Long-term tests

Long-term test review: Honda CR-V

Final report: SUV's solidity impresses, but this means it's a heavyweight in everyday use

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

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The Honda CR-V is well built, spacious and packed with family friendly touches. It's also refined, reasonably comfortable and well equipped. Yet its smooth 1.6-litre diesel is overwhelmbed by the hefty kerbweight and is surprisingly thirsty, while the driving experience lacks the polish of the class leaders.

Mileage: 6,325 Fuel economy: 33.7mpg

With all my camera gear to lug around, I'm used to a bit of heavy lifting. Yet I've had to do some extra training since taking custody of our Honda CR-V - the Japanese SUV feels like a real heavyweight, even compared to its already rugged rivals.

In some respects, this is a good thing, as it gives the car a reassuring sense of solidity. For instance, the doors require a bit of muscle to open, yet shut with a satisfying, bank-vault-like thud. With a substantial 1,742kg kerbweight, the Honda feels planted and stable on the road - in a straight line at least.

Point the CR-V at a series of corners, though, and its mass soon overwhelms the chassis. There's lots of body roll, and the car responds lazily to changes of direction. The steering also feels weightier than you'd expect, plus it's quite slow, so you need plenty of muscle to turn where other off-roaders would require smaller inputs.

The Honda's mass also means that the 1.6-litre engine could do with some time at the gym. Its 158bhp power output and 350Nm torque figure look decent on paper, but in the real world, the i-DTEC engine struggles under the strain. It's not helped by the nine-speed automatic gearbox, which either tries to change up too early or holds onto rations for longer than necessary. Still, at least the changes are smooth, and the powerplant itself is reasonably muted.

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The engine feels a little underpowered in the CR-V, but it's still willing to do some heavy lifting. For example, with the rear seats in place, the boot will swallow an impressive 589 litres. The rest of the interior is just as spacious, with occupants in the back benefiting from a totally flat floor and reclining seatbacks.

The comfort has impressed me, too - it takes a little while to get up to speed, but once it's cruising, the car's soft suspension does well at soaking up bumps, while wind and road noise are well supressed and the seats are extremely supportive.

In the cabin, the dashboard is a little haphazard, and the touchscreen system is fiddly. But in terms of the quality of the materials and construction, the Honda is up there with the best. Despite the best efforts of road tester Lesley Harris' grandchildren in our previous report, and some of my more boisterous friends, the cabin looks as fresh as the day it left the factory.

Overall, the safe and solid CR-V is a sensible family choice, but lacks the sparkle of models such as the Mazda CX-5 and Land Rover Discovery Sport. That said, I will miss my daily driving workout.

Honda CR-V: Second report

Mileage: 6,325 Fuel economy: 33.7mpg

Filling up the car – it’s one of those chores that everyone seems to hate. If you’re like me, then you try to put it off until you’re practically running on fumes. I spend enough time taking test models to forecourts, so I’d really like a car that’s economical enough for me to steer clear of the pumps. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the Honda CR-V on our fleet.

It’s long been recognised that claimed economy figures from car manufacturers are sometimes difficult to attain in the real world. Indeed, there are plenty of instances of test cars I’ve driven that have failed to get anywhere close to their official mpg. And in light of recent headline-hitting scandals, buyers are even more on their guard when choosing a new motor.  

So, I had high hopes when Honda said that the CR-V, with its new, more efficient 1.6 i-DTEC engine, should deliver 55.4mpg economy. Ever the optimist, I was hoping to achieve 45-50mpg based on the performance of similar cars I’ve had in the past. But sadly that’s not been the case. 

It’s not for lack of trying, either. My featherlight right foot has been assisted by an ECO mode that’s activated via a big green button on the dash. Turn it on, and not only does it cut throttle response, it also adds a green halo around the large central speedo that fades in and out depending on whether you’re driving like an eco saint or sinner.

