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

First drive: Honda CR-V Hybrid
Honda drops diesel and makes the Hybrid its fuel-efficient CR-V champion instead. Any good?


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Honda CR-V Hybrid

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Honda 'does a Porsche' and tries to distance itself from diesels by deciding that there will be no derv-powered versions of the really rather good fifth-generation CR-V, which means that the fuel-efficient fans among you who want this likeable SUV must look to this model for your kicks: it's the CR-V Hybrid, and the best news is we reckon it's already the go-to variant of the line-up.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Honda CR-V Hybrid EX AWD
Pricing: CR-V from 25,995; Hybrid from 29,105; Hybrid EX AWD from 37,255
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol with twin electric motors and lithium-ion battery
Transmission: all-wheel drive, single-speed reduction gear
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 126g/km* (VED Band 111-130: 155 first 12 months, then 130 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 51.4mpg*
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: petrol 145hp at 6,200rpm, electric motors 184hp, quoted system maximum 184hp
Torque: petrol 175Nm at 4,000rpm, electric motors 315Nm, quoted system maximum 315Nm
Boot space: 497-1,694 litres
* Figures quoted are NEDC-correlated from WLTP testing

What's this?

Honda, having a go at hybrid again. But this is no Integrated Motor Assist, as seen on the CR-Z or its intriguing forebear, the original Insight. Oh no; this time around, it's the Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive, or i-MMD in Honda's preferred nomenclature. This is even newer tech than the mighty three-motor arrangement in the NSX supercar and it neatly encapsulates the motoring world's sudden denouncement of diesel as a fuel - to whit, the latest CR-V isn't due to get a turbodiesel mill at all, not even the lovely 1.6-litre i-DTEC as employed by the Civic Mk10.

So the CR-V Hybrid (not the most surprising name in the world for it, is it?) is the 'green' machine in the SUV's line-up, the one which promises best figures of 53.3mpg and 120g/km of CO2 in front-wheel-drive guise, while simultaneously offering more torque and the fastest 0-62mph times of the range too. It achieves this dual wizardry thanks to i-MMD, which deserves closer scrutiny. A 2.0-litre, Atkinson cycle, four-cylinder i-VTEC petrol engine, delivering reedy numbers of 145hp and 175Nm, is augmented by two electric motors (one generator, one propulsion), a 1kWh lithium-ion battery pack, a Power Control Unit, an engine lock-up clutch and a single-speed reduction gear transmission system. All this allows it to shift, dynamically (you don't choose modes - the Honda sorts it all out for you), between EV Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive.

And, in fully 66.666667 per cent of these, the onboard combustion engine does naff all to physically turn the CR-V's wheels. In both EV and Hybrid Drive modes, the lock-up clutch is open and it's the electric propulsion motor doing the donkey work, either being powered by the short reserves of Li-ion battery power alone in EV Drive (engine off, the maximum zero-emissions range is just 1.2 miles...) or using the electric generator unit, in turn fed by the Atkinson cycle petrol, to provide go. Only in Engine Drive mode does the lock-up clutch close and the four-pot combustion motor starts powering the wheels. The benefits of this system are that it is light, compact and very good on fuel, and although its EV range is minimal, the Honda is often working hard to recharge the Li-ion battery on the move, to the extent that the CR-V is whispering around in near-silence more than you might give it credit for.

Further, Honda has worked on the ride and refinement of the regular CR-V by blessing the Hybrid with extra sound-deadening to maximise its silent-running characteristics, while there's an active noise cancellation system incorporated and, for European-bound models of the SUV hybrid, a specific map for the way the single-speed reduction gear allows the engine to rev in certain, high-demand situations. Eschewing the CVT which is fitted to the 1.5-litre petrol model (thankfully!), the CR-V Hybrid would nevertheless have unusual 'maximum acceleration' revving manners that would be alien to people used to cars with lots of gears and progressive power/torque curves. So, Honda has decided to try and make the engine increase revs as speed builds, rather than holding one particular rev point and screaming its heart out. Whether this works or not, we'll come onto in a moment...

