Smart new exterior design
Honda created a sales winner in the shape of the CR-V, which in its original form successfully combined the stance and practicality of an SUV with a car-like driving experience. The latest version of the CR-V aims to build on that success, and brings a new exterior and interior design as well as a broader range to grab more customers.
The SUV segment has continued to expand over the last decade, particularly with crossovers or 'soft-roaders' as they have been called, which forego much in the way of off-road ability for improved on-road dynamic, reflecting the actual usage of most customers. Honda was at the forefront of this new direction with the original CR-V, but this forth generation model has a much broader range of competitors.
It's important to note that the fourth generation CR-V is not an all-new car, but a substantial reworking of the outgoing model. It looks significantly different from the outside however, and although it has a clear visual link with the old car it has a much sharper look overall. Although closely related it is both shorter and lower than the old car and looks more dynamic and modern as a result.
Mechanically there are a number of enhancements all aimed at improving the car's efficiency and performance. Two of the engines are carried over from the outgoing car but with increased power resulting in better performance, yet economy and emissions performance have also been improved. The CR-V will also benefit from Honda's new 1.6-litre diesel unit. Honda has also invested considerable time in improving the CR-V's aerodynamics including a flat underfloor which also helps efficiency.
The other key area of development in the fourth generation CR-V is the interior. The shape of the dashboard has been changed to lower the overall height and allow more light into the cabin. The seat folding arrangement has also been changed to make it easier to configure, and boot space has been increased over the outgoing car. A powered tailgate has also been added for greater convenience.
Honda has improved the CR-V in many areas, raising its functionality, increasing efficiency and enhancing its looks. The increased choice for the buyer should also open it out to a wider audience and make it more competitive compared to rival products.
Particularly in diesel form the CR-V should be a relatively inexpensive car to run. The effort paid to improving engine efficiency and reducing aerodynamic drag all contribute with a subsequent reduction in emissions too.
The CR-V makes the most of its external dimensions, and despite being slightly smaller than the outgoing car it is actual bigger inside in terms of space for passengers and luggage. Storage space is reasonable with a good glovebox although there are fewer smaller oddment spaces elsewhere.
Clarity is clearly an important attribute to Honda as the CR-V displays this quality in abundance. The instruments are large and clearly marked, the screen is well-placed and bright and all the controls are easy to understand from first glance.
With greater emphasis placed on the cabin design the CR-V offers up an impressive space for occupants. All the seats are very comfortable with a good range of adjustment, the large glazed area allows plenty of light into the cabin and the low noise levels in terms of wind and engine are low. The ride quality is also good, coping with most road imperfections easily.
A standard alarm and immobiliser system should keep casual thieves at bay, while tinted glass in the rear and a sturdy load cover will prevent prying eyes from detecting anything inside.
Judging by the effort expended on it by Honda the CR-V should be a very safe SUV. In terms of passive safety the bodyshell is stronger than before, there is a full complement of airbags and the front seats have whiplash mitigation built in. On the active safety side the CR-V is packed with features including collision mitigation, lane keep assist and an emergency stop system as well as Honda's version of ESP.
Most Hondas major on delivering a low effort and stress-free driving experience so it is no surprise that the CR-V follows the same path. From behind the wheel the view out is comprehensive, the control layout is easy to understand and there are no gimmicks to distract the driver. The 2.2-litre diesel unit is smooth and unobtrusive with good torque from low engine speeds while the automatic gearbox is unobtrusive. When pressed, the CR-V is very competent and stable and so will meet the needs of many buyers comfortably.
Aside from being a strict five-seater the CR-V is likely to be an ideal family vehicle. It has the generous cabin space and sturdy build, while the flexible seating configuration should be able to cope with all kinds of child seats and buggies.
While certainly undemanding to drive the CR-V is a little large and too expensive to suit the majority of new drivers.
Honda has built its reputation on producing quality cars and just a few minutes with the CR-V shows that it will continues this pattern. Although the materials are not necessarily as posh as premium rivals the standard of build is very high and promises longevity. Image-wise the CR-V is possibly one of Honda's more distinct cars and has an appeal that stretches beyond the usual senior demographic.
The slightly lower roof has not impacted on access to the CR-V: climbing in through any of the doors is simple with the floor at just the right height to allow an easy slide into the seat. The same goes for the boot which is at the perfect height and the electric operation makes life very easy indeed. Folding the seats requires a simple pull on a lever and the whole arrangement folds instantly.
Even the entry-level CR-V has a well specified radio/CD unit as standard, with a touch screen, USB and auxiliary connection. The display is clear and easy to use while the wheel-mounted buttons also ensure trouble-free operation. Higher specification models gain an upgraded system with Bluetooth and a DAB radio.
With a grey moulding around the base of the car the CR-V looks better with brighter shades that contrast with it, most obviously the metallic red. On the inside the brighter trim options help to lift the tone and reduced the amount of uninspiring grey.
The CR-V is certainly a sizeable vehicle but the generous amount of glazing allows a good view out. Parking sensors and a reversing camera appear as you move further up the range to make life even easier.
A space saver spare wheel is fitted beneath the boot floor.
Petrol engine options – 2.2-litre (153bhp). Diesel engine options – 1.6-litre (115bhp); 2.2-litre (148bhp). Six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Trim levels are S, SE and EX.