Honda CR-V review
The fourth-generation Honda CR-V is the best yet, with tonnes of space and a quality interior to rival the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Santa Fe
The Honda CR-V badge doesn't quite carry the same cachet as a BMW X3 or Audi Q5, but the latest, Swindon-built CR-V certainly makes up for that by being solidly made and feeling very well engineered. Despite its dimensions, the CR-V drives well - particularly if you opt for the powerful 2.2-litre diesel model and slick manual gearbox. The entry-level model is available with two-wheel drive for the first time, too, although this can only be had with the 2.0-litre petrol engine for now. However, the big sticking point is that the CR-V is still only offered as a five-seater, while rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe come with the option of seven seats.
Our choice: CR-V 2.2 Diesel EX Manual
Honda certainly played it safe with the look of the new CR-V and it manages to look like just about every other SUV on the market. Honda’s latest mix of angular and rounded shapes - as seen on the new Civic - are used to good effect, with a bolder front end and sloped three-bar grille that blends into the swept headlights, chunky plastic mouldings and rear lights that mirror the kinked shape of the wide C-pillars. The overall effect is a car that’s more striking than the previous CR-V, but that looks remarkably similar to the Santa Fe. The interior is also a step up both in terms of design and feeling of quality, but some of the layout and plastics do seem dated. There are six trim levels to choose from - S, S-T, SE, SE-T, SR and EX - but all cars come fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and the manufacturer's intelligent-Multi Information Display. Top-spec EX models are the big sellers, with 18-inch alloys, a panoramic sunroof, sat-nav, xenon lights, parking camera, leather upholstery and a DAB radio all fitted as standard. Although all of this kit comes at a pretty hefty price, with the cheapest EX model costing almost £30,000.
The CR-V is a relatively large, tall car, but it drives neatly with a good mix of comfortable ride and not too much bodyroll in corners. The 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel offers useful low-down punch, while the 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol engine is quiet, refined and even makes quite a nice noise when pushed. Unless you have to have it, the optional five-speed automatic gearbox is best avoided as it feels quite old fashioned and sluggish compared to the slick manual. The power steering is now all-electric and, while completely lifeless, it allows you to position the CR-V on the road with confidence. Although low-speed refinement is good, longer motorway journeys are not as hushed as in rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe.
The new CR-V hasn’t yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP but it does come packed with lots of safety kit, including an advanced stability control system that can prevent towed trailers from weaving behind the car. Honda's Collision Mitigation Braking System is also included. It monitors the distance of the car in front and prepares the CR-V for impact if it senses a collision. Plus, it has a high seating position, which gives you a great view of the road. Despite a huge global recall for faulty window switches towards the end of 2012, the CR-V has earned itself a solid reputation for reliability with very few problems reported. Owners seem to agree, too, and the third-generation CR-V finished an impressive 12th in the 2012 Driver Power survey, while Honda came sixth overall. The new CR-V should uphold this tradition, as it feels solidly built and well engineered – just like every car that Honda makes.
The CR-V gives drivers a commanding view of the road. Visibility is also aided by the fact that the windows have been enlarged over the previous car. The roof has been lowered by 30mm but it hasn’t compromised headroom, particularly in the rear where the seats are now 38mm lower than before. The boot is also 147-litres bigger, while the low lip and wide opening make loading heavy objects simple. What’s more, there are handles in the boot and on the seat bases, which flip up the rear seat squab and drop the rear seat back all in one easy movement. This transforms the already generous 589-litre boot into a massive 1,669 litres of space. There’s plenty of storage in the cabin, too, while the lack of a transmission tunnel means there’s plenty of room in the back seats for three adults to stretch out in comfort. If you’re planning on using your CR-V for towing, you’ll need to opt for the Towing Pack. This costs an extra £575 and includes a detachable tow bar and a 13-pin harness, with maximum braked and unbraked capacities of 600 and 1,500kg. The CR-V’s only downside is that it comes as a five seater only, rather than the seven seats offered by rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.
Although the CR-V can now be had with two-wheel drive, it's only available with the petrol engine until the middle of 2013 when a 1.6-litre diesel version joins the range. This 2.0-litre petrol isn't the most efficient of engines, though, with an official average fuel consumption figure of 39.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 168g/km (or 37.7mpg and 175g/km if you opt for the automatic gearbox). For now, the best option is the 2.2-litre diesel, which thanks to Honda’s clever four-wheel-drive system will run in front-wheel drive most of the time anyway. This means it offers decent performance and average mpg of almost 50 with relatively low CO2 emissions, too, helping to keep tax bills to a minimum. It is quite pricey to buy compared to rivals like the Mazda CX-5 and used prices are average at best, but specifications are generous and Honda also offers a range of fixed-price servicing deals, with service intervals of 12,500 miles.