Honda’s off-roader goes diesel-less for the new generation, offering either petrol or petrol-electric hybrid alternatives this time around
On the road
On the road
The new Honda CR-V has two very distinct characters, each of which is likely to account for around half of the car’s sales.
The 1.5-litre petrol model launched late last year, and has now been joined by the fleet model of choice, the 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid. It’s a hybrid system that recharges itself using the engine and braking rather than being plugged in.
The strengths and weaknesses of the hybrid are predictable to anyone familiar with the technology, in that emissions are lower but the cost is higher. In this case the hybrid can get down to 120g/km in front-drive form, while the best the petrol can do is 143g/km, but that flip-side is that the manual two-wheel-drive petrol model costs £3100 less than the auto-only two-wheel-drive hybrid. Like-for-like, which is only possible with the four-wheel-drive petrol model, it’s an extra £800 to go from petrol to hybrid, which is more bridgeable a price gap. Basically, if you’re happy with the manual, then the petrol’s higher emissions will be offset by the price difference; with the auto that’s not so easily the case.
What there isn’t, is a diesel model. Despite the introduction of a Civic diesel last year, the fact that most of Honda’s major markets (including the US and Japan) aren’t interested in diesel means the company is pressing ahead with hybrid power as part of its strategy of electrification – all models will have some electrification by 2025.
The new CR-V is Honda’s fifth iteration of what is now a well-established nameplate, and it becomes Honda’s only seven-seat option. That’s as long as you choose the petrol model, where all-wheel-drive SE or SR trim cars gain an extra couple of seats in the boot in exchange for £1700. Unfortunately, the hybrids don’t have the same option because of the restrictions caused by packaging the batteries.
Where comparable, the switch from two- to four-wheel drive costs £1410 on the petrol, and takes emissions from 143g/km to 151g/km, while the hybrid goes from 120g/km to 126g/km for two additional driven wheels at a cost of £1100.
Inside, Honda claims that the new CR-V “raises the bar in terms of quality, refinement and spaciousness”, and it definitely succeeds with at least two of those goals.
The final one is the easiest to deal with, because a quick jump into the rear seats highlights just how much space there is back there. Four large adults will be as comfortable as they would be in anything from the class above, such is the amount of passenger space, and the doors open wider than many other cars’ (getting on for 90 degrees), which makes entry and egress easy. Honda makes claims about class-leading space that it’s difficult to argue with.
The boot also feels much larger than the figures suggest, and it looks no different to rivals’ that are supposedly over 100 litres larger. Even if the figures don’t lie, you’re well into the realms of it being large enough to cope without breaking sweat for any regular family or work deployment.
The refinement question is also a reasonably conclusive positive result. Petrol-electric hybrids mated to CVT automatic gearboxes are rarely noted for being the most aurally pleasant of combinations, but the CR-V does a better job than some of not sounding and feeling like a sewing machine is doing the hard work under the bonnet. There’s plenty of power on demand, and the worse strains of engine noise are well muted. It also runs nicely for significant short periods on the battery alone, although an easily readable needle on the dashboard to show just how hard you can push the accelerator before requesting enough power to have the car kick the engine back in would be appreciated around town or in heavy traffic.
It’s also possible to adjust the level of brake energy regeneration, and therefore the force of the regenerative braking when you lift off the accelerator. It’s a shame it’s for only one solitary braking action, after which the system reverts to its lowest level. It would be better to be able to help restore more energy into the battery by having a permanently settable braking mode, such as the likes of the Toyota Prius hybrid offers.
Otherwise, the driving experience is pleasantly neutral and inoffensive, and for a hybrid powertrain that’s more of a compliment than it sounds. The usual verdict of a petrol-electric model is that you have to put up with a car that’s not enjoyable to drive but makes a load of sense on paper, but the CR-V sidesteps that and provides a fuss-free existence. It rides well, particularly over larger bumps and holes, is refined at higher speed and offers the pleasant contradiction of good acceleration when the petrol and electric motors combine for peak performance, yet around town in battery-only mode, low-speed progress is a silent and serene experience.
Apart from being spacious, the cabin has the advantage of a huge centre bin with sliding shelf and armrest; it is though a pity that the door bins are much smaller than could be expected. And the cabin quality is good in places, but some of the materials aren’t as soft and high-quality to touch as they look at first glance. The 7.0-inch infotainment screen, standard on all bar the entry S trim level, has a couple of minor usability flaws and some dated displays, especially the sat-nav map, that stop it being up with the best on offer, although all the controls are easy to use and well located.
