Honda still partying with the SUV crowd

Honda was pretty early to the SUV party. It launched the CR-V in 1995 and it has come on leaps and bounds since then.

The CR-V is well-established
The CR-V is well-established

It has grown in stature and has budged upmarket too. It may have started as a neat and tidy affordable car but it is now very much a premium contender.

The version tested here costs over £40,000, which puts it up against rivals from Audi, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover and BMW among others.

So, what is the CR-V? A compact runaround vehicle, perhaps, or a compact recreational vehicle? Either way, it’s rather on the big side to be termed compact these days.

It is spacious with a delightful cabin and a vast boot of 1,638 litres, which is one of the best on the market.

CR-V stuck to its own path when it comes to engines – unlike almost all of its close rivals, you can’t get a diesel and you can only choose between petrol or hybrid.

It stands out appearance-wise too. It isn’t as sleek as an Audi or as sporty as a BMW but it has a muscular presence. It sits high up from the ground for better off-road ability.

The CVT (continuously variable transmission) might raise eyebrows but I found it suited the car. It has just the one gear but somehow it copes with low speeds, high speeds and everything in between.

As you work your way up through the range it has bigger alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof and roof rails, while range-toppers have shiny exterior trim.

The entertainment systems on Hondas take a little getting used to and aren’t immediately as slick as some but the 7in touchscreen system with satellite navigation and DAB radio on this model was actually pretty good.

Now this is a proper 4x4 with decent off-road capability but let’s be honest, most customers buy them for road use. And they won’t be disappointed for this car is excellent on the road and has decent ride and handling. The 0 to 60mph time of 9.2 seconds and economy of approaching 40mpg are decent too.

The refreshed CR-V range, featuring Honda's advanced hybrid technology as standard, receives new e:HEV name to align with the all-new Jazz e:HEV in the brand's e:TECHNOLOGY vehicle line-up.

Honda is also enhancing the appeal of its CR-V line-up with the addition of a new Sport Line grade, offering a sporty and sophisticated styling choice.

Tested here is a hybrid model. The Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) technology comprises two electric motors, an Atkinson-cycle petrol engine, an innovative transmission and three intelligent driving modes, delivering high levels of efficiency and refinement. It is available in both front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) layouts.

A new Sport Line grade is introduced alongside several updates to all variants of the fifth-generation CR-V. Interior trim is updated with a silver finish applied to the centre console, doors cards and dashboard accents.

The model continues to benefit from best-in-class space efficiency, with generous space for all occupants, as well as a wide, deep boot with a long load bay. A hands-free power tailgate also enables convenient loading access on certain grades.

Clever features make the CR-V easy to use every day. For example, the height of the tailgate when opened can be programmed to avoid contact with low ceilings, while cabin flexibility is boosted by a three-mode centre-console storage, and a single-action ‘dive down’ 60:40 split-fold second-row seat backs that enable fast, easy loading.

At the front, the bold design integrates the latest Honda family ‘face’, including the solid wing graphic and signature headlight shape, with LED illumination as standard. A sculpted front bumper is complemented by the body’s clean surfacing, and framed by a slim grille in the front valance.

Honda’s i-MMD technology is so-named as it intelligently and automatically switches between three driving modes to provide the highest possible efficiency. These modes comprise: EV Drive, where the lithium-ion battery supplies power to the electric propulsion motor directly; Hybrid Drive, where the engine supplies power to an electric generator motor, in turn supplying power to the electric propulsion motor; and Engine Drive, where the engine is connected directly to the wheels via a lock-up clutch.

Honda’s Agile Handling Assist (AHA) was fitted to the CR-V for the first time in 2018 and customers buying the latest model will continue to benefit from this technology. The electronic stability system has been specially tuned for the European market to reflect typical road surface conditions and driving styles. It provides subtle, discreet assistance for added safety and smoother, more predictable vehicle behaviour at low and high speeds, and with both gentle and rapid steering inputs.

Some car grades are simple these days but Honda’s are varied. CR-V comes in five broad models – S, SE, Sport, SR and EX. Each adds a little more luxury but even the entry-level version is impressive enough.

It means the EX tested here comes with all-wheel-drive, heated steering wheel, heated seats including the rear seats, a powered tailgate, eight-way powered seat, panoramic glass sunroof, a head-up display and a wireless charger.

It’s a quality package which is decidedly different from its rivals. A confident model with much to endear.

Honda CR-V 2.0i MMD AWD Hybrid EX e-CVT

Price: £40,505

Engine: A 1,993cc four cylinder 145ps petrol engine plus a 184ps electric motor

Performance: Top speed 112mph and 0 to 60mph in 9.2 seconds

Economy: 39.2mpg

Emissions: 163g/km

Warranty: Three years, 90,000 miles