Honda CR-V review
by David Finlay (25 October 2012)
Vehicles badged CR-V have been an important part of Honda's range since the company launched its first SUV of that name back in 1997. A replacement arrived four years later, a third-generation model came along in 2007 (and was revised in 2009) and now CR-V 4.0 has arrived.
Some things have changed. Back in the early days, when Honda could barely countenance the existence of anything other than a petrol engine, there was no such thing as a diesel CR-V, but now the 148bhp 2.2-litre i-DTEC unit is the obvious choice. If you don't like that, you can still go for the petrol-fuelled 2.0 i-VTEC, which in fact has been heavily modified in the interests of greater efficiency, resulting in a power increase to 153bhp and a 12% improvement in CO2 emissions.
This CR-V looks not unlike the last one, though with an apparently more aggressive front end which has actually been designed to improve pedestrian protection. The rear side windows were awful before and they're awful now, though in an interestingly different way, as if Honda is experimenting with methods of ensuring that reversing is as difficult as possible.
Externally, the CR-V is now slightly smaller than before, but it's actually roomier inside. On the press launch I discovered that I was easily able to sit behind my colleague John Fife, which I should explain - since you probably don't know either of us - is about the same as saying that a giraffe is able to sit behind a small industrial unit.
Luggage room is possibly even more impressive. Thanks to a very low boot floor, the volume up to the window line with the rear seats in place is 589 litres, and as Honda is not slow to point out that this is an exceptionally good figure for the class.
If you want to gain still more space you can do it, for the first time in a CR-V, by pulling one lever which tumbles the rear seat squabs forward and folds down their backs. Couldn't be much simpler, except that you have to do this with each part of the 60/40-split seat if you want the full effect. That effect is to release 1648 litres if you car has a full-sized spare wheel, or 1669 litres if it has a space-saver instead.
Although it's very roomy, the interior has a less than inspiring design, with lower-quality materials than might have been the case. In all-black form it's very ordinary, though a two-tone arrangement brightens it up a treat.
Honda describes the CR-V's road behaviour as "car-like". I beg leave to adopt an alternative position. The ride and handling of the diesel models are perfectly acceptable, but beyond a certain point the high centre of gravity takes over and the chassis begins to struggle with the amount of power available. The petrol cars are much better, partly because their engines are lighter and partly because they produce less power at everyday revs.
Both are very quiet (Honda has gone to great trouble to stop engine noise getting into the cabin, with the result that you're more aware of road noise than you might have been) but on driving dynamics alone I'd choose petrol.
On fuel economy and CO2 emissions the choice would have to be diesel. The 2.2 i-DTEC can manage 50.4mpg and 149g/km, while the best the 2.0 i-VTEC can do is 39.2mpg and 168g/km - and that's with two-wheel drive, which is being introduced to a car which until now has only ever been available as a 4x4.
A two-wheel drive diesel would be even more economical and have lower CO2 emissions, but Honda isn't providing one. That may be just as well, since the behaviour of the 4x4 suggests that the CR-V could easily become quite wayward if the diesel's low-end grunt were being transferred to the road through half as many wheels.
Despite my slight reservations about the CR-V's behaviour when being pushed hard (which I realise probably isn't going to happen very often) I'd have to say that all the major controls operate very well, particularly the smooth and nicely-weighted steering. The gearchange tends a little towards notchiness but the lever is excellently placed, in familiar Honda style, up on the dashboard just a few inches away from the steering wheel.
If you don't want a manual gearbox, Honda offers an automatic for the petrol and diesel 4x4s. It adds around £1600 to the price, depending on model, and affects the economy and CO2 figures (much more for the diesel than the petrol, for some reason) but it also changes very smoothly from one gear to the next even when you're accelerating as hard as possible. Unlike the manual cars, the automatics are not fitted with start/stop.
The new range is divided into four trim levels starting with S which, despite being the most basic, includes dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, cruise control, daytime running lights, Hill Start Assist, Trailer Stability Assist and much else.
For an extra £1500, SEs offer automatic headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming interior mirror, leather steering wheel and gearlever trim, front and rear parking sensors, a rear parking camera, one-touch electric windows, folding door mirrors, six rather than four audio speakers, Bluetooth phone connectivity, front foglights and a Category 1 alarm.
Both run on 17" wheels. The SR has 18s, along with part-leather, part-alcantara upholstery, heated front seats, ambient door and footwell lighting, an uprated audio system with DAB digital radio, privacy glass, body-coloured roof rails, auto-levelling high-intensity discharge headlights with High Beam Support and washers, cornering lights and, for the front passenger seat, powered lumbar support and manual height adjustment. SRs are around £2400 more expensive than SEs.
At the top of the range is the EX trim level, which has everything that SR does plus satellite navigation, keyless entry and start, full leather upholstery, an eight-way adjustable seat with memory function, a panoramic sunroof and a powered tailgate.
Pricing starts at £21,395 for the two-wheel drive S. 4x4s cost from £22,495, and the cheapest diesel is the manual S at £24,605. Only three CR-Vs are priced above £30,000 without optional extras, the most expensive of them being the £32,650 i-DTEC EX automatic.