Honda CR-V Hybrid: long-term test review
Final report: A long run to Kielder Forest puts our Honda CR-V Hybrid's comfort and economy to the test
We’re going to miss our CR-V’s practicality and comfort. The infotainment and tech were surprise hits, while the hybrid tech returned decent urban economy for a heavy SUV. However it’s comfortable rather than exciting to drive.
- Mileage: 4,215
- Economy: 40.6mpg
Let’s be honest, driving in the UK isn’t much fun these days. I’m increasingly resigned to using public transport to get to work at my central London office, because of the delays and costs of driving in the capital. So I’d been really looking forward to taking our CR-V on its final journey to Northumberland and do some walking.
It’s a long drive and while I didn’t think it’d be a breeze, I wasn’t expecting the sheer weight of traffic, roadworks, contraflows and average speed checks that littered the roads. The 700-mile round trip from South London to Kielder in Northumberland took well over 16 hours. It was mind-numbing, but time enough to really evaluate my six months behind the wheel of our Honda.
First up is comfort; our CR-V certainly lives up to one of its expanded names: ‘Comfortable Runabout Vehicle’. The wide front seats and perfect driving position kept me central and supported over time, while the adjustable centre-console armrest cradled my elbow. I also adjusted the seat’s electric lumbar support as the hours ticked by to stretch out my spine. The really glowing report came via my wife, who suffers from sciatica. She struggles with any lengthy trip, but was fit and well to go walking after our marathon journey.
When stuck in stationary traffic I played with some of the displays and tech features. The CR-V lets the driver switch the display beneath the speedo to cover multiple options: there’s road-sign recognition, audio selection, live fuel economy and even a function that suggests taking a break from driving.
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I had it fixed on nav directions; this was great and gave clear indications of my next junction or turning, with a countdown in miles of the next manoeuvre and an arrow pointing which way I needed to go. Its central position avoids the need to look at the main screen, which supplements the driver’s instruments with clear directions, splitting the screen and indicating junctions with arrows and guidance.
The graphics look a little dated, but it works well enough and got us to a number of unfamiliar locations with ease, selecting the more picturesque routes to bypass traffic hotspots when possible, which was a bonus.
The slower-moving motorway traffic also gave me insight into the CR-V’s safety tech. On approaching other cars, the Honda’s radar detects the difference in speed and first flashes a red warning car graphic in the speedometer display. If the speed is computed to be excessive, a warning sound accompanies the graphics as an alert.
I tend to drive sensibly and with good distance gaps, but these are helpful tools in heavy motorway traffic. They’re not too intrusive, but enough to keep you alert. The one time I did lose concentration, the in-car safety system pre-tensioned the seatbelts and applied the brakes. We still had lots of time to stop, but it was raining, with stop-start traffic, and the car assumed control and took the decision out of my hands. I didn’t feel undermined, but assisted.
Once on the quiet roads around Kielder I saw a different side to a car that I’ve mostly driven around town. The Honda’s visibility became more noticeable as the views became more breathtaking. This area has ‘dark skies’ status, and at night the so-far unused automatic full-beam headlights came into play as we drove around unfamiliar twisty lanes. I also experienced the first frost of the year and was impressed at how quickly the heated front and rear screens removed the thin ice and the sizable heated wing mirrors became useable again.
One downside was fuel economy. Our petrol-electric CR-V has been returning – at best – 43mpg around town. More recently it’s dropped to 40.6mpg, perhaps because of some less eco-friendly driving on quicker A-roads. Plus, the undulating landscape seemed a step too far for the CR-V’s single-speed hybrid system, because the engine was very noisy on steeper hills.
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Honda CR-V: third report
Can our petrol-electric Honda CR-V Hybrid SUV swing an existing owner?
- Mileage: 2,140
- Economy: 40.7mpg
The older I get, the more I appreciate the knowledge and wisdom that comes with age. So I’ve enrolled a Honda CR-V expert, my stepfather Peter Woolger, to cast an eye over our long-termer. Peter is now on his fourth CR-V – before that he ran a Honda- engined Rover, and an Accord – so he knows a thing or two about the company’s products.
