Honda CR-V review
The fourth-generation Honda CR-V is the best yet, with a load of space, and a Mazda CX-5 rivalling interior
The fourth-generation Honda CR-V was launched in 2012, but it wasn't until summer 2013 that the most efficient model in Honda's compact SUV range arrived.
Prior to the super efficient 1.6 i-DTEC diesel's introduction to the CR-V range, the only diesel powered CR-V was a four-wheel-drive 2.2 i-DTEC that's still available across all trim levels (S, S-T, SE, SE-T, SR and EX). In early 2014, Honda released a limited edition of the CR-V, the Black or White edition, which features a performance-orientated bodykit.
The 1.6 i-DTEC engine made its debut in the latest generation Honda Civic, and is only offered in the front-wheel drive CR-V models. Genearlly speaking, Honda’s compact SUV makes a great rival for the likes of the Mazda CX-5 in terms of efficiency, and the Hyundai ix35 in terms of pace.
Should you not want to opt for one of the diesel engines, a 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol engine is available in two or four-wheel drive guises. Petrol buyers get the pick of all the CR-V trim levels from the entry level S models to the range topping EX cars.
Our choice: CR-V 2.2 Diesel EX Manual
The previous generation CR-V seemed a little ungainly, but Honda's latest incarnation of its compact SUV has a smooth, no-nonsense look about it.
It may look a little slab-sided compared to another of its rivals, the Nissan Qashqai, but the CR-V's front end is reminiscent of the Land-Rover Discovery sized Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, thanks to the three chrome bars on the grille and eagle-eye headlights that wrap around the bonnet.
The CR-V is taller and longer than the Hyundai ix35, but the Honda doesn't look as chunky as its Korean rival. The CR-V's curving window line and high-set tail-lights are also similar to those on its predecessor, and while the large tailgate takes up the whole of the Honda's back end, its sloping rear screen adds a touch of style.
The CRV's dashboard is less button heavy than on other Hondas and the quality of the plastics used is good, giving a sense that it can easily cope with the demands of family life. Furthermore, the spacious interior is given a classy look thanks to its matt finish. The only possible niggle is that the CR-V's computer display - located on its speedometer - looks a tad blocky.
Honda has a strong heritage in building great engines, and the CR-V's 1.6 i-DTEC diesel is one of its best recent efforts. It uses the latest technology to maximise efficiency, and is more than capable of delivering strong pace. However, it is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox.
On start-up, the 1.6 i-DTEC CR-V is relatively quiet with only a hint of diesel rattle and it remains smooth and refined up until its 5,000rpm limit. Honda has also fitted a shift light to its six-speed manual gearbox with efficiency in mind. The six-speed is a pleasure to use thanks to its precise shift, but buyers of the 2.2 diesel, or any of the petrol models can opt for a five-speed automatic.
Unfortunately, the rest of the driving experience in the CR-V cannot match its superb engine. Honda has designed this car with practicality and comfort in mind, so while the CR-V soaks up bumps well, there's not much fun to be had.
Grip is also decent, but the inside front wheels have a tendency spin if you get on the throttle mid-corner which naturally, doesn't inspire confidence. If, then, you want an engaging yet spacious Honda to drive, it might be worth looking at the Volkswagen Golf rival, the Honda Civic.
Like most Japanese manufacturers, Honda has a strong reputation for making reliable cars and this is reflected in our 2013 Driver Power survey. The previous generation CR-V (the MKIII) finished in the top 30, and owners praised its reliability, practicality and comfort. Honda's dealers were similarly well regarded and ranked fourth overall.
In terms of safety, the CR-V is one of the safest compact SUVs you can buy thanks to its five-star Euro NCAP rating. Honda also provides six airbags, tyre pressure monitors, stability control with trailer assist, and three Isofix points as standard equipment.
However, kit like xenon headlights and front and rear parking sensors is reserved for higher spec models.
The CR-V is one of the most practical cars in its class, and in addition to its 589-litre boot, Honda has added a larger floor area and more space under the retractable load cover.
The CR-V's wide tailgate opens lower and it comes with a slight lip to make lifting items over it easier, but Honda's party trick is its clever seat-folding set-up. Pull the lightweight levers in the boot and, in one fluid motion, the bases flip up, the headrests fold and the seat backs drop forward.
Honda has also made good use of the CR-V's spacious interior and a provides a large armrest cubby and big glovebox for storage.
The entry level S model CR-V is not too badly equipped, with dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, a multifunction steering wheel, heated electric mirrors and cruise control coming as standard.
What the CR-V lacks in the driving experience department, the 1.6 i-DTEC engine more than makes up for in efficiency with a combined cycle return of 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km.
The larger 2.2 i-DTEC diesel engine returns a lesser combined economy of 50.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 149/km. The petrol CRVs, however, have a strong thirst with combined cycle results that vary between 37 and 39mpg. That means CO2 emisions in the 168 to 175g g/km range.