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First Drive

First Drive: Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V 2.0 i-MMD Hybrid EX AWD
The story: A mid-life update for Honda’s hybrid-only SUV
Key rival:Toyota RAV4
On sale:Now

The Honda CR-V ditched diesel when it first launched in 2018 but for the facelift it’s gone one step further by dropping petrol too, making the petrol-electric hybrid the only option.

It remains a non-pluggable hybrid with two electric motors and a 2.0-litre petrol engine, so the only way to recharge it is to put petrol in and let the brake regeneration and various other systems do their job. Despite being the facelift, this element remains unchanged.

The revisions are cosmetic, with a selection of badging that makes more of this decision to go hybrid only, although some might feel it overeggs that choice somewhat. All models of CR-V now get blue ringed H badges and e:HEV as part of their name.

First Drive - November 2021 - Honda CR-V - Image 6The other updates are relatively small, with a new 18-inch alloy wheel option and privacy glass so long as you go for an SE model or higher. This EX model also turns the little platform in front of the gear lever into a wireless charging pad for smartphones, meaning you can regenerate the battery of more than one device at a time. You still need to plug the phone in to make use of the likes of Apple Carplay and Android Auto, though, so the wireless charging is more likely to be used by passengers wanting a quick burst of battery. Otherwise there is a little more silver detailing around the central console and on the doors.

Other tweaks are ones that you would be hard pushed to notice – the steering and suspension have both been revised in a bid to improve low-speed handling and the overall ride. Is there a night-and-day difference between the facelifted version and the one that went before? Not really. It’s a comfy and relatively unexciting large SUV that is quite simple to squeeze around town in and out of small gaps. The suspension is comfortable and will keep passengers front and back happy on motorway drives but there is a bit of body lean around tighter corners if you carry in a bit too much speed.

The all-wheel drive tech doesn’t make itself known in normal driving, and the CR-V is more suited to popping across the occasionally field rather than proper off roading. Still, with a CO2 penalty of just 6g/km, it isn’t a big hardship in terms of running costs.

First Drive - November 2021 - Honda CR-V - Image 8One downside of the decision to ditch petrol is that the CR-V range becomes less practical. The seven-seat model was only offered in petrol guise – the extra space needed for the tech means that there is no room for a third row of seats in the hybrid model. Similarly hybrid rivals like the Toyota RAV4 are no different, and the space for the rear-most seats was never huge, but it does mean that there is one fewer draw to the Honda now.

The boot space that is there is decent, with a nice flat entry lip, a couple of hooks at the sides to lash things too and seats that fold totally flat. The space in the second row is the CR-V’s forte, though with loads of legroom, a practically flat floor and loads of head and shoulder space. The rear doors that open wonderfully wide are another handy touch – it makes getting smaller passengers in and out of the back that bit easier.





The verdict

A family friendly SUV that’s been given a small tweak to freshen it up. It’s a shame that the seven-seat option has disappeared along with the last of its combustion engine-only versions.