Honda's revamp for pioneering CR-V SUV rather radical
Honda played a key role in creating the hugely-successful SUV sector with the popular CR-V and the latest model is something of a radical revamp, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
The Honda CR-V was a ‘soft-roader’ pioneer but caused some bafflement when launched in the UK in 1997.
The love affair with the SUV was not a spark, let alone being kindled, and a new SUV with only a 2.0-litre petrol engine, automatic gearbox and intelligent all-wheel drive was radical. Manuals soon followed, along with diesels and front-wheel drive.
But the latest, all-new CR-V is back to petrol only, dumping diesel and also introducing the first hybrid and the option of sevens seats.
Looks and image
With the CR-V the world’s best-selling compact SUV, with strong loyalty, Honda plays it safe with the styling.
It’s a familiar silhouette, with evolutionary styling that’s moved with the times – broader, muscular wheel arches, sharper bonnet and rear quarter contours, the latest Honda ‘face’ with signature headlight graphic, standard LED lighting and chrome bling trim for an upmarket feel.
Under the bonnet
The 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, debuting in the current Civic, gets an exclusive turbocharger for a class-leading combination of power and efficiency.
Producing 173PS in six-speed manual guise – 193PS with the CVT automatic – it boasts a decent spread of pull with 220Nm for the manual and 243Nm for the CVT across a real-world rev range.
Econ mode is fine for urban use but, on the open road, switch if off and this turbo unit shunts the big CR-V along effectively and efficiently with strong, flexible pull and a willingness to rev, but the engine becomes boomy. It returned 38mpg running around, 46mpg on a run.
A five-seat only 184PS 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid is due in showrooms in February offering up to 53.3mpg combined and CO2 from 120g/km.
How it drives
Despite its lighter, more rigid chassis, the CR-V won’t set the world alight in a class of fine-driving large SUVs but it’s not outclassed.
The two-wheel drive SE test car, with 18in wheels, was acceptably comfortable but tyre noise and wind roar around the big door mirrors is very noticeable at speed.
Sophisticated all-new suspension is firm enough to have some fun on twisty roads but not to be fidgety and restless over bumps and lumps, quickly regaining composure.
With 35mm more ground clearance, there’s some body sway from the tall stance but it’s still nimble enough to make decent progress on cross-country routes. Honda’s agile handling assist stability system, tuned for Europe, makes its debut on CR-V.
Space and comfort
A longer wheelbase creates more cabin space with plenty of head and legroom all round for six-footers to stretch out while the five-seat version’s class-leading 561-litre boot, the CR-V’s biggest ever load bay, will swallow their luggage.
Rear seat backs split 60/40 and drop flat, thanks to the cushions lowering, and flush with the twin-level boot floor panel in its highest setting.
All-wheel drive models, also offered with seven seats for as further £1,700, have a smaller 472-litre boot but second row seats slide up to 150mm to tailor legroom to passenger needs.
At the wheel
Honda dashboards are different, sometimes resulting in over-fussy fascias, but the new CR-V’s layout has been simplified with a bar rev counter above numeric speedo and driver information display, and controls, beneath the touchscreen, for air-con and ventilation.
The gear lever is ideally placed in that user-friendly fascia but I’m not a fan of the wood-effect trim.
A driving position with a wide range of adjustment, large windows and thin front pillars aid all-round visibility.
The CR-V is a key model for Honda, hence the reason it played safe with this new model’s look, but new technology, powertrains and hybrid and seven-seat firsts make it a radical revamp.
SPEC AND TECH
Price: Honda CR-V 1.5T VTEC SE 2WD £27,855 (range £25,995 to £37,255)
Engine: 1,498cc, 173PS, four-cylinder turbo petrol with six-speed manual gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph 9.2 seconds; top speed 130mph
MPG: Urban 38.2; extra urban 50.4; combined 44.8
CO2 emissions: 143g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 29pc
Insurance group: 24E (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 90,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,600mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,117mm; H 1,679mm