Honda CR-V review
The fourth-generation Honda CR-V is the best yet, with a practical cabin and comfortable ride
The Honda CR-V was among the first compact SUVs on the market when it debuted in the late 1990s. It has since spawned four generations and numerous facelifts – with the latest tweaks bringing improved sound insulation and a new nine-speed automatic gearbox.
The CR-V rivals the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai ix35 and Kia Sportage, and offers bags of interior space, a massive boot and clever folding rear seats. While it's not enormously thrilling to drive, it's a competent motorway cruiser with a range of efficient petrol and diesel engines that offer impressive refinement and rock bottom running costs.
The current, fourth-generation arrived in 2012 and was further improved in 2015 with changes to the front and rear bumpers, head and tail lights, and alloy wheels. Under the skin, Honda added a new nine-speed automatic gearbox, updated suspension and a quicker steering rack. It also removed the 2.2-litre diesel engine, in favour of a more powerful 1.6-litre version.
The range is made up of S, SE, SR and EX and all have alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control and electric adjustable and heated door mirrors. You can add things like sat-nav and Bluetooth as part of T or Navi packages – with only top-spec EX models boasting integrated nav as standard. As of the beginning of 2014, Honda decided to add a bit of sparkle to the straight-laced CR-V range by creating two unique versions – Black and White Special Editions. Along with sporty body styling they are packed with extra kit.
You can order a new Honda CR-V with a choice of 1.6 i-DTEC diesel or 2.0-litre VTEC petrol engines, in either two or four-wheel-drive. We'd recommend opting for a lower-spec diesel car, as offer impressively low running costs, but still with a decent level of standard kit.
Our choice: CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC diesel SE Manual
The previous generation Honda CR-V looked a little awkward from some angles, but the latest version has a cohesive, no-nonsense look about it. Compared to rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-5, though, the CR-V can look a little slab-sided.
Wraparound headlights and a grille featuring three prominent chrome bars contribute to a more aggressive front end compared to its predecessor, too. Slight changes were made in early 2015, when the car received a light update to the front and rear – as well as tweaked suspension, steering and gearbox components.
Despite being bigger than the Hyundai ix35, the Honda disguises its size well with a curving window line and high-set tail lights. Add in a sloping rear screen and the CR-V appears a stylish and attractive car.
The dash in the CR-V is less button-heavy than other models in the Honda range, and the quality of plastics used is good. While it isn't the most exciting interior to be in, you get a sense that it will cope easily with the demands of family life. The only major niggle is that the computer display - housed in the speedometer - looks a tad blocky compared to more recent rivals.
Honda has a strong history in building great engines, and the latest 1.6 i-DTEC diesel is one of its most impressive recent additions. The latest technology has been used to maximise efficiency in the CR-V, while it also delivers strong pace for a car of this size. As of 2015, this engine is also available with a new nine-speed manual gearbox.
The 1.6 i-DTEC is relatively quiet on start-up, with only a hint of diesel rattle. It remains a smooth and refined performer up to its 5,000rpm limiter. The six-speed gearbox is a pleasure to use thanks to precise gear changes, but the auto suits the car's laid back, relaxed nature even better.
The rest of the CR-V's driving experience can't quite match the excellent engine, though. This compact SUV has been designed with practicality and comfort in mind, so there's not much fun to be had. The plus side of this setup is that bumps and potholes are soaked up well.
Grip is also decent, especially on four-wheel drive models. That said, the inside front wheels have a tendency spin if you get on the throttle mid-corner which, naturally, doesn't inspire confidence. If you want a more engaging Honda to drive with similar carrying capacity, it might be worth looking at the Volkswagen Golf rival, the Honda Civic.
As with most Japanese manufacturers, Honda has a strong reputation for building solid, reliable cars. It came in 13th place in the manufacturer rankings in our 2014 Driver Power survey, with the car itself placing in 35th position. Owners praised its reliability, practicality and comfort, and Honda's dealers are well regarded, too.
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.
Kit like xenon headlights and front and rear parking sensors is reserved for higher spec models, though.
The Honda CR-V is one of the most practical cars in the compact SUV class, and offers 589 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place. With these folded down, load space grows to 1,146 litres. More space is available under the retractable load cover too.
The wide tailgate opens lower than the previous generation, making loading larger items an easy process. The CR-V's party trick is a clever seat-folding setup, though. Pull a lightweight lever in the boot, and, in one fluid motion, the seat bases flip up, headrests fold and the seat backs drop forward.
Storage space inside the CR-V is impressive and is well designed to cater for the demands of family life. A large armrest cubby-hole and big glovebox feature to help maximise interior space.
The CR-V is a well-equipped car, with entry-level S models coming with dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys wheels, multifunction steering wheel, heated electric mirrors and cruise control all coming as standard.
What the CR-V lacks in driver involvement and excitement, the 1.6 i-DTEC engine more than makes up for with impressive fuel economy and CO2 figures. On the combined cycle, the lower-powered 118bhp CR-V returns 62.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 119g/km. The more powerful 158bhp i-DTEC diesel returns 55.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 134g/km - replacing the 2.2-litre i-DTEC at the top of the CR-V tree.
The petrol versions are less impressive, though. The 2.0-litre VTEC engine has a strong thirst with combined cycle figures of 38.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 173g/km for manual versions. These figures become even less impressive for cars specced with automatic gearboxes.