Honda’s CR-V was one of the first vehicles to bring the idea of the sports utility vehicle to the motoring mainstream. It offered masses of practicality and Honda’s enviable reputation for reliability allied to a more car-like experience than full-fat 4x4s or pick-ups could offer.
Since then, of course, everyone and their dog has jumped on the SUV wagon and the market is flooded with models ranging from what are basically jacked-up hatchbacks to 500bhp behemoths that are better suited to a racetrack than a muddy field. Amidst all this the CR-V has plodded along and has arrived now in its fourth generation offering the same qualities that made it a hit in the first place.
Based on the third generation but with major changes, especially below the surface, the latest CR-V claims to be more refined, responsive and safer.
It’s certainly got the last of those right. The first CR-V to secure a five-star NCAP rating, the fourth generation also features a raft of passive and active safety features including multi- stage airbags, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision warning and blind spot information.
As well as keeping passengers safe, the Honda offers them a refined, comfortable ride. The tall and wide shape means a good amount of room, although taller drivers and front passengers might wish for a bit more legroom. Nonetheless most people should be able to get comfortable. On the move the cabin is well insulated from road and engine noise and the raised driving position gives a clear view, although the pinched-in shape of the rearmost side windows inhibits over-the-shoulder vision at junctions.
A slew of storage spaces around the cabin add to the practicality and the boot is a useful 589 litres. In a neat touch the pull of a lever in the boot sees the rear seat squabs flip themselves forward before the seatbacks collapse, leaving a completely flat load area offering more than 1600 litres of storage.
While it’s spacious and comfortable not everything about the CR-V’s interior is as pleasing. The media/navigation system is a real let-down. It comes with all the latest connectivity options – from Bluetooth and USB to HDMI and wifi – and features a good-sized touchscreen but is far from user-friendly. Functions that you would expect to be quick to access are too often hidden two or three menus deep and the tiny, unevenly sized buttons that line one side of the screen are almost impossible to use safely while on the move.
Under the bonnet Honda offers a choice of 1.6 diesels in 118 or 158bhp outputs or a 2.0 petrol offering 153bhp. Our test car came with the more powerful diesel mated to Honda’s new nine-speed automatic gearbox. The 158bhp diesel is only available with four-wheel drive while the other two engines can be specified with two-wheel drive and a manual gearbox.
On the move the diesel is strong and smooth and the nine-speed ’box seamless in its shifts. It’s clearly a drivetrain set up for calm long-distance cruising rather than B-road fun but this entirely suits the CR-V’s safe but uninvolving handling and soft ride.
The official figures for the CR-V claim 53mpg on the combined cycle but we never saw the far side of 40mpg with it. Helpfully, the car also logs previous driving records and over the preceding few thousand miles other testers had also averaged 39mpg, so it wasn’t just my driving. Economy figures very rarely get close to the manufacturers’ claims but sub-40mpg isn’t a great return in anyone’s book.
I sent the Honda on its way with mixed feelings. It’s roomy and relaxing and comes with that sense of unburstability common to all Hondas. On the flip side, too many of the controls are fiddly or confusing, real-world economy is poor and, particularly in top-spec EX trim, it’s not cheap.
Engine: 1.6-litre diesel producing 158bhp, 258lb/ft
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 122mph, 0-62 in 10.2 seconds
Economy: 53.3mpg combined