The Honda CR-V is no newcomer to Malaysian roads as it has been sold here since 1996. However, Kah Motor Co Sdn Bhd, the official distributor of Honda vehicles, had special reason to ‘launch’ it today because it is now assembled in Malaysia. Local assembly of this popular Honda model – which accounted for about 10% of all Honda vehicles sold in 1999 worldwide – follows a similar move by Honda in Thailand and the Philippines and in July this year, Indonesia as well. In total, Honda expects to sell about 9,000 – 10,000 locally-assembled CR-Vs in the ASEAN region this year.
Actually, if it was not for the economic recession, we would have seen the locally-assembled CR-V two years ago. A Kah Motor source said that the decision was made in early 1997 with the aim of starting assembly by the end of that year. “The assembly jigs were actually half completed at the plant in Johor when we were told to put the project on hold till the market recovered,” the source told AUTOWORLD.COM.MY.
Why assemble locally? The immediate answer used to be that it would reduce the price compared to a Completely Built-Up (CBU) import from Japan which incurs high import duties. But the weakening of the ringgit in the past two years has meant that even being assembled in Malaysia, the CR-V now costs not less than RM143,986; typically a customer will pay around RM149,791 with the Recommended Accessories Package included.
The good thing, of course, is that the private importers will have to lower their prices (which have been over RM160,000 in the past year) to attract customers now that Kah Motor is offering the model in a more serious way. According to Dato’ Robert Wong, JP, Oriental Holdings Bhd Group Managing Director, the company expects to sell between 1,200 – 1,400 CR-Vs this year. This will account for about one-quarter of the total volume of Honda vehicles forecast for 2000 in Malaysia.
The CR-V assembled locally is not much different from those already on the roads since the model is still in its first generation (the next generation is expected to be launched in Japan next year and won’t be assembled here till early 2002). But since its original introduction four years ago, some technical aspects have been improved, eg the ignition timing system for the sparks in the 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve engine is now integrated with the primary engine management system.
Honda has never produced a manual transmission version of the CR-V to date and the automatic transmission it utilises is quite an advanced system with electronic controls and a ‘Grade Logic Control’ to make gear changes less frequent on slopes. To do this, Fuzzy Logic is employed and the transmission computer makes decisions to shift based on a number of factors. Incidentally, to provide more space on the floor, the shift lever is mounted on the steering column – just like it was in the old days!
Unlike many other 4WDs, the CR-V’s drivetrain is not full-time nor part-time (where you have to use a lever to engage 4WD). Instead it is what Honda calls ‘Realtime’ and the system provides 4WD only when needed. In conditions where the tyres grip firmly, the system runs only on front- wheel drive. But if the speed sensors detect that there is slippage occurring at the rear wheels, power is automatically transferred to the rear wheels as well, giving 4-wheel drive traction for stability. Honda believes this is a more efficient system as it reduces weight, noise and fuel consumption. It is not unique, though, as the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Navigator employs a similar concept. However, in its class, the CR-V is the only model which has such a system.
The CR-V has independent double wishbone suspension on all four wheels with the components suitably strengthened to cope with occasional off-road trips. The disc/drum brake system is controlled by a 3-channel ABS said to be of the latest generation.
Standard equipment is quite comprehensive and includes dual front airbags, an improved 3-channel reverse sensor system said to be more accurate and even a picnic table cleverly stowed in the boot floor. A ‘baby mirror’ is installed on the left fender and this item, installed by Japanese manufacturers for the domestic models in the mid-1980s, was to ensure that the driver could see if there was any child near the car in that hidden corner. Apparently, it was introduced after the driver of a rather tall 4WD rolled over a child because he could not see the child from his seat. But for Malaysia, Kah Motor says that it is intended to aid parking.
As many people would be aware, the CR-V’s rear door is a two-piece affair with the glass separately swinging upwards and the door section swinging outwards to the right. For those who find they cannot fit a bicycle into the boot, there’s a special carrier for the roof rack available. And for a limited period, CR-V buyers can also buy a special edition ‘CR-V’ mountain bike made by Le Run at a 40% discount from the normal price for the model.
Also offered by Kah Motor is the ‘Skyguard’ system, a special security system that can be activated by satellite to immobilise the vehicle and set off the alarm if it is reported stolen. The same system is also used to remind the owner when it is time to service the CR-V. Dato’ Wong said that buyers can opt not to buy this system (which normally retails for RM1,280 but is specially priced at RM998 for buyers) but he strongly recommends it as the CR-V is quite a ‘hot car’.
“Many people like to buy the CR-V but many also like to steal it!” he said, referring to statistics that show it has been among the models frequently stolen or hijacked. “We therefore urge owners to install this Skyguard system so that they can have better protection for their CR-V.”
So now that the CR-V is available as a locally-assembled model, should you buy from it from Kah Motor or buy a privately-imported model? Kah Motor will tell you that their product comes with guaranteed after-sales support and indeed, they do not touch those CR-Vs not sold by them. However, Honda has made their products so reliable that they rarely have problems! Nevertheless, should a major problem occur – especially in the electronics – it is likely that the Kah Motor service centre will be the only place with the right equipment to diagnose and fix the problem.
A final word from Dato’ Wong: “Don’t wait too long to buy our CR-V because we can’t be sure how long this launch price can be maintained. If the exchange rate becomes less favourable in the near future, we may be forced to raise the price before the end of the year as the cost of many of the parts from Japan is quite high.”