Safety kit is another area Honda has focused on, and to impressive effect, especially with regard to what is fitted as standard, given drivers’ reluctance to pay extra for safety equipment. All cars get the rather over-sensitive forward collision warning and mitigation system, as well as lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition, road-departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control technology. Go up to SR trim (the third of four trim levels), and blind spot and cross-traffic warning systems are added.
Overall equipment levels are pretty decent, although few will choose the entry S model that is very much the poor relation of the range. All cars get climate control, auto lights and 17-inch alloys on petrol models or 18 on hybrids, while going from S to SE trim (a logical step given the extra kit) costs £1860 where comparable. This adds improved 18-inch alloys, auto wipers, front and rear parking sensors, rear camera and a seven-inch touchscreen with navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. SR brings privacy glass, leather interior, heated front seats and roof rails for another £2480, while the top-spec EX is predictably well-loaded, including head-up display, panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel and rear seats, hands-free powered tailgate and powered driver’s seat, as well as 19-inch alloys on the petrol model.
The new CR-V is a strong candidate in the off-roader sector, offering space, practicality, low running costs and a good hybrid powertrain. It’s not quite as efficient as the RAV4, but comfortably beats the diesel rivals for CO2, although it’s worth noting that hybrids are a break from the normal link between CO2 and fuel economy – diesels will return better MPG figures so drivers doing higher mileages will still find modern efficient diesels are a better bet despite the higher CO2, and therefore BIK tax.
Still, it’s worth doing the maths because it will be a close-run thing, and the Honda, with its petrol-electric powertrain, is a sensible and attractive company car choice.
The CR-V was launched a full 24 years ago as Honda’s entry into the sports utility vehicle segment in 1995.
The second-generation car (pictured, right) was more of a styling evolution than a full new car, and ran from 2001-2006 before being replaced by a new model.
The third-generation CR-V changed things when it arrived in 2006; this was the first of the Honda SUV models to have a top-hinged tailgate, rather than the previous arrangement of a side-hinged rear door with spare wheel mounted upon it.
There’s a clear progression of design from that car through the fourth generation of the CR-V, which ran from 2011 to last year, to the current car.
Honda claims the CR-V is the world’s best-selling SUV, quoting cumulative 2013-2016 sales figures from market analysis expert Jato, helped a great deal by the brand’s status at the top of the retail chart in America.
This new CR-V contains a couple of useful ‘firsts’, with this new model being the first to offer seven seats as an option, albeit only with the petrol version and not the hybrid powertrain, which constitutes the other significant first.
What they said
What They Said
"The Honda CR-V is the world’s most popular medium-sized SUV. Our all-new CR-V Hybrid adds an intelligent and highly-advanced powertrain to the already impressive list of features. Both sporty and luxurious, the CR-V is available with a range of finance options, a choice of either two- or four-wheel drive, a variety of seating options and an impressive 1756 litres of boot space."
"The highly economical fleet car raises the bar when it comes to advanced safety features, boasting a whole host of features as standard, including parking sensors, rear-view camera and the Honda Sensing package."
Marc Samuel, fleet sales manager, Honda UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
The rear doors open much wider than other cars’; great for access
The huge central bin has a useful sliding shelf-type element
Boot space doesn’t necessarily impress on paper but feels huge to look at or use
...And one we don't
You can use the paddles to adjust the brake regen, but only for that single braking action
Performance is decent if you work the powertrain hard enough, but it’s not a car built for enthusiastic cornering.
The petrol-electric powertrain is more efficient than less powerful diesel alternatives, with added BIK savings, although diesel fuel economy figures are better.
Masses of space for rear passengers, and the boot feels larger than the on-paper figures suggest; it’s certainly plenty for every reasonable use.
Virtual absence of options is a blessing and a curse; a much simpler range but you have to go for pricier trims if you want certain equipment such as heated seats.
Evolutionary over the previous CR-V and with an American flavour that’s unsurprising given that the US is such a big Honda market.
Comfort and refinement 8/10
The CR-V’s hybrid system scores well for refinement versus others, although it still sounds a little course under hard acceleration. Ride quality is good.
The quality of materials is mixed, with some plastics not feeling as nice as they look. But everything is logically laid out.
Reasonable, but with a couple of small usability frustrations and graphics a little behind the times.
Whole life costs 8/10
Pretty good all-round costs, with reasonable pricing, good emissions and decent residual values.
CCT opinion 8/10
Decent powertrain with good emissions in a big, sensible car.
Honda is playing to a company car audience with the new CR-V Hybrid, offering low emissions figures, masses of practicality and good spec if you go as high as the SR trim.