Gareth Butterfield reviews the latest version of the Honda CR-V
OVER its long history, Honda’s CR-V has quietly become the world’s best-selling SUV and this latest version doesn’t look all that different to its predecessor, but it’s still a big improvement.
And it’s perfect timing for a car like this to maintain its crown at the top of the SUV tree, as the nation seems to want nothing other than a jacked-up mud-plugger as their family workhorse.
As diverse as its talents are, most CR-Vs will inevitably end up on the school run, the office commute or possibly, in rare cases, crossing grassy fields at a point-to-point or towing a caravan to Norfolk.
So what’s new? Well, to start off it has a stiffer chassis, so it handles a bit better than the predecessor and, although the newcomer is the same length as the car it replaces, the wheelbase is stretched so there’s 50mm more legroom in the back.
There’s also a range of technology improvements to make it more clever and more user-friendly and safety has been turned up a few notches.
But the big news is the lack of a diesel engine in the line-up. Yes, the relentless onslaught of demonising the fuel that keeps the nation’s industry moving continues and Honda, which does such a good job of making amiable diesel engines, appears to be falling out of love with them too.
There’s now a non-plug-in hybrid, but the only other option is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol. And, to be honest, it’s not Honda’s finest hour.
It’s not so bad in the Civic, but it’s a bit under-powered in the CR-V and it’s at its very worst with the droning CVT automatic fitted to my test car.
Stick to a manual gearbox and, although on paper there’s technically less power, you’ll find it adequate, if not electrifying.
Happily, though, the CR-V handles really well. An SUV doesn’t need to be this poised and balanced, but it almost feels like Honda makes the CR-V so good to drive just because it can. Obviously, don’t expect Type-R-like dynamics, but it’s certainly not a wallowy mess in the bends.
The boot space is excellent, a class-leading 1,860mm long with all the seats folded, in fact giving a total of 1,756-litres of usable volume. Storage elsewhere is good and the whole cabin feels spacious, light and airy.
While the cockpit feels spacious and well built, some of the design features do feel a tad dated, including the low-resolution infotainment system. There are much easier systems to use, it has to be said and it does feel like it’s in need of a refresh already.
But don’t let that put you off. The CR-V sells well because it’s a great all-rounder. In its most economical form, front-wheel drive with the six-speed manual gearbox, it’s also economical with a claimed 44.8mpg and 143g/km of CO2. I actually manged to better that during my week with a test car.
Prices start at just over £26,000 which is a little on the high side, but Honda is certainly generous with its spec, so you’ll not feel short-changed.
Overall it’s another evolution of a car which deserves its popularity. There’s little to dislike about the CR-V.
In fact, my in-laws, by far the most picky couple I know, have bought one recently. And if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.