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Honda CR-V engineered beyond American tastes

Accommodating: Honda says while the underpinnings of new CR-V and the Civic are closely related, the former’s seven-seat option meant many changes were required.

Fifth-gen Honda Civic goes global with significant packaging changes

31 Jul 2017

HONDA has revealed that the latest CR-V has broken from tradition by being engineered to be the most globally relevant version in the series’ 21-year history, rather than being driven solely by North American market demands.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the fifth-generation CR-V in Canberra last week, Honda Motor assistant large project leader (CR-V body design), Hiromichi Tsushima, said that several regions’ requirements were taken into account, broadening the scope and abilities of the latest RW-series version.

An example of this was the introduction of a seven-seater version for the first time, which was deemed essential by major Asian markets such as Thailand and Indonesia.

“The previous generations were five-seater only models because in the United States there is a bigger seven-seater Honda known as the Pilot, so it was necessary,” Mr Tsushima said via an interpreter. “But some Asian markets demanded this… so we developed it for the new CR-V even though America did not want it.” The 28-year Honda engineering veteran added that American consumers have responded more positively than anticipated to the new 140kW/240Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder direct-injection turbo powerplant, which was developed for European, Asian and Australian markets, since they were seeking significant improvements in performance as well as fuel consumption.

Honda initially expected the 137kW 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine (unavailable here) to be the most popular unit in the US, but the 1.5-litre turbo is currently running at 75 per cent of total volume despite being more expensive.

Overall, there will be seven powertrain choices available globally, including a 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid (US, China) and a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel (Europe). Australia is set to receive the hybrid CR-V for the first time sometime next year, as diesel sales in the outgoing model did not meet Honda’s expectations.

Development for the new CR-V commenced in 2012, with the aim of improving its interior space efficiency compared to its 2011 RM-series predecessor.

“Packaging and design was very important,” Mr Tsushima said. “Offering both five- and seven-seater options serve to enhance the CR-V’s core strengths… Honda wanted this to be the most space efficient in the medium-SUV class.”

To achieve the above aim, while the all-new ‘Earth Dreams’ platform brandishing ecological lightweight efficiency is philosophically similar in approach to what the latest Civic offers, no chassis components except for the fundamental powertrain are shared with the small-car series.

“They are of a similar design but even the multi-link rear suspension is completely different,” Mr Tsushima revealed, adding that this was necessary to accommodate the CR-V’s move to seven-seats. Even the new dual-pinion electric rack and pinion steering system and brakes are not directly interchangeable.

Speaking of seating, the decision was made to offer two different types of second-row middle-position seatbelt systems, with the five-seater version relying on a roof-mounted set-up while the seven-seater’s is built into the backrest.

“We did this because the roof-mounted system is lighter,” Mr Tsushima said. “In the seven-seater version it adds too much weight… and the whole seat is much heavier because it also has to slide forward to allow for third-row access, which is not necessary in the five-seater CR-V.” This, as well as the need to make the latest version quieter and more refined against premium Japanese and European SUVs, meant that the CR-V in total has also put on the kilos, though a rise in ultra-high tensile steel in the body has helped keep the increases to a minimum.

The CR-V is vitally important to Honda’s bottom line globally, accounting for as much as 25 per cent of all sales. In the North American market it is expected to breach the 400,000 annual sales mark this year for the first time.

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