Honda CR-V Review: Perennial family favourite gets better14 January 2019
Some 23 years on, the Honda CR-V remains one of the world’s best-selling SUVs, thanks to its combination of reliability, practicality and affordability.
Introduced to the UK in July, 2018, this all-new, fifth generation CR-V is manufactured in Honda’s Sayama plant in Japan.
New model highlights
Predictably, the latest Honda CR-V banishes diesel in favour of petrol and introduces a new hybrid drivetrain and improved safety technology as standard. It has undergone subtle exterior re-styling and for the first time on the CR-V, there is a seven-seat option and the car’s cabin is said to be more spacious.
That spaciousness comes from the adapted deployment of Honda’s ‘compact global’ platform that underpins the current Civic. This new chassis is not only lighter than the previous model’s, it also benefits from a 25% increase in torsional stiffness. Suspension, meanwhile, is comprised of a MacPherson strut-type arrangement at the front and a versatile multi-link set-up at the rear.
The new car has a fresh and sophisticated exterior design, with broader and more muscular wheel arches, sharper contours on the bonnet and rear flanks, as well as the latest Honda family ‘face’ with its signature headlight graphic.
Thinner, less bulky A-pillars, a more raked windscreen, sculpted front and rear bumpers and under-engine and under-floor covers all help to make the new CR-V one of the most aerodynamically efficient vehicles in its class. It also incorporates Honda’s ‘active shutter grille’ system, which further improves fuel efficiency.
It’s slightly bigger all round than the previous CR-V, and has 38mm better ground clearance for what Honda refers to as ‘true off-road potential’.
Interior and comfort
A new interior design places a horizontal emphasis to the dashboard to highlight the more spacious cabin, by accentuating the feeling of width. The dashboard features a pair of seven-inch displays, while the layout of controls has been rationalised with a simplified cluster for HVAC management located beneath the central touchscreen. Fans of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay will be pleased to learn that both are standard across the range.
Thanks to its longer wheelbase and wider stance, the new CR-V offers a roomier interior than the previous model. There’s also Honda’s well-earned reputation for top build quality, with tight and flush gaps between panels and the mix of leather and soft-touch plastics help lift the cabin.
The only questionable material was the faux wood finish on the dash and door trim of the top EX model (reg F4 CRV) as tested, and a rummage through the online configurator suggests that no other, more contemporary trim finishes are available.
There is plenty of people space up front and rear passengers will enjoy 50mm more leg room. Unfortunately, I found the seat squabs to be a little too short throughout the car.
In a first for the CR-V range, customers can choose either five or seven seats in the latest version, making the Honda more competitive with cars like the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Skoda Kodiaq and the Nissan X-Trail. Most of this generation CR-Vs will be likely be sold with five seats in two rows, as the third-row of seats in the seven-seater are only really spacious enough for small children.
Be aware that the option of a three-row, seven-seat layout is only available on the mid-range SE and SR trim levels, not the range-entry S or top-end EX.
The CR-V’s gear lever, whether you choose manual or CVT, is located higher on the centre console than those found in competitor cars, falling nicely to hand and making for a very comfortable driving experience. This also makes room for very generous storage areas between the two front seats.
The new CR-V chassis quite rightly offers additional interior space for passengers, but boot space is reduced from 589 to 561 litres. To be honest, this is no big deal as the CR-V's cargo space remains one of the most generous in its class.
Fold down the rear seats and the CR-V luggage area is even more impressive, expanding to a gargantuan 1,756 litres. The handy multi-level boot floor makes it possible to create a flat load area for easy unloading and loading of bulky items.
The back seats are cleverly designed with a single-action folding mechanism, so they stow away without having to pull on heavy straps and levers.
Trim grades and equipment
There are four familiar trim levels from which to choose, starting with range-entry S and moving up through SE, SR and finally EX.
All CR-V models get parking sensors, a rear-view camera and the full ‘Honda Sensing’ suite of safety kit, which includes collision-mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assistance, lane-departure warning, road-departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and traffic-sign recognition. All models get part-digital dials, too.
The SR has keyless entry and start, a leather interior, active cornering lights, blind-spot monitoring and cross traffic monitoring, while the range-topping EX gets posh goodies such as a heated steering wheel, head-up display, hands-free powered tailgate, heated rear seats and a panoramic sunroof.
The choice of engine for your CR-V will be an easy one as there’s just the one 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine available in two states of tune. Either is available depending on transmission choice of a six-speed manual ‘box or CVT automatic, driving the front or all four wheels.
If you choose the manual-equipped 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo, there’s 173hp and 220Nm of torque, applicable to both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions. The front-wheel drive manual gets from 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds. Top speed is 131mph.
If you want the CVT transmission, the CR-V only comes with all-wheel drive, but brings with it a slight boost in power to 193hp, as well as a bump in torque to 243Nm. The 0-62mph time is a little slower than the manual car at 10.0 seconds, and it’ll reach 124mph at top speed.
CR-V Hybrid drivetrain
In another first for the CR-V, Honda has introduced a new hybrid model, which is now available to order. Without becoming too techie, Honda’s ‘Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine to power a generator motor, which in turn sends power to either a lithium ion battery pack or an electric propulsion motor, which drives the wheels.
It has a combined system output of 184hp and, with 315Nm of torque available and is the beefiest of the model range. It too, is available with front- or all-wheel drive.
Ride and handling
A more rigid body on the CR-V this time round helps to improve ride and handling significantly. A solid rear stabiliser bar sharpens turn-in and reduces body roll, while a new floating, rubber-mounted sub-frame structure improves noise isolation over the previous CR-V.
Honda's Agile Handling Assist set-up, first experienced to great effect on the current Civic hatch, is fitted to the CR-V for the first time. The electronic stability system has been specially tuned for Europe to reflect typical road surface conditions and driving styles.
It responds to steering inputs with subtle, discreet assistance for added safety and smoother, more predictable vehicle behaviour including stable cornering and lane change at roundabouts, both at low and high speeds.
The best thing about the CR-V’s road manners, though, is how quiet it is. You don’t hear a peep from the suspension as it deals with bumps, while road and wind noise are well supressed. That’ll be helped, in no small part, by the active noise cancellation system that comes fitted as standard on all versions.
The CR-V doesn’t pretend it’s a ‘proper off-roader’, or that it’s in any way sporty…and frankly, the car is better for it. What it does do – and do very well indeed – is deliver the kind of comfortable, cosseting ride that’ll suit family car buyers.
I have yet to drive the hybrid with the CVT transmission, so am unable to provide an initial opinion, although early reports are by-and-large favourable.
The new Honda CR-V hasn’t yet been crash tested by the experts at Euro NCAP, but Honda’s stringent in-house testing leads the manufacturer to be confident of a maximum five-star score when it is – which, incidentally, it achieved in 2013 when last tested.
Six airbags are on hand to help keep you safe in the event of an accident, but it is Honda’s Sensing suite of anti-collision systems designed to stop you having that accident in the first place – which is standard across the range – that is most impressive.
It’s the impressive space, practicality and a myriad of ‘clever bits’ (not a technical term) that make the CR-V an excellent family car. Coupled with well-honed driving manners, high build quality, generous equipment, a classy interior and fashionable exterior looks, you’ll be getting a great all-rounder. Just be careful to choose the right engine and drive-train that best matches the demands of your lifestyle.
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