Peter has an eye for faults, having worked as a maintenance manager at Fulham and QPR’s football stadiums for 15 years, before doing the same job at a housing association for 25 years. It’s fair to say that if there’s a problem he’ll spot it. So what did he make of our hybrid CR-V?
First impressions were good, as Peter liked the interior. It felt familiar enough to his own 2017 CR-V, but a bit more upmarket. Already a fan of the CR-V’s traditional high driving position and good visibility, Peter found our car comfortable and quickly felt at home. The larger infotainment screen ticked a big plus box on Peter’s wish list and the materials also got a mention.
Interestingly, they split opinion. I’m not a fan of the wood trim: to me it feels a bit fake and makes the interior less appealing. But Peter and my mother Tina were fans and thought it looked smart set against the chrome trim. They felt it was right for the car, and I’m not going to argue with my mum!
Peter’s petrol CR-V is an auto, but he seemed to be confused about our car’s hybrid auto set-up. It’s simpler than his car, with no lever to put the car into drive, just a simple button to press, and then the brakes release themselves for a silent departure. The lack of noise also took him by surprise, and I think Peter would admit he found it a little unnerving at first. But after a matter of seconds it made sense and we were off for a couple of laps of our test track.
Peter fully expected a smooth ride – that’s one of the reasons why he has stuck with the CR-V – but he remarked on our hybrid’s quietness. I explained to him why it was so refined by showing him the car’s digital displays. At low to medium speeds, the petrol engine only ever tops up the battery to drive on EV power, creating that smooth, quiet, fuel-sipping experience.
Peter and Tina are retired and live in leafy Surrey, and their journeys are usually short and outside of rush hour, so hybrid power would suit them. They could improve on my average economy of 40.7mpg, too.
But there’s one burning question from the Woolger household still to be answered; Is there room for Peter’s golf clubs? With 497 litres of space, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact there’s also room for a cart, while lowering the seats means there’s 1,697 litres of space, which is ideal if Tina’s playing too.
The lack of boot lip in the CR-V makes loading a lot easier than in Peter’s current car, although he would like a powered tailgate. That means he’ll need to move up to a higher spec EX version, which would also add a head-up display.
Asked why he keeps buying CR-Vs, Peter singles out Honda engines. “All these years, they’ve never let me down,” he told us. So would he consider hybrid? “Yes, if they can do me a deal!” Peter can buy outright or upgrade when his current deal ends next year. And I think his head has been turned by the hybrid.
Honda CR-V: second report
Our Honda CR-V Hybrid is leaving us feeling cool, calm and collected behind the wheel
- Mileage: 1,759
- Economy: 43.5mpg
After a couple of months with our Honda CR-V, I’m really feeling the sense of relaxation that comes with driving a hybrid family SUV. Is it exciting? Nope, but it does promote a very contented feeling when behind the wheel.
I’ve covered some decent mileage, too, with a good mix of A-roads and motorways, as well as my usual daily commute through South London. With the local speed limit now lowered to 20mph on most of the streets near me, I’m noticing that the hybrid Honda is ideal for coasting at this lower speed. If you play the acceleration game well, you hardly need to use the pedal – a light touch is all that’s needed to get up to speed. I must confess that I’m enjoying the simple driving experience on these uninspiring roads.
There’s no gearshift, just four drive-mode buttons to press on the main console (Park, Drive, Neutral and Reverse), and pulling away in near-silence starts every journey that I make with a sense of calm.
The clever powertrain in the CR-V means that it runs using the electric motor most of the time in town, while the engine fires up sparingly to top up the battery. The car only really uses the engine to drive the wheels under hard acceleration or at higher speeds.
I’ve also enjoyed playing with my driving style to eke out better fuel economy from the Honda. On shorter urban journeys I find that accelerating up to speed, then coasting until the little green EV icon kicks in, allows me to just cruise along maintaining speed with an occasional dab of the pedal.
On a recent longer motorway trip up to our New Car Awards photoshoot, I worked out that I could just about maintain EV power in lane one, even at speeds in excess of 60mph, for short bursts. My average economy of 43.5mpg is okay, but it could be better if I drove more slowly. Watching the MPG display creep up is rewarding, but I don’t want to arrive anywhere late!
