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Honda aims Hy with new CR-V

Diesel is the bad guy in motoring of late, with manufacturers shunning oil burners as governments crack down on emissions.

In a reflection of this, Honda recently announced it would be dropping the diesel CR-V from its range, leaving just a petrol version and this, the new CR-V Hybrid.

The manufacturer claims it should return the same economy as the recently ditched model, while improving low-speed emissions thanks to the introduction of those electric motors.

We headed to Seville to see if this latest CR-V really can take the place of the well-rounded diesel version.

What's new?

The biggest changes come under the bonnet (we'll get to these shortly) but there have been alterations elsewhere.

It's got a wheelbase that is 30mm longer than the old CR-V, which provides better interior space. Honda has also included active aerodynamics, which allow a shutter to open or close behind the grille, depending on how well the engine is being cooled.

There's even a warning sound when driving in all-electric mode, so that hearing-impaired pedestrians can know it's coming. Plus, Honda has included a wide variety of its latest safety technology to ensure that those inside and outside the CR-V Hybrid are kept as safe as possible.

What's under the bonnet?

Here's where things get interesting. The CR-V Hybrid uses a far-from-conventional powertrain, but the fundamentals are there. Underneath the bonnet is a 2.0-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, with a lithium-ion battery in the boot. Thanks to what Honda is calling "intelligent multi-mode drive", or i-MMD for short, it can seamlessly switch between power options while on the move.

At low speeds, for instance, the battery powers just the electric motors that drive the wheels - the engine is kept out of the equation. You've got around 1.2 miles of all-electric propulsion, although when switching to hybrid mode the engine supplies power to the electric motors, which then drive the wheels.

Finally, there's Engine Drive, which comes into play at higher speeds. This allows the engine to directly drive the wheels, bypassing both the battery and the electric motors. There's no gearbox, just a lock-up clutch that transfers power depending on need.

What's it like to drive?

On start-up, it's business as usual. There's no noise, and the CR-V silently whisks away in the manner we've come to expect from hybrids. Gain a little pace, and the engine chimes in seamlessly, grumbling away slightly. The overall refinement is very good (it must be in such quiet cars as even the tiniest rattles make their presence known like a swarm of solid-gold bees flying into a desk fan), and it's helped no end by the added sound insulation material installed throughout the car, as well as Honda's innovative new active noise-cancellation system.

Under hard acceleration, the engine does produce a hefty din, but once you're up to speed it settles down. It's quiet and comfortable, and the ride remains composed.

Honda claims a 0-60mph time of nine seconds, and it felt honest to this, as it did to the car's claimed 51.4mpg - we saw around 48mpg on our route, which mixed motorway driving with short country road bursts.

How does it look?

In a time when manufacturers must create cars to stand out in a heavily saturated market, Honda has done well to make the CR-V look different. It's a chunky-looking thing, with dynamic lines running the length of the car helping to hide its bulk. The front headlamp design is particularly noticeable, as is the large chrome grille. It's also pleasantly 'normal'. Save for a few model badges on the flanks, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that this had a cutting-edge powertrain underneath it, and that'll likely appeal to those who don't want to shout about the fact they're driving a hybrid.

What's it like inside?

The cabin of the CR-V Hybrid is tried-and-tested Honda: solid and well-built. There are harsher plastics, although the rubberised dash and large, chunky buttons help to give it an overall feeling of robustness. The door pockets are sizeable enough for a few bottles of water, and there are cubbies dotted throughout the cabin to help keep it clutter-free.

Rear-seat head and legroom levels are excellent, and there are twin USB sockets for charging devices. Although the boot is smaller in the hybrid than the petrol (497 litres down from 589 litres), the overall area is wide, square and easy to access, thanks to a low floor and minimal load lip.

What's the equipment spec like?

Equipment specifications mirror those available on the petrol version, so buyers can choose from S, SE, SR and EX versions, as well as the option of either two or all-wheel drive. Prices start at £29,105 for the entry-level S model with two-wheel drive, topping out at £37,255 for the all-singing, all-dancing all-wheel drive EX.

Although all cars get cruise control, traffic sign recognition and Honda's full suite of safety assistance systems, the firm expects the range-topping EX to be the best seller. It has a heated steering wheel, head-up display and panoramic sunroof over the other, still comprehensively kitted-out, grades.

The latest generation of Honda's infotainment system lingers behind rivals' in terms of ease of use and look.

Verdict

Honda believes this hybrid CR-V to be a fair replacement for its popular diesel version, and we'd have to agree.

It's only going to cost around £800 more than the standard petrol version, which makes it excellent value.

All in all, the CR-V Hybrid would be an excellent proposition for those looking to drive down their fuel costs without making too many sacrifices in terms of the overall driving experience.

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