Life shouldn't be all about work and sometimes you just need to break the routine and leave the world behind, as you head out for an adventure. Any car can get you where you're going but when you head out for that special trip you need a special set of wheels, something that matches your suit-and-tie lifestyle during the week yet holds its own when you let your hair down on the weekend. We decided to break the routine too and instead of a comparo of two cars in the same class we found two sets of wheels that fit the aforementioned criteria and were priced similarly as well. The newly refreshed Honda CR-V SUVand the entry level three pointed star - the Mercedes-Benz B-Classare both fun out on the open road, offer luxury and comfort and are aimed at a young adventurous buyer. We packed our bags and headed out to Rishikesh for three days of rafting, kayaking and camping to see which one was the better companion.
Both cars do make a strong visual statement. The CR-V's large wraparound headlamps and big chrome grill making for a striking frontal image. The B-Class is the little meanie of this duo with its smoked headlamps and flowing LED daytime running lamps combining well with the grill mounted three-pointed-star. It maintains a low profile with strong angular shoulder lines running down its flanks while its compact dimensions barely hint at the space available inside. The rear of the B-Class is less eye catching but its sporting theme is carried forward with a mock diffuser and chrome tipped exhausts exiting on either side. The CR-V's profile is also attention grabbing but in a more traditional SUV fashion. It's nicely designed rear is topped off with wrap around tail lamps that run all the way to the top of the boomerang shaped D-pillar. The rear windscreen could have been larger though as rear visibility is quite poor.
The interiors of the CR-V have improved and the all new dash now sports a much longer features list with touch screen navigation, DVD player, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The steering wheel has sprouted controls for the audio system, cruise control and the top of the line variant that we had for the test also had Bluetooth telephone connectivity switches. The instrument cluster is well laid out with the large speedometer taking centre stage. The central console houses the audio system with satellite navigation while above there is a secondary display unit that displays additional information like current track playing, trip information and mileage. The build quality is typical Honda with tight panel gaps and materials that feel luxurious.
The B-Class is the cheapest Mercedes-Benz that you can buy but you wouldn't guess that after stepping inside the cabin. From the propeller like air vents reminiscent of the SLS AMG to the standard race pedals to the panorama roof (only in the Sport model), the cabin exudes class. The steering wheel features a similar amount of knobs and buttons as the CR-V but the design is less busy and better laid out. The instrument cluster is a traditional unit with speedometer and tachometer on either side of an information screen that offers trip and economy information. The central control unit features a non-touch screen that displays navigation and audio information while the audio system matches the features of the CR-V with USB, AUX and Bluetooth connectivity.
Of the two the CR-V is definitely the more spacious but the B-Class is by no means cramped. Both will comfortably transport five people over a distance but the rear passengers will be more comfortable in the CR-V with its 60mm more shoulder room. They both are excellent spaces to spend time in whether it's the front or back seats but the B-Class interiors feel and look more luxurious than the CR-V though they are no more comfy, maybe it's just the dazzle of that three pointed star. The CR-V will also swallow up all the luggage that the B-Class can carry and then some. Both have the ability to free up extra storage space when the second row is folded down but the CR-V still takes in more. The B-Class storage is somewhat hampered with the 'space saving' spare which is secured to the floor of the boot rather than in a recess, as is the case with most cars.
Both cars ignore the market's fondness for diesels and are only available with petrol engines. The CR-V we had on the drive is the 2.4-litre 5-speed automatic top of the line model. There is also a 2-litre manual and automatic and these options only drive the front wheels. The 2.4 gets an adaptive 4WD system that mostly stays in front wheel drive mode only shifting power to the rear wheels when necessary. Power is a healthy 190PS while torque stands at 226Nm and allows the CR-V to effortless cruise down the highway though the 5-speed auto does play spoilsport when things turn twisty. The tall ratios mean that you tend to be stuck in one gear as second is good from around 50kmph all the way up to 130kmph and is the only gear you tend to use on winding roads.
Despite the B180 badge the B-Class is powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol putting out 122PS and 200Nm driving the front wheels, a first for India and while it seems that the CR-V has the upper hand here the advantage is really just on paper. Both engines are refined in operation and are a delight to drive but the lighter B-Class (175kg lighter) and its 7-speed dual clutch gearbox allow it to outperform the CR-V on the road. The B-Class bests the CR-V to the ton, getting there in just 10.8s compared to the CR-V's 12.0s. The shorter ratios also aid in twisty sections and the benefit of having a ratio for every situation translates to better fuel efficiency as well. ARAI fuel efficiency for the CR-V is 12kmpl and while we didn't have time for a full efficiency run the CR-V's trip computer never displayed more than 7.5kmpl for the entire trip. We did manage to mileage test the B-Class earlier on and then it returned an overall figure of 14.7kmpl. What is telling though is the fuel consumption for the trip. We received the cars topped up i.e. 58 litres in the CR-V and 50 litres in the B-Class. Over the 600km that we covered we had to fill up the CR-V once as the needle was nearing the empty mark and at the same time topped up the Merc as well. The CR-V ended up swallowing 40 litres while the B-Class took in just 25 litres. The B-Class then, despite having a smaller tank would give you much better range in the real world.
The CR-V being a proper SUV with improved, stiffer suspension has much better ride quality when compared to the B-Class. Bad roads are handled with ease too and the better ground clearance gives the CR-V an edge over the B-Class in terms of places your adventure can take you. The B-Class can handle some broken roads but its lack of ground clearance means that it's reluctant to venture off tarmac. Again I have to add that the ride quality in the B-Class is by no means bad, it just cant compete with the suspension travel and higher profile tyres of the Honda.
The improvements in the CR-V translate to very little body roll through corners and the new electronic power steering weighs up nicely making the CR-V quite nice to drive in the hills. The B-Class on the other hand really shines when it powers through corners, its low centre of gravity, low profile tyres and electromechanical power steering making for a great handling package.
Both cars shone through in certain areas of our drive that featured crowded city sections, highways, bad roads and twisty mountain roads. While both cars were equally capable through traffic and on the highway the CR-V was clearly the better choice over broken roads while the B-Class was a delight to drive through the hills.
To me there's no loser in this comparison they are both excellent packages but for different reasons.
The sensible choice at Rs 24.52 lakh for the top end model, the CR-V is a great car for holidaying and can carry five people and their belongings comfortably for a weekend jaunt to just about anywhere, including going off the beaten track. The excellent ride quality and smooth refined engine just add to the comfort factor for both passengers and driver. It's a classy ride too with attractive styling and road presence. You will go the Honda way because you are a sensible bloke who does like a bit of adventure but still love the comforts of your modern lifestyle.
The one you want to own, the B-Class costs Rs 26.09 lakh and has a much more sporty character to it. It's a pleasure to drive and will definitely appeal to the enthusiast who not only looks to have fun at the adventure destination but on the drive there as well. It will pamper four passengers with luxury and five without complaint but will strictly like to stay on tarmac. It will turn a lot of heads in town too with the three pointed star garnering more eyeballs than the Honda could ever hope for. You will also tell yourself that the better mileage is a great reason to buy it, but you really just want to own a three pointed star.
When you throw an SUV and a grown-up hatch into a comparison you tend to focus more on which package has the better mix of variables, rather than which is a better SUV/grown-up hatch. The B-Class was never going to beat the CR-V in space and the CR-V was never going to out-handle a car designed with a hint of sportiness in mind. What is great is that they are both just Rs 1.57 lakh apart in price and that gives you the ability to choose which one you want. In the end it all boils down to whether you buy the one you fancy or the one that appeals to your sensibilities. Personally I find my self falling for the twinkle of that three pointed star.