The CR-V is a huge source of business for the Japanese brand and accounted for very nearly a quarter of new cars leaving Honda showrooms across Europe in 2017.
Arguably, the biggest talking point with this all-new Honda CR-V is the lack of a diesel engine option. We can partly look to the current climate of fear surrounding diesel for the reason why Honda’s latest flagship SUV will arrive on sale in Britain this September with a turbocharged 1.5-litre VTEC petrol as the sole powertrain available. A hybrid will join the line-up in 2019 in a bid to deliver lower fleet CO2 emissions.
Front-wheel-drive and manual versions of the CR-V will be available, but the most popular option will be with a ‘Continuously Variable Transmission’ (CVT) sending power to an all-wheel-drive system.
This new fifth-generation car broadly picks up where the old mk4 CR-V left off from a design point of view, with an evolutionary look and little change to the overall shape. The car itself is the same length, but the wheelbase has been extended by 30mm to free up additional legroom in the back seats.
As such, the new car feels very spacious, building on one of the outgoing model’s strong points. Both five and seven-seat configurations will appear here, but cars with a third row will only account for a small amount of sales, partly because the extra seats are only really large enough for small children.
As a five-seat proposition the CR-V offers very generous room for legs and heads front and rear, plus a useable middle seat thanks to little intrusion from the transmission tunnel. You’ll certainly have little trouble transporting five adults.
The interior takes a step up from a design and quality standpoint, too. The large and clear digital instrument panel from the Civic appears, while the plastics used on the redesigned dashboard and at arm’s height are fairly soft to the touch, with harder stuff relegated to the bottom halves of the dash and doors.The seven-inch infotainment display is neatly integrated with a new touch sensitive side bar and a gloss black housing. It’s still Honda’s slightly fiddly user interface with dated graphics, however, and there are much slicker and sharper looking systems in similarly priced rivals.
The boot space on offer is generous, but it comes with a caveat. The 561-litre space with all seats in place means the CR-V is right at the top of the class with the Peugeot 3008 the only real rival that can better it. The big ‘but’ here is that the new CR-V’s boot is actually smaller than the vast 589 litres offered in the old car. A cavernous 1,756 litres is what you’ll get if you fold the rear seats down though, and it’s still possible to make the load bay completely flat with an adjustable boot floor. Throw-in plenty of cubby spaces around the cabin, plus simple one-action straps and levers to fold everything flat, and this feels like a car families will get on very well with.
The new CR-V is better to drive than before as well. A new steering system means that the car no longer feels as vague, and delivers sharper, more linear and predictable responses. This CR-V has been on sale in the United States for around a year now, and in that time Honda made the decision to equip the European car with a tweaked suspension system featuring new dampers.
With only one engine available from launch, all early customers will take on a car equipped with a turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol. In the Civic this engine is a keen all-round performer, and one of the reasons why Honda’s hatchback is among the best driving family cars you can buy.
Sadly, it’s not quite as convincing in the CR-V. It’s nice at a cruise, but with modest torque reserves the engine is called on more frequently, and once the CVT transmission has grabbed and held a handful of revs the cabin is no longer a truly quiet place to be. A brief spin in a front-wheel-drive, manual car proved to be an even louder experience too.
It also means that until the arrival of the CR-V hybrid, 39.8mpg is as frugal as things get for the CR-V – that’s a figure achieved under less stringent and soon to be replaced NEDC standards too. All-wheel-drive rivals with diesel power will be cheaper to run, while slightly more compact, five-seat only competitors like the Skoda Karoq and Peugeot 3008 are available with downsized, more economical and cheaper petrol options.
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