The Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC has a lot to live up to if the company's targets are anything to go by. Honda says that when it was developing the car, it didn’t benchmark any rival - because it would end up aiming too low.
We've rated it highly in the past, but now we’ve had our first go in the UK. What Honda needed was something that would be cheap to run and look better on a company car list than the 2.2-litre diesel.
So the numbers in the 1.6 i-DTEC stack up to an impressive 119g/km of CO2 and 62.8mpg. This new diesel has just 118bhp but by dropping the four-wheel-drive system it’s ended up being 116kg lighter than the 2.2 model, meaning a 0-62mph time of 11.2 seconds. There’s 300Nm of torque from 2,000rpm, but even so the CR-V needs revving hard. It never feels particularly brisk, and as the revs rise so does the noise, with refinement suffering if you’re in a hurry.
The six-speed manual gearbox shifts cleanly and accurately enough when doing so, though you’ll need to drop a gear on motorway hills. Still, you’d forgive the lacklustre performance because of its low running costs – until you realise Mazda’s CX-5 2.2 has 148bhp, is two seconds faster to go from 0-62mph and has near-identical economy figures.
To go with its lower weight, Honda has fitted a new anti-roll bar to the rear suspension, softened up the front springs and firmed up the dampers. The result is a tangible increase in agility, so it’s keener to turn in and there’s more feedback through the steering wheel.
The tradeoff is a slightly busier slow-speed ride. The specification in SE models is comprehensive, and features dual-zone climate control, DAB radio, parking sensors, cruise control and auto wipers and headlights. But so are those of its rivals. In isolation, the CR-V isn’t without appeal: it’s good looking, spacious and well built, but its green-leaning figures are matched by a more powerful and better-to-drive rival from Mazda: the CX-5.