Our CR-V has some family-friendly touches, too. There’s plenty of leg and headroom in the rear for tall teenagers. Add in the twin USB charging points, and it almost stops them being moody, too.
When I’m taking younger ones, I like the ability to monitor them using the clever wide-angle mirror that’s set into the lid of the sunglasses holder. There are also Isofix points on both of the outer rear seats and enough room to get an adult in between them. Handy if you need someone there holding the sick bag – not that it should be a problem in the smooth-riding Honda.
The tech has been a pleasant surprise. My first impressions of the CR-V’s display and graphics weren’t great. But I do like the simple sat-nav directions and the calm voice giving guidance. I’d usually turn off spoken directions immediately, but this time I haven’t bothered because it doesn’t badger me with constant orders. It’s all very civil.
In my next report, I’m going to take our hybrid to my CR-V-owning parents to see if the Honda can win them over, too.
Honda CR-V: first report
Our new Honda CR-V Hybrid is a practical and cost-efficient addition to the fleet
- Mileage: 827
- Economy: 36.9mpg
Having arrived only last week, our new green machine, the Honda CR-V Hybrid, is the newest car on the Auto Express fleet. I was quite excited to get the keys; the potential for saving money on fuel is pretty appealing. I don’t have a driveway at home, so I miss out on the pure-electric cars that feature in our tests. Fingers crossed that the hybrid Honda can help improve my urban economy figures.
As is so often the way, once you’re driving a new model you are amazed by how many of the same type you see on the road. I’ve spotted plenty of previous-generation examples around London recently. My new car seems considerably larger than that old version, and I’ve found that it’s really practical as a result. The hatch opens high and the doors open wide, with easy access to the rear seats and a large load area. Its generous height clearance means there is little danger of thumping my head, too.
The CR-V range moves up from S to SE, past SR and on to the range-topping EX. Our SR doesn’t have the EX’s powered tailgate that you can wave your foot under to open, but that’s really no problem. What I do like are the simple handles on both sides of the boot, which enable me to drop the rear seats without having to come around to the doors.
I may have had the car for only a week, but I’ve already made use of its spacious cabin by loading in some 2.4-metre lengths of wood for a building project my eldest son George has started. We’ve also freed up the full 1,697-litre boot by dropping all the rear seats to move some paintings for an artist friend.
Of course, the CR-V gobbles up even the largest of family supermarket shops with ease, and I’m sure that the big rubber mat will protect the carpeted load area on the inevitable trips to the allotment or rubbish dump. The CR-V is proving comfortable so far, with a high seating position and plenty of space in the back for my teenage boys, who have a lot of legroom. Both kids are six-footers, and they’ve each remarked on the extra room they are enjoying.
They’re even more pleased with the twin front and rear USB ports that come as standard. Looking through our car’s spec sheet, the amount of standard safety tech included across the range impresses. Brake assist, forward-collision warning, lane-keep assist, traffic-sign recognition and adaptive cruise control are all present, which is great. There is even vehicle and trailer-stability assist, should towing be your thing. Thankfully, the safety kit remains untouched so far.
That’s not true of the infotainment system, which has been reasonably easy to use; George synced his phone within a matter of seconds through the dash display. The screen is bigger than in previous CR-V models, but it struggles when compared with both the size and style of the unit in the Mercedes A-Class I ran before the Honda. I know they’re different cars and in different classes, but they’re similar in price.
Anyway, with some sizeable trips planned this month, I’m certainly looking forward to putting some proper miles on the Honda.
*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.
In this review
- 1VerdictUpdated Honda CR-V is more luxurious and just as practical as before, but has no diesel option and thirsty petrol engines.
- 2Engines, performance and driveTurbo engines have to work hard. Hybrid is smooth and quiet, but only slightly more economical
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsEven the most efficient CR-V is some way behind the competition, and the lack of a diesel option won’t suit all buyers
- 4Interior, design and technologyImpressive interior quality, but the exterior design is inoffensive and unlikely to catch the eye
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe added practicality of optional seven seats means the CR-V is an ideal family car
- 6Reliability and SafetyA high level of safety equipment is standard, and Honda’s impressive reliability is expected to continue
- 7Long-term test - currently readingFinal report: A long run to Kielder Forest puts our Honda CR-V Hybrid's comfort and economy to the test