FULL REVIEW: 2023 Honda CR-V SX Diesel AWD -- The first and, perhaps, last of its kind
VJ Bacungan · Aug 17, 2023 03:00 PM
Disclosure:Honda Cars Philippines Inc. very kindly lent me a 2023 Honda CR-V SX Diesel AWD for 10 days. It arrived with a full tank of fuel and loaded RFID cards. AutoFun Philippines paid for additional fuel, toll, and a carwash.
Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to try something new in your life.
In my case, I discovered the joys of dancing when I was a sophomore at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Honda Cars is already renowned for having some of the world’s finest engine technology. The B18C motor in the first Honda Integra Type R remains one of my absolute favorites.
But in the last decade or so, the Japanese carmaker has also dabbled with producing turbodiesels. Without sky-high redlines and fancy engine internals, Honda Cars joined the trend in Europe by offering diesel models.
And surprisingly, it also decided to offer its first-ever turbodiesel in the Philippines, nestled under the hood of the current-generation Honda CR-V.
With seven seats and all-wheel drive, is the top-spec CR-V SX Diesel AWD the right crossover for people who are tired of driving lumbering sport-utility vehicles (SUV) like the Isuzu MU-X and Toyota Fortuner?
Economical, but lacks oomph
Let’s drive straight into this CR-V’s key selling point – the powerplant.
This SX variant has a 1.6-liter, twin-cam, 16-valve inline-4 i-DTEC turbodiesel pumping out 122 PS and 300 Nm of torque. This is 32 PS less than the non-turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine in the CR-V S that I also tested, but a whopping 111 Nm of torque more.
And unlike the continuously variable transmission in the gasoline variant, this oil-burning CR-V has a 9-speed automatic gearbox from German transmission manufacturer ZF, which also produces gearboxes for BMW.
This Honda crossover has good low-end torque and gets moving at around 2,000 rpm, with the turbo boost distributed evenly to the redline. The German gearbox is quick through the gears, although it sometimes gets caught out by sudden downshifts.
The CR-V SX is also very economical – 10 to 13 km/l in the city and 20 to 23 km/l on the expressway. Cruising at 100 km/h in 9th gear is at a steady 1,900 rpm.
All told, the Honda 1.6-liter turbodiesel is much more refined than the lumps in the Fortuner and MU-X. But it simply lacks the punch that these pick-up-based SUVs offer.
And the Mazda CX-5 turbodiesel, which competes directly with the CR-V SX, blends refinement and performance much better. I really wish Honda brought in the twin-turbo version available in other markets.
Another aspect where the CX-5 outshines the CR-V is ride and handling.
The Honda’s steering is light and has a quick ratio, but it feels rather numb. In addition, the braking action is strong, but the brake pedal itself is spongy.
And compared to the CR-V S, this SX model has much stiffer springs to compensate for the heavier diesel engine. This has the unintended consequence of lessening the considerable body roll that I felt in the base-model CR-V.
However, Honda Cars seems to have forgotten to update the dampers, leading to an unsettled, floaty ride that doesn’t glide over bumps as excellently as the gas-powered CR-V.
I’d also like to mention here that I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the all-wheel-drive system because of an intermittent fault. This is normally a loud clunk while on the go, followed by a warning message on the digital gauge cluster that I am back to front-wheel drive.
Perhaps this particular test unit needs new differential oil.
Practical, but third row best for kids
Inside, the CR-V SX is similar to the base variant.
You get a black leather interior with soft-touch materials on the dashboard and the door cards. Hard, scratchy plastics are happily kept to a minimum, but the design looks very dated compared to the latest offerings from, say, GAC and its stupendously stylish Emkoo.
My best friend Evans and I were nonetheless delighted to see the return of woodgrain trim after over a decade. The warm, matte-brown accents break up the sea of black, without needing the (now-tacky) piano-black trim that’s in vogue now.
And as with other CR-V variants, there are supreme amounts of headroom and legroom for five passengers, along with a fantastic bevy of cubby holes and cupholders. There’s even a moonroof to let the air and light in.
However, the third row isn’t quite as useful as in traditional seven-seat SUVs. Much like the Jetour X70 Sport that I tested, space in the rearmost seats of the CR-V SX is tight even for someone who is 5’4” like me, making it more of a 5+2 crossover.
But unlike the Jetour, you can actually fold and tumble the CR-V's second row by yourself, although I wish there were a handle that could do it all in one go. There’s also a dedicated rear air-conditioning system in the ceiling to keep you nice and cool.
Cargo capacity is still excellent with 1,110 liters of space with the third row folded and a truly voluminous 2,146 liters when all of the rear seats are folded flat.
I have tested this system in everything from the HR-V Turbo to the sensational Civic Type R – it remains to be one of the finest in the market. The adaptive cruise control works at any speed to ensure truly relaxing long-distance drives.
The collision-mitigation braking system also saved my skin from a Nissan Sentra that decided to slam its brakes for reasons beyond my comprehension. I really wish every car could have this level of protection available as standard.
But as with the other CR-V that I tested, the teeny-weeny touchscreen infotainment system is hard to see, especially when the LaneWatch camera is engaged.
Happily, it does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, although I could not pair my smartphone with this particular test unit.
Last of an era
In Europe, the heyday of the turbodiesel has come and gone, with ever-tightening emissions regulations and the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” scandal reducing consumer confidence in oil-burners.
But given that diesel fuel remains cheaper than unleaded in the Philippines, there will always be a special place for turbodiesels, especially among Filipino families.
The Honda CR-V SX Diesel AWD takes all the best attributes of the regular CR-V and incorporates these with the frugality of diesel power.
Even with a price tag of ₱2,290,000, it does not carry seven passengers as well as an equivalent Fortuner or MU-X. Even the cheaper Honda BR-V that I tested is a more capable people carrier.
However, this turbodiesel CR-V offers a level of sophistication and refinement that these huge SUVs can only dream of. And this was all down to Honda Cars, well, trying something new.
An award-winning multimedia journalist, editor, and host for online and TV who has written in-depth stories on road safety and the Philippine elections. Outside of the media, VJ is an accomplished motorsports champion, English teacher, and dancer.