The Toyota Fortuner has been the most sought-after SUV since 2009. But, now Honda plans to disrupt the party with the all-new CR-V diesel. But can this slick new ninja steamroll the juggernaut?
India’s love for SUVs is increasing by the day, so the launch of a new SUV is definitely not a surprise. But that doesn’t mean that SUVs can no longer surprise us, they certainly can.
After a series of ‘coming soon’ previews, Honda is set to finally launch the diesel CR-V. Not only will this be the first diesel CR-V in India, but also the first diesel to be mated to a 9-speed torque converter automatic transmission. Still, the question is whether the new Honda will be able to challenge the throne of the Toyota Fortuner – the king of the hill ever since its launch in 2009?
Many in the past have tried to challenge its crown, and Ford has come within striking distance with the Endeavour, but none have caused even a slight dent in the Fortuner’s sales figures. But now we’re talking about Honda! Instead of directly locking horns with the Fortuner, the ‘Big H’ has decided to play to its strengths – a smart move indeed!
There’s no doubt that both these vehicles are as different as chalk and cheese, but, in India, buying a car is all about features and prices. And if the prices of two products are similar, a comparison is inevitable. So, here we are…
The Goliath we love
Toyota is known for its bulletproof reliability, but at the same time you can’t discount Honda’s reliability as a manufacturer – there are many who swear by the Honda brand. But let’s look at these vehicles and see what sets them apart from each other.
The Fortuner is based on a ladder frame chassis and boasts of 4-wheel drive, and has the option of a low ratio gearbox, which ensures that it sails over broken roads and even no roads. With towering dimensions – 4.795m in length, 1.855m in width and 1.835m in height – the Fortuner has a colossal road presence. One look is enough for people to simply make way.
The Fortuner is all about brute force, and the massive 2.8-litre diesel heart compliments its image. With an output of 174bhp, it certainly beats the CR-V on paper, but that’s not the whole picture. We must keep in mind its weight – the Toyota weighs 2,735kgs, making it 1,010kgs heavier than the Honda. Mated to a 6-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, the Fortuner doesn’t offer the most refined or the quietest driving experience, as the engine note is quite prominent in the cabin. Also, when you go heavy on the gas pedal, it accelerates like a rabbit ready to hop. Sure, it may be a bit jerky, but it’ll leave a smile on your face with its 450Nm of torque – which is available from as low as 1,600rpm. On the highway, especially during a quick overtake, the Fortuner tends to huff and puff due to the slow gear shifts of the automatic transmission. Now, it does come with Sports mode and paddle shifters, but, unfortunately, they do virtually nothing to change its lazy nature.
The second-generation Fortuner continues to be based on the Hilux pick-up truck, and the ride continues to be quite bouncy. It does remain stable at high speed though. And while it does manage to carpet potholes, it wallows a fair amount over undulations. Also, the biggest issue isn’t the suspension but its light and vague steering, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence at high speeds.
Return of the urban legend
A fresh start is what this is for the monocoque based CR-V, as it makes its return with a new 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel powerplant. That’s right 118bhp! You might wonder, what the ‘Big H’ was thinking – especially when they already have a twin-turbo 158bhp diesel version at their disposable. Well, India is a price sensitive market, and so it appears that’s why they decided to go for the single-turbo powerplant. And while I agree 100% that, on paper, it seems quite underpowered, on the road it’s an entirely different experience – and not a bad one either.
When I pressed the Drive button – that’s right, the diesel version comes with buttons for the different driving modes instead of a traditional gear lever – the SUV, to my (pleasant) surprise, purred away with linear pickup. Sure, there’s no rush here, but you don’t feel the turbo lag either. With tall gearing, the transmission is so smooth that you don’t even feel the gearshifts. The torque converter transmission does well to distribute the powerband evenly, providing enough grunt in the low to mid-range to sail through city traffic effortlessly. But, it’s lack of power does become evident at the top end of the powerband – it’s here that the CR-V seems to be desperately gasping for more ponies.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the CR-V diesel, as Honda has cleverly equipped it with paddle-shifters. In Sport mode, the SUV tends to show a bit more spunk. Mind you, paddle shifters are only available in the diesel version.
The new CR-V is now longer, wider and has an impressive ground clearance of 208mm. With improved dimensions, the new SUV stays planted on the tarmac and remains confident in the corners – something that we can’t say about the Fortuner. Another positive is that the CR-V’s body roll is not too evident either, making it agile and stable.
The ride quality is absolutely fantastic, as it sails over bumps and ditches without any dramatic and unsettling thuds. The ride can get slightly firm for second-row passengers, but it’s far from uncomfortable. The magical ride quality is the result of the fact that there are fluid-filled bushings that provide a comfortable ride and, at the same time, control chassis vibrations.
Sophistication or brawn?
Both these 7-seater SUVs offer plenty of cabin space and decent legroom for the second-row passengers, while the third row is best suited for children. On the whole, the Honda’s build quality is one level above the Fortuner – whether it’s the plastic quality or the fit-and-finish.
However, in the end, it all comes down to what you’re looking for. If you enjoy going off the beaten path, then the Fortuner is the straightforward choice. It’ll also offer performance from the word go, but it lacks refinement.
The CR-V, on the other hand, is an urban gentleman that’s all about being suave. It drives like a car, feels premium from the inside and offers the best ride quality in its segment. The seats too are very supportive. So, if it’s all about driving within the city limits, then one can’t go wrong the with CR-V.
So, if it’s a brawny, imposing go-anywhere old-school SUV you’re after, you still can’t go wrong with the Fortuner, but if it’s that little bit more sophistication you’re after and you don’t have any illusions of driving up the side of a mountain, then Honda has finally answered your prayers.
- Honda CR-V 1.6 AWD
- Toyota Fortuner 2.8 4x4 AT
Engine: 1,597cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / DOHC / iDTEC
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 118bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 300Nm @ 2,000rpm
X-factor: Finally, a diesel CR-V. The answer to a lot of people’s prayers…
• Class-leading ride quality
• Fuel efficient
• Needs more power
• No electric powered tailgate
Engine: 2,755cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / DOHC / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic / Four-Wheel Drive
Power: 174bhp @ 3,400rpm
Torque: 450Nm @ 1,600-2,400rpm
Price: ₹32.97 Lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: Big, burly SUV that’s built like a tank and can be driven anywhere.
• Powerful motor