Other than that, the CR-V Hybrid looks very much like any other CR-V Mk5. It's handsome, large and clearly a Honda, with the only external signifier to its part-electric saintliness being three small, blue-tinged 'Hybrid' badges that reside on the front wings and the boot lid. Inside, the instrument cluster gets its own, bespoke displays that inform the driver whether the vehicle is using petrol, electric or petrol-electric grunt and the gear select mechanism in here is by button pads, as on the NSX, rather than with a lever, as on the CR-V 1.5-litre petrol with the CVT 'box. Bear in mind that the Hybrid cannot be specified as a seven-seater, as some of the hybrid gear is stored beneath the cargo bay floor - and that also slightly limits its boot space compared to a five-seat petrol CR-V, with the Hybrid 64 litres down at 497 litres with all five seats in place, that figure shy of the 561 litres on offer elsewhere in the range.

How does it drive?

Rather well, actually. Yes, we know we've not always been the biggest fans of mild hybrid drivetrains in SUVs that lack for a 'proper' gearbox, but the CR-V Hybrid is more refined, quieter and sharper to drive than the 1.5-litre petrol model. In particular, it is impossible to tell when the drivetrain is shifting from one i-MMD setting to another, even when the petrol engine is firing up/dying off (delete as appropriate). So discreet is it in operation that Honda felt a clear visual indicator - specifically, a little white cog - was needed on the 'power flow' graphic in the CR-V Hybrid's instrument cluster, to let the driver know when the engine is using its dino-juice to shift the SUV forward. Incidentally, about the only time you'll see this little cog is when you're cruising along the motorway or a flowing A-road on part-throttle; for the rest of the time, the car endeavours to be in either EV or Hybrid modes.

It's also quick. With 315Nm on tap, it has significantly more torque than the next CR-V down the tree (243Nm in the CVT 1.5) and it's on offer from the moment you even slightly depress the throttle, given that it's the electric motors which generate this figure all on their own. Thus, not only is the CR-V Hybrid suitably nippy and yet beautifully controllable on one pedal around town, it's actually got something of a thumping midrange to it, because the Honda will surge round slower-moving traffic in multi-car overtakes on two-lane roads like it has about 50 per cent more horsepower than the company's on-paper claims. The ride and refinement are also excellent, and the four-wheel-drive system blesses the CR-V with lots of traction to go with the chassis' inherent grip, to make the Honda surprisingly spry in the corners. The 4WD, by the way, drops the Hybrid's 0-62mph time by four-tenths to 9.2 seconds and slightly dents the eco-stats to 51.4mpg with 126g/km of CO2, and it'll cost you 1,100 on top of an equivalent 2WD Hybrid.

Sadly, the Hybrid is not quite the perfect mid-sized SUV, because while we rate the overall refinement of the package very highly, there are still times where things aren't quite as sedate as they should be. Such as when you're on a motorway and the tyre roar in the back of the cabin is just a touch too intrusive for our liking. Or when you do need to clog the throttle for max power, and the drivetrain does do the 'relentless shriek' thing that CVTs are wont to do; this is especially annoying, because it detracts from the impressive speed the CR-V is piling on. And, though these aren't specific to the Hybrid model, you still have to put up with Honda's dated infotainment system and the bizarre 'false wood' trim that the company is trying to peddle as something luxurious. Thankfully, Honda UK is already working on an aluminium trim that bypasses this last, minor issue completely.


The Mk5 Honda CR-V is a superb family machine, especially in five-seat guise, because it's massive, refined, good to look at, likely to be as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning and it's also not a huge amount of cash. What it needed, though, after sampling the 1.5-litre launch version, was a drivetrain with some real chutzpah - and the Hybrid seems to be it. It's not flawless, but if customers drive it in the economical style that it has been designed for, rather than thrashing the living bejesus out of it, then the Hybrid appears to be the Mk5 CR-V to go for. Don't just take our word for it, though: Honda says 50 per cent of buyers will go for the Hybrid model, while the top-spec AWD EX as tested here will be the volume unit of the range. And that's how it should be, because it's abundantly clear the Hybrid AWD EX is the pick of the line-up.

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

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 20 Nov 2018    - Honda road tests
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2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.

2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid. Image by Honda.


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