But even on long runs with the fuel-saving mode active, I’ve struggled to achieve more than a measly 38.5mpg. This drops even further, to a paltry 33.7mpg on my commute into central London. And as a result, I’ve seen far more of my local petrol station staff than I’d like.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about the CR-V. It’s certainly practical, with lots of room for five adults, plus it has one of the biggest boots in its class, which is easy to load. Our range-topping EX model gets the luxury of an electrically assisted power tailgate, which opens from the key fob. However, don’t expect it to rise in a hurry – it takes 10 seconds to lift fully and another 10 to shut again, so just make sure you don’t use it when you want a quick getaway from the rain, because you’ll get wet!

Climb behind the wheel, and while the CR-V is a breeze to drive, the fiddly and fussy infotainment system is irritating. It’s left me cold and frustrated at times, as even simple tasks, such as trying to turn off the traffic information, have me reaching for the manual – it really shouldn’t be that difficult.

The touchscreen also looks cheap and is very slow to respond – it feels like you need to use a lot more force than necessary for such a slick-looking system. Not only is it annoying, but it means you’re paying less attention to the road as you have to wait and see if your input has actually worked.

As for trying to pair my smartphone with the in-car Wi-Fi for Internet access? Well this has just never happened, with the system constantly scanning and failing miserably to connect. I’m no technological whiz and can certainly live without some of the car’s gadgets, but having traffic info butting into The Archers? Now that’s something I’m not prepared to live with...

Honda CR-V: First report

Classic family holiday tests new Honda CR-V crossover

Mileage: 4,781 milesFuel economy: 35.2mpg

Taking my grandchildren on holiday for a week in Devon was always going to require a practical car with a large boot. So the Honda CR-V joined the Auto Express fleet just in time!

After completing the judging for The Caravan Club Tow Car of the Year 2016 awards at Millbrook, Beds, I took a well deserved break. Coming with me to the lovely Caravan Club site of Hillhead in Dartmouth in South Devon were five-year-old Evie and 20-month-old Oscar.

The children wanted to bring practically every toy they own, but after some careful negotiation we loaded the CR-V with the essentials, including Evie’s bike and Oscar’s buggy, buckets and spades, plus our luggage for a traditional British summer holiday. Thankfully, the CR-V has a 589-litre boot, which is one of the largest in its class.

Honda has also been very ingenious with the CR-V’s ‘magic’ rear seats. Simply flip a handle in the boot or tug the strap at the seatbase, and the headrests, seatbacks and squab all cleverly fold in one motion, leaving a flat load bay. We didn’t need the extra space for our holiday, but it will come in handy for those all-important trips to the local tip.

South Devon is famous for its narrow, winding lanes, and although the CR-V isn’t the most entertaining car to drive on these roads, it coped well. Plus, the SUV’s raised ride height was a bonus when it came to seeing over high hedges and checking for oncoming traffic. The high seats also let Evie and Oscar see the rolling countryside go past.

As well as a big boot, the CR-V boasts a good amount of storage space, so keeping all their bits and bobs to hand was easy. There’s no transmission tunnel between the back seats, and the flat foot space in the rear is ideal for stowing extra luggage. It also means five adults can sit in the rear in comfort, negating the usual squabble over who’s sitting in the middle.

The seats are comfortable, too, while both the driver and passengers get good head and legroom. Yet once on the road, the CR-V’s ride never really settles and always feels slightly fidgety – which is tiring on long journeys.

Our car features Honda’s new nine-speed automatic box, and while the shifts are smooth, there’s a slight lag when pulling away, which doesn’t instil confidence. The recent updates have given the CR-V a grown-up look, but the interior doesn’t live up to the expectations of the exterior. There are lots of fiddly buttons, and the infotainment system doesn’t work as well as some of its rivals’.

But our range-topping EX model isn’t left wanting for kit, with a panoramic glass roof and power tailgate as standard. There are heated seats, too, just in time for winter.

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