“Well-built, safe and spacious, the Honda CR-V is a reliable, comfortable SUV.”
The Honda CR-V was one of the first SUVs to drive primarily like a road car. Since then, it's been joined by many rivals such as the Nissan Juke and BMW X3. To differentiate it, Honda has moved the new CR-V into a more luxurious segment, adding more comforts and a higher specification to the previous models' reputation for reliability and value for money. This has pushed the price up nearer more premium rivals like the Audi Q5, however. The CR-V now comes with two engine choices, a 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel, in six different specs – S, S-T, SE, SE-T, SR and top-of-the-range EX – with the EX diesel expected to be the most popular. The CR-V offers a high driving position, spacious interior and its size gives added security when driving in town. Practicality is boosted by a large boot and rear seats that fold down at the pull of a handle.
The Honda CR-V was one of the first SUVs to drive more like a road car than an off-roader and the tradition continues with the latest model. The CR-V does an admirable job soaking up bumps and keeps large shocks to a minimum. The steering is precise and mostly confidence-inspiring for a big car, but could be too light and lacking in feedback for some as it's geared towards comfort rather than driving thrills. Cornering doesn't cause much body roll, despite the relative height of the car. The engine choices of a 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.2-litre diesel both come with the option of a five-speed automotic gearbox. However, the automatic has an old-fashioned feel to it, dramatically affecting performance and efficiency - if you don’t need an automatic, we'd recommend avoiding it. The front-wheel drive petrol model is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox. The diesel CR-Vs are all four-wheel drive, which gives them some modest off-road ability but they're more suited to damp days than crossing rivers. The petrol engine is smooth and quiet, but we’d recommend the diesel as it offers more performance as well as using less fuel. The petrol model is available in both two and four-wheel drive and there's little difference between them on the road. Overall, the Honda CR-V drives well but isn't quite a match for the BMW X3.
Honda has moved the latest CR-V upmarket, improving levels of ride comfort and reducing noise intrusion. Noise reduction, in particular, is very good at lower speeds, with conversation possible without raising your voice. Passengers are also given a more comforting time over bumps than in the previous model, partly due to a revised rear suspension. However, the CR-V begins to fall down a little at higher speeds, with the experience becoming louder, bumpier and less comfortable. The petrol engine is very quiet, but suffers from more tyre roar than the better-insulated diesel models and make more noise when accelerating. The CR-V has also been given a nice upgrade in quality with the latest model. On top of the good level of standard equipment, the highest specification models come with leather upholstery and a panoramic sun roof as standard, which makes the interior a nice place to be, even if some of the plastics are surprisingly cheap looking in places. The interior offers plenty of space for five adults and their luggage, too.
The previous Honda CR-V came a very respectable 12th in the Driver Power Survey for 2012, with Honda themselves placing sixth overall. The fourth generation CR-V is too new to have appeared in that year's survey, but we expect it to do well in 2013, especially as it feels solidly built and well engineered, in keeping with Honda's best traditions. Safety looks to be good in the CR-V, but the fourth generation model hasn’t been given an NCAP crash safety test as yet. We expect it to do well, judging by the safety features that comes as standard - all models feature a collision mitigation system, which brakes the car before any collision, and also a stability control system that can help prevent towed vehicles from weaving in the road behind the car. And if you're willing to pay extra, you can also add the advanced driver assist, which includes lane assist to sense when the car drifts out of its lane on a motorway and steer you back on course. The combination of this equipment and the high seating position makes the Honda feel very secure on your journey.
The interior space on the CR-V is vastly improved over the previous model. The low-lipped boot now offers a generous 589 litres with the seats up and a positively cavernous 1,648 litres with them down - one of the biggest in its class. Access is made even easier by rear doors that open to nearly 90 degrees. The seats are also fitted with helpful handles that greatly reduce any laborious pulling and pushing when folding them. The dimensions of the low roof don't cut into the headspace for rear passengers and the rear seats comfortably seat three adults, the flat floor ensuring ample legroom. Honda have scattered a generous amount of storage around the interior, making day-to-day living in the car a much more practical experience than before. What the CR-V lacks - in comparison to rivals like the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe - is seven seats, as the CR-V is available strictly as a five seater. Roof rails are fitted as standard on all models.
Value for money
With a move up market comes a move up in price. For the money, though, Honda have attached a lot of equipment. Entry level cars get climate control, alloy wheels and electric windows as standard, the SE models add parking sensors, a parking camera, a better stereo, and automatic lights and wipers. SR models have more powerful headlights, heated front seats and larger alloys. The most popular EX specification also has a panoramic sunroof, plus sat-nav and leather seats as standard. This generous level of equipment makes the high price competitive, especially compared to a BMW X3. The CR-V should hold its value quite well, but predicted resale values are not as good as the Hyundai Santa Fe or Mazda CX-5.
The 2.2-litre diesel is the pick of the bunch for fuel consumption, returning 48.7mpg and emitting 154g/km when paired with the manual gearbox, costing £170 a year in road tax. At present, there's no two-wheel drive diesel option, but a 1.6-litre diesel is expected later in 2013. Rivals such as BMW do currently offer two-wheel-drive diesel models. In the meantime, the only two-wheel drive option is the 2.0-litre petrol, which suffers from poor fuel economy, returning only 39.2 mpg and emitting 168 g/km. At present, neither the petrol nor diesel offer lower running costs than their rivals, so if this is a concern for you it may be worth holding out for the 1.6-litre diesel. The diesel is also likely to hold its value better than the petrol, much like the 2.2-litre does at present.