Once upon a time, Honda’s CR-V was perceived as a rather sensible compact 4x4.
In third generation form though, it’s as cutting edge as you could reasonably expect a car like this to be. Here, we’re looking at the version most UK customers tend to go for, fitted with the 150bhp 2.0-litre i-VTEC engine.
Let’s not get too insular though. There’s a whole world outside the Honda marque and when prospective buyers consider a CR-V, they’re also looking at cars like the Land Rover Freelander 2, the Nissan X-Trail, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Toyota RAV4. With Peugeot’s 4007 and Citroën’s C-Crosser also looking to muscle in for a significant slice of the market, you can see why the CR-V needs to be very good indeed. A facelift has improved its chances.
Two engines are available. The aspirational powerplant is undoubtedly the 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel, but that’s a more expensive piece of kit and in this market, money talks which is the reason why more CRV-s will be sold with the 2.0-litre petrol unit on test here. It makes a healthy 150bhp and will get to 60mph in a respectable 10.2 seconds if you choose the manual transmission, the five-speed auto model lagging with an 12.2 second showing against the watch.
Peak power arrives at a nosebleed 6,200rpm, so you’ll need to rev this thing to make progress and if you’re loaded down with people and gear, the modest 190Nm torque figure may well prompt you to look at the diesel engine. With a kerb weight of 1,498kg, this CR-V is still a good deal lighter than many of its direct competitors, a RAV4 weighing in at 1,639kg and a Hyundai Santa Fe CRTD a whopping 1,940kg. This means that although the engine isn’t hugely endowed with torque, you’ll still enjoy a manageable torque to weight ratio.
The CR-V can handle gentle off-road tracks thanks to its four-wheel drive system but think of this as an all-wheel drive equipped car rather than a ‘proper’ 4x4. The system has been tweaked a little to direct even more torque to the rear wheels when the front wheels start slipping. This is actually handier if you’re planning to use the CR-V in bad weather conditions or on an Alpine skiing jaunt.
"A vehicle that has benefited from a decade of development on the CR-V product line. Frankly, it shows."
And those improved looks? Well, there’s a fresh front bumper and grille, a revised rear bumper, and colour coded bumpers on EX grades. There are smarter alloy wheels and upgraded fabrics and plastics inside, giving the CR-V interior a more premium finish. A slicker audio console design has also been introduced, while improved sound deadening around the engine and cabin makes the CR-V an even quieter and more relaxing car to drive.
Take a look under the CR-V and you’ll spot independent suspension all round with a multilink rear set-up. The centre of gravity has been dropped by fully 35mm and Honda claims to have benchmarked the best family hatchbacks in its class (rather than other 4x4s) when it comes to handling. Forget the cumbersome roly-poly road manners and ponderous ride quality still common to some cars in this class. The CR-V has been engineered to be pin sharp straight out of the box.
The rear seats split 60:40 at the base and 40:20:40 at the back and slide back and forth to maximise either leg or luggage room. They even recline to really let rear passengers flake out on longer trips. When not required, the rear seats can be tumbled forwards and stowed upright to create a space big enough for a pair of mountain bikes. You won’t even need to remove the front wheels. Extra versatility is served up with the ‘Double Deck’ luggage storage system created by a shelf that sits just over a foot off the load floor. This hinged slab allows luggage below to remain easily accessible but out of view.
A choice between 17 and 18-inch alloy wheels underscores the Honda’s on-road mission. Other 4x4 cues have also been ditched, one by one. The tail-mounted spare wheel has been excised, replaced by one that sits under the load compartment floor. The tailgate also opens like a conventional hatchback – side openings being deemed a little passé. The internal dimensions aren’t far removed from the old CR-V, a car which always was one of the more spacious compact 4x4s. Load space has been increased, despite the internally housed spare, while access has been improved by bigger doors that open wider. The interior features metallic elements on the dash with soft textured black trim, while the front seats cater for this nation’s ever-expanding posteriors, being larger and more comfortable than before.
SE grades come fitted with newly-designed 17-inch alloy wheels as standard as well as air conditioning, auxiliary socket, cloth upholstery and power-heated door mirrors. ES grades get 18-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, auto-dimming mirror, cruise control, double-deck cargo space, electric folding mirrors, half leather and Alcantara heated seats, headlight washers, front fog lights, leather steering wheel and gear knob, rear parking sensors, unique interior inlay trims and USB connector for an iPod, over and above the SE model.
Top spec EX models are differentiated by full body-coloured bumpers and come equipped with DVD voice-activated satellite navigation with premium audio and subwoofer, full leather upholstery with front heated seats, HID Xenon headlights and auto headlight on function, panoramic roof, rain sensor, reverse tilt mirror and 8-way driver power seat in addition to the ES specification.
The Honda CR-V benefits from some of the highest residual values of any mid priced compact 4x4 and its fuel return is impressive too. This 2.0-litre petrol model returns 34.4mpg – not far off the 43.5mpg figure achieved by the diesel version. As a result, due to lower purchase prices and cheaper servicing costs, the petrol CR-V doesn’t really work out any more expensive to run over a three year ownership period. It’s also marginally quicker. All CR-V models fall into insurance group 12. Emissions are 190g/km for the petrol-engined car.
The Honda CR-V 2.0 i-VTEC is a vehicle that has benefited from a decade of development on the CR-V product line and, frankly, it shows. If you need 4x4 presence and practicality without feeling as if you’re driving something from an army surplus auction, this is one of the best choices around from just over £20,000.