much, whilst saying so little. But in truth… it’s apt and precise, the Honda CR-V has always been the one-size-fits-all family SUV, and it's safe to say you can never go wrong with buying one.

But in calling it “The SUV”, does it blow the doors clean off the competition, having driven the 2023 CR-V in Thailand, we find out. Let’s get into it.

Overview

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 02

Well, it’s been coming for a while, following its North American debut in July 2022. With launches complete in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia will soon receive the 2023 6th-generation Honda CR-V which now takes on bolder styling, and for the first time will offer a powerful (and stylish) hybrid e:HEV RS variant to jazz up proceedings.

Just like our ASEAN neighbours, the Malaysian-spec CR-V will be offered with two engine choices – a turbocharged 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo engine (193 PS / 243 Nm) and for the first time, the CR-V receives the 2.0-litre dual motor i-MMD petrol-electric hybrid (combined 184 PS / 335 Nm) powertrain.

Also read: After Thailand and Indonesia, Philippines next to launch 2023 Honda CR-V; Prices up by 13 percent

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 03

2023 Honda CR-V 1.5L VTEC Turbo powertrain

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 04

2023 Honda CR-V 2.0L e:HEV two-motor full hybrid powertrain

The 1.5L VTEC Turbo variants retain the same CVT-type automatic transmission as before but with tweaks for improved throttle response, more refinement and better fuel economy. We also know at least one of the Turbo variants will be offered with Honda's new Real Time AWD system.

Other highlight features include the improved Honda Sensing suite which receives an updated wide-angle radar, camera, and sonar sensor for better road detection and the new Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB) which serves to reduce headlight glare at night for oncoming vehicles.

Also read: 72% of Indo Honda CR-V buyers chose the hybrid variant even if it's the most expensive

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 05

For brevity, we'll be covering the 2023 CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo (1.5T) here. We drove the AWD version exclusively. Thus, note there will be differences in features compared to the variants the Malaysian market will receive – but for now, it's a great preview of what to expect from the upcoming model.

Rivals

Diving into a well-established field, the 2023 CR-V's closest competitor will be the longstanding Mazda CX-5 which retails from RM 139k for the entry-level 2.0G Mid 2WD to RM 187k for the 2.5G High Turbo.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 06

For the first time, however, with price increments of up to 15 percent expected, the starting price of the 2023 CR-V could surpass all its immediate rivals, thus this will be a crucial decider in its overall success.

Also read: Spied: All-new 2023 Honda CR-V spotted again - Launching in Malaysia soon

Interior – Still the class leader in space and practicality

With a solid reputation for offering space and practicality, it’s good to know that the 2023 CR-V carries on the mantle in style. Sharing a similar dashboard architecture to the 2023 Civic, the end-to-end honeycomb vents and overall placement of the infotainment system and instrument cluster are familiar.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 07

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 08

Overall ergonomics are great, as expected, the central infotainment screen is easy to operate as are the physical climate control buttons and steering wheel. Elsewhere, seating position and adjustability are adequate and first impressions lead us to think the front seats are more supple than before whilst still being supportive for your back and thighs.

Space-wise, we found no shortage of storage spaces, with the large central compartment that will swallow your phone and other knick-knacks. Although the tunnel compartment – which notably could store a lady’s handbag in its predecessor – is a bit smaller now. That said, there’s adequate cubby space in the door panels both at the front and rear.

Also read: We drove a Thai-spec 2023 Honda CR-V, here are 5 things to look forward to

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 09

Round the back, the CR-V pretty much remains the all-round king of practicality. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the single-step reclining of the second-row seats' which adjusts the seat’s backrests and bottom in a single smooth step.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 10

By pulling the lever, the backrest smoothly reclines backwards, whilst the seat bottom slides forward to provide better thigh support, in the same way a reclining sofa or massage chair does.

Coupled with largely comfortable seats which offer a much larger range of recline, the 2nd-row seats offer almost as much comfort and flexibility as current MPVs for rear passengers.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 11

The 2023 CR-V will carry five passengers with ease and given it features a stadium-seat layout - where rear seats are slightly elevated when compared to the front - it provides better outward visibility, which reduces motion sickness in children whilst on the road. 

Thus, the 2023 CR-V is not only comfortable for adults, it’ll be brilliant for young children too. 

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 12

Bootspace is as expected... superb!

If there’s any criticism of the rear quarters, it’s that the side bolsters (at the outer edges) of the rear bench are a bit harder than the centres, this causes a slight numbness of your thigh over a longer journey, and that’s about it.

