Honda CR-V review (2012 - 2018) - Engines, performance and drive

Strong diesels and good refinement mark CR-V out, although nine-speed auto isn't so impressive

Honda has a great reputation for building fantastic engines, and the 1.6 i-DTEC diesel in the CR-V is quite impressive. Cutting edge technology has been used to ensure it maximises efficiency, and considering its small capacity, it serves up good performance in a car of the CR-V's size. The engine is available with six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic transmissions in its more powerful guise, although the auto isn't the best performer. While gearchanges are smooth, it’s sluggish to respond and dulls the engine’s performance.

The 1.6 i-DTEC engine 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. Opt for the six-speed manual instead of the auto, and you’ll find it a pleasure to use thanks to its precise changes. However, despite its impact on acceleration, the auto suits the car’s laid back, relaxed nature.

The rest of the CR-V driving experience can’t quite match the engine. 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 set-up is that bumps and potholes are soaked up well.

Grip and traction are also decent, especially on four-wheel-drive models, but the slow steering means you have to turn the wheel more than you might expect to navigate a corner, which doesn’t inspire confidence. If you want a more engaging Honda to drive with similar carrying capacity, it might be worth looking at the Honda Civic hatch instead. 

Engines

Just two engines are offered, although the 1.6 i-DTEC diesel comes in two states of tune. The lower-powered version, with 118bhp and 300Nm of torque, has been available since 2013, but cannot be specified with four-wheel drive or an automatic gearbox. The plus side to this is that the 118bhp 1.6 is 116kg lighter than the old 2.2 CR-V, which meant Honda had to specially recalibrate the suspension to compensate, which helped boost its handling. 

A more powerful version of the 1.6 i-DTEC engine superseded the previous 148bhp 2.2-litre i-CTDi diesel. This delivers the same 350Nm of torque as the old 2.2, but adds another 10bhp to the mix with 158bhp, so it's 40bhp more than the entry-level 1.6. Both 1.6s make their peak power at 4,000rpm and deliver maximum torque from 2,000rpm.

Honda also offers the CR-V with a 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol engine. This offers 153bhp at 6,500rpm, but when compared to the diesels it looks short on torque; it musters just 192Nm at a peaky 4,300rpm. The petrol engine isn’t really worth considering over either of the excellent 1.6 i-DTEC motors. While all the engines provide decent refinement, the diesels make more sense, with lower CO2 emissions and greater efficiency to help keep running costs in check.

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