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 fourth-generation Honda CR-V was introduced in 2012, but the most efficient model in the range has only just arrived. The 1.6 i-DTEC engine debuted in the Civic earlier this year, and it’s offered only with front-wheel drive in the CR-V. It provides a great rival for the likes of the Mazda CX-5 in terms of efficiency, and the Hyundai ix35 in terms of pace.
Our choice: CR-V 2.2 Diesel EX Manual
While the previous-generation Honda CR-V seemed a little ungainly, the latest version has a smooth, no-nonsense look about it. The front end is reminiscent of the current Hyundai Santa Fe’s, thanks to the three chrome bars on the grille and eagle-eye headlights that wrap around the bonnet. In profile, the CR-V appears a little slab-sided, and the curving window line and high-set tail-lights are similar to its predecessor’s. Plus, while the large tailgate takes up the whole back end, the sloping rear screen does add a touch of style. The Honda is longer and taller than the new ix35. However, from the rear it doesn’t look as chunky as the Hyundai, with its smaller rear windows and larger lights. Inside, the spacious CR-V’s layout is less button-heavy than in other recent models from the brand. The central speedometer features the trip computer display, and while the screen is a little blocky, it’s no worse than in the other models here. The quality of the plastics used is good, and the matt finish on the dashboard has a classy look that gives the interior an edge here. This air of quality is evident throughout the Honda, and makes it feel as though it will easily cope with the rigours of family life.
Honda is famous for its engine-building expertise, and the 1.6 i-DTEC available with the CR-V uses the latest technology to maximise efficiency while still delivering strong pace. Fire it up, and it’s relatively quiet, with only a hint of diesel rattle from under the bonnet. It remains smooth all the way to its 5,000rpm red line, while the six-speed gearbox has a light and precise shift. If only the rest of the driving experience was as good as the engine. This car is designed with comfort in mind, and the soft suspension soaks up bumps well whether you’re in town or on the motorway. Yet there’s not much fun to be had in corners. There’s decent grip, but the inside wheel has a tendency to spin if you get on the throttle mid-corner, which doesn’t inspire confidence. Step on the long-travel brake pedal and the CR-V pitches forward alarmingly, although impressively, it recorded the shortest stopping distances of our three test cars.
Japanese makers have a strong reputation for reliability, and the previous, MkIII version of the CR-V consistently finished in the top 30 of our Driver Power satisfaction survey, with owners praising its reliability, practicality and comfort. Honda’s dealers are highly rated, too, and finished fourth in our 2013 survey. The CR-V earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and comes with a raft of safety equipment as standard. It has six airbags, tyre pressure monitors and stability control with trailer assist, plus three Isofix points in the back. However, kit like xenon lights and front and rear parking sensors is reserved for higher-spec models.
If you need plenty of space, the CR-V is the most practical car here. While Honda claims it has a 589-litre boot there’s a larger floor area and more space under the retractable load cover. The tailgate is wider and opens lower, too, although there’s a slight lip to lift items over. The Honda’s party trick is its clever seat-folding set-up. Pull the lightweight levers in the boot, and the bases flip up, the headrests fold and the seatback drops forward in one smooth motion. Storage space is good, too, with a large armrest cubby and a big glovebox.
Honda’s new 1.6 i-DTEC diesel is a strong performer. Plus, a lower list price means company car tax bills are slightly lower, with higher-rate taxpayers paying £1,638 annually. While the S model is the entry point to the CR-V range, it’s not too badly equipped. It doesn't offer as much as the Hyundai ix35 does in terms of kit, but essentials such as dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, a multifunction steering wheel, heated electric mirrors and cruise control are all here. However, if you really want more kit you need to upgrade to the next trim level – and S-T-spec models add sat-nav and Bluetooth for an extra £765.