Driving Experience – Incremental changes done right, except for one

Almost as soon as you set off in the 2023 CR-V 1.5T, the first thing that becomes apparent is the increased levels of refinement.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 13

Although we’ll have to reserve final judgment until we test it on Malaysian roads, first impressions are good – the cabin is mostly quiet over rough roads and does well to insulate passengers from wind and road noise right up to speeds of 110 km/h.

Additionally, there’s little discernible difference between the refinement levels of the 1.5T and 2.0 e:HEV variants. There’s a noticeable improvement in the lack of vibration from the powertrain as you build speed. The CVT is quieter and feels more perceptive in response to when you speed up and slow down.

With 193 PS and 243 Nm on tap, the 2023 CR-V 1.5T is no slouch, power comes on pretty strong upwards of 2,000 rpm and the engine will rev eagerly up to 5,500 rpm. Thus, much like its predecessor, power delivery is smooth, plenty for the daily grind in the city and on the highways.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 14

However, the 2023 CR-V 1.5T (4WD variant we drove) is a bit heavier than before, with kerb weight surpassing 1,700 kg (we’ll have to wait for Honda Malaysia’s official numbers), its approximately 100 kgs more than the preceding CR-V (1.5 TC-P 4WD) at 1,602 kg and this becomes apparent under hard acceleration; though we suspect the 2WD variants might feel sprightlier.

With that said 2023 CR-V 1.5T 4WD receives a significant boost in handling and traction courtesy of Honda’s new Real Time AWD system. Unlike the previous CR-V AWD variant, where AWD is activated only when added traction is needed, the real time AWD system works at all times.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 15

By intelligently modulating power between the front and rear axles depending on throttle inputs, the 2023 CR-V 1.5T 4WD noticeably feels flatter through corners and resists the usual pitch and dive as you enter a corner and get on the power on the way out.

Carving through challenging B-road, the 2023 CR-V 1.5T's suspension soaks up undulations superbly and the body rarely gets upset by bigger bumps, which helps you build with the car very quickly. Although is hardly a hot-hatch, the 2023 CR-V 1.5T is pleasantly surefooted during quick direction changes and does well to feel stable on almost any road.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 16

Perhaps the main drawback of the driving experience is the steering. Although the steering is quick and well-weighted, it has the same numbness at the dead-centre position.

So whilst, it works fine when parking and in tight spaces, it starts to feel sloppy especially when you are making small steering adjustments to keep the vehicle centred on a highway. At dead centre, the steering feels sticky, so just trying to rotate the steering wheel half an inch clockwise or counter-clockwise becomes quite bothersome after a while. 

Also read: All-new 2023 Honda CR-V receives full 5-star ASEAN NCAP rating, perfect side impact results

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 17

However, I suppose you could always engage the Adaptive Cruise Control and just let it do its thing. With improved hardware and the new Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB) feature, Honda Sensing remains amongst the best and most intuitive driving assistance suites out there.

With improved detection of motorbikes and lorries and a fully digital display (depending on the variant), it’s such an easy system to understand and use. In the 2023 CR-V 1.5T, the system noticeably feels smoother modulating vehicle speed in heavy traffic and adapting to merging vehicles into your lane.

Conclusion

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 18

From our first impressions, it's safe to say the 6th-generation Honda CR-V will yet again be a winner. However, if you're expecting a night-and-day difference from the preceding model, you won't find it.

The improvements are incremental and measured, but it's no bad thing, it just serves to highlight how well-sorted its predecessor already was.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 19

The proven 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo remains a strong powerplant and low- to mid-speed response is greatly improved due to the CVT transmission updates. The same is true for the real-time AWD, given it plays an active role in the handling performance of the car, the AWD variant will have more buyer appeal for its dynamic capability, instead of just being a variant for niche customers who need a CR-V with AWD traction.

However, the purchase decision will weigh heavily on the pricetag. With prices expected to increase the 2023 CR-V 1.5T models will likely start off substantially higher than that of the Mazda CX-5 and Nissan X-Trail, not to mention the Proton X70.

Review: 2023 Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo driven in Thailand - Improvements done right, but is it enough? 20

However, if you're looking for the best balance of space, power, practicality, and dependability... then Sir/Madam, "That SUV is here".

Arvind

Senior Writer

Arvind can't remember a time when he didn't wheel around a HotWheels car. This love evolved into an interest in Tamiya and RC cars and finally the real deal 1:1 scale stuff. Passion finally lead to formal training in Mechanical Engineering. Instead of the bigger picture, he obsesses with the final drive ratio and spring rates of cars and spends the weekends wondering why a Perodua Myvi is so fast.

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