Honda CR-V 2.2 i-CDTi ES review
by David Finlay (22 August 2007)
Interesting, the reaction to the new-for-2007 CR-V. The original model was exceptionally popular, and when a manufacturer builds a car that inspires such fondness among the motoring public there's always a risk that it will alienate people by changing it. To some extent, that has happened here - in comments to the magazine and in personal conversation, I've found quite a lot of resistance to the way the new car looks.
I can see the point - the latest CR-V is much chunkier and less obviously attractive than the model it replaces - but you have to look underneath the skin. In nearly every respect, the new is considerably better than the old.
The version tested here, a 2.2i CDTi ES, has one particular feature, the lack of which must surely have damaged CR-V sales in the early days. I refer, of course, to the turbo diesel engine which is practically indispensable in the compact SUV class.
There are so many diesel Hondas now that it's already difficult to imagine a time when there were none, though in fact the first was launched as recently as February 2004. The unit is the same in each case - a 138bhp 2.2-litre which may not have quite the grunt as several of its rivals but is nevertheless more than up to the job in the CR-V.
The funny thing about this engine is that the noise it makes depends on what vehicle it's fitted to. There's a moderate amount of alternator whine (which is hardly noticeable in the Civic Type S but ridiculously noisy in the Accord), and a fair bit of whistling from the turbo. The deep rumble of the engine itself is greater than it is in the more conventional cars, though it never quite reaches the stage of being offensive.
An original CR-V with the low-speed torque of a turbo diesel might have been a treacherous thing to drive, since that car's chassis had enough trouble coping with a two-litre petrol engine. There is no hint of this in the new model, which both rides and handles remarkably well for a car of this type, and in fact better than many other Hondas of the past ten years.
That's a big improvement, but there has been a decline elsewhere. The swooping rear side windows do no favours to the styling (well, I think so, and so does a man I met in the pub the other day), and they make it very difficult to see what's immediately behind you. Why try to make something that palpably isn't a coupé look a bit like a coupé when this is the result you get?
One very good thing about the CR-V - and it's characteristic of many Hondas - is the amount of interior space. You can seat at least four, possibly five, people in it very comfortably (the side support in the front is particularly impressive), and if the rear passengers are particularly large you can make extra room for them by sliding the rear seat back by up to 170mm.
That rear seat has a 60/40 split, and if you fold both parts forward you increase the luggage space to its maximum of 952 litres up to the window line. The luggage compartment - accessed by a tailgate which gives an impressive loading area - has a detachable parcel shelf which can cope with up to 10kg, and which lets you store light items separately from heavy ones if you don't detach it.
In my review of the CR-V 2.0 i-VTEC EX I said that Honda claimed you could turn the car into a twin bedroom, but that I hadn't got round to testing it. This time I did test it, and I have to say I couldn't make it work. The handbook says that you can fold the front seatbacks level with the rear seat cushions, but they don't sit flat; instead, there's a small but distinct arch which nearly did my back in when I lay down for five seconds. Perhaps it's a production tolerance thing, and other versions may be better, but from this experience I have no intention of ever spending the night in a CR-V.
The looks of the CR-V are in no way helped by the large front bumper, but we can forgive that because the bumper is designed to do as little damage as possible to any pedestrian who may stray into the car's path. A word of caution here, though: after putting the CR-V through its crash test programme, Euro NCAP praised the bumper design, but also made a point of criticising the bonnet for the damage it could inflict, and gave the car two stars for pedestrian protection - one less than the old one achieved.
A couple of design issues touched on in the test of the petrol car are worth mentioning again here; the handbrake is mounted very low down, and requires a stretch to reach it, while several of the storage areas are less useful than they might be because they too do not fall easily to hand.
The car tested here had the mid-range ES trim level, which Honda reckons will account for half of all sales in the UK. The equipment which ES levels have but the more basic SE cars don't have consists of 17" alloy wheels, privacy glass, front and rear parking sensors, front foglights, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, power-folding door mirrors, headlight washers and leather on the steering wheel and gearknob.
For an extra £3300 you can have the range-topping EX, which has DVD satellite navigation, a Bluetooth hands-free phone kit and Premium audio with subwoofer (all available as optional extras on the ES), plus 18" alloys, leather upholstery, heated front seats (eight-way electrically adjutable on the driver's side) and a panoramic glass sunroof.