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First drive: 2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.

First drive: 2018 Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is all-new underneath, and you now canít have one with a diesel engine.

   



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Honda CR-V

4 4 4 4 4

Honda's CR-V SUV gets more cabin space, an excellent 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and the usual Honda quality.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Honda CR-V 1.5 VTEC Turbo CVT AWD
Pricing: starts at approx. £25,000
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: CVT automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: seven-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 164g/km (VED Band 151-170: £515 in year one)
Combined economy: 39.8mpg (7.1 litres/100km)
Top speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Power: 193hp at 5,600rpm
Torque: 243Nm at 2,000-5,000rpm

What's this?

This is the new Honda CR-V. No, honestly, it is. I know, it looks an awful lot like the old one. The overall shape is much the same and, while the grille, lights, bonnet and the tailgate do look distinctly different, from a distance you might struggle to tell them apart a little. It really is new though, with a platform that shares much with the Civic hatchback and something crucial missing. That missing item is a diesel engine. Honda says that the new CR-V is the start of a new 'powertrain journey' for the brand, as it moves away from conventional engines and towards electric power. The hybrid CR-V arrives early next year and will be the first of a new family of electrified Hondas, which should account for around a third of the Japanese car maker's range by 2025.

While we wait for that, here's a petrol CR-V. It uses the same 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo four-cylinder petrol engine that you'll find in the Civic, and you have a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, CVT automatic or six-speed manual.

As before, the CR-V is one of the more practical of mid-size SUVs. It's always been roomy, but this time around Honda has really gone to town on the cabin space. While the new CR-V is the same length on the outside as the old one, the wheelbase has been stretched by 30mm, and that means you can (for the first time ever) have one with seven seats. And those extra seats are not just there as a box-ticking exercise, either. Honda's engineers went as far as reshaping the fuel tank to find extra room for rear-most passengers' feet. Combine that with a centre row of seats that slides back and forth by up to 150mm, and you've got a hugely practical, useful family car. You can even, at a squeeze, fit actual adults into those folding third row seats.

Boot space is good, too. The standard five-seat model gets a 561-litre boot and, though official figures for the seven-seat model aren't yet available. The boot floor is adjustable and all the seats fold and tumble as needed. You can also have a powered tailgate if you fancy, but to be honest it's so slow and the standard hatch so light and easy to open that we just wouldn't bother.

Inside, the CR-V looks and feels, rather pleasantly, like a half-way house between premium and mainstream brands, which is kind of what you'd expect from a Honda. The basic dash layout is lifted from the Civic, but the materials used are of a higher class. Shame that the digital instruments look cheap and that the central touchscreen has a menu and layout so awful that you'll probably want to just switch it off, but the fundamentals of the interior are very good - the seats are excellent, there's leg-stretching room and the view out is improved by windscreen pillars that are both thinner and set further back than before. Oddment stowage up front, in the door bins and the huge centre console box, is fabulous, if that's your kind of thing. Even the glovebox is of a decent size. It's kind of hard to think of a comparable car that's more practical, all-round.

It'll be a little more expensive than the outgoing model (prices are expected to go up by between five and ten per cent), but there will be extra standard equipment, in the shape of the Honda Sensing safety pack (improved radar guided cruise, autonomous emergency braking with forward collision alert, lane departure warning and steering, plus traffic sign recognition) and extra refinement in the shape of an active noise cancelling system for the cabin. Higher spec models will get a panoramic glass roof, blind spot monitor, reversing camera and rather pleasant wood trim to go with their leather seats.

How does it drive?

Sadly, the CR-V is not much fun to drive. That's not to say that it's bad, or clumsy, or uncomfortable, nor anything like it. It's just that while the Civic has sharp, responsive steering, the CR-V's helm has clearly been reading a How to Be Mushy guide book. It's nicely weighted, but utterly inert and you have to feel for the available grip when you turn into a corner, even with the helping electronic hand of Honda's 'Agile Handling Assistant' stability control. The all-wheel-drive system is also supposed to aid handling, as there's a yaw sensor that can help to divert more power to the rear wheels to help balance the handling, but you could have fooled us. The suspension, which gets an extra 30mm of ride height, is also quite soft and springy, so there's body roll aplenty and even a little lurching if you're really trying to haul the CR-V around. Better to just back off, revel in the refinement and cruise along in comfort. Do that and the CR-V feels just peachy.

Which is just as well, because you're going to be going further on a tank of fuel than you might expect. Surely a chunky seven-seat SUV, with the extra weight of all-wheel drive, powered by a small turbocharged petrol engine is going to drink like an alcoholic falling off the wagon? No, is the surprising answer. Honda has added such items as an active radiator grille (which can swing shut for improved aerodynamics) and 'micropolished' engine components that reduce friction in an effort to clamp down on fuel consumption, and it has worked. In general, across both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions, on our hilly Austrian test route, we saw between 35mpg and 37mpg, and on one long drive in the CVT-equipped all-wheel-drive model we got it to average 41mpg, which beats Honda's official fuel economy figure. That's not bad, and barely any less than we'd have expected to get from a diesel SUV under similar circumstances. It also helps that the 1.5 engine is refined, smooth and picks up strongly through the mid-range. After this, we suspect that no-one is going to miss diesel anymore.

The other surprise is just how good the CVT transmission is. The six-speed manual is fine, but by Honda standards has a slightly long-winded action that never feels quite satisfying. By contrast, Honda says that it has worked hard to make the CVT feel more like a conventional automatic, and so it surprisingly proves. Instead of letting the engine drone on endlessly at peak rpm when accelerating, the CVT instead moves through a series of artificial steps that mimic the actions of a regular auto, keeping the engine closer to its torque peak than its power peak. It's actually really satisfying, and right now is the transmission of choice for the new CR-V.

Verdict

It's no surprise that the Honda CR-V is hugely roomy, practical and family friendly - it always has been, right back to the 1998 original. The extra interior space is a bonus, as is the option of seven seats, which effectively opens up a new segment of the market for the CR-V. The real surprise is just what a good fit for the car both the 1.5 petrol turbo engine and the CVT transmission are. Fuel economy is really very good and, in long-haul refinement terms, the CR-V is hard to beat. It's not as much fun as it could be (or indeed as it used to be) in the corners, but for the family market that's perhaps less of a consideration. Much more important are the usual Honda high-points of quality and safety.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 10 Jul 2018



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2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.

2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.2018 Honda CR-V. Image by Honda.








 

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