“Well-built, safe and spacious, the Honda CR-V is a reliable, comfortable SUV.”
The Honda CR-V marked a change in the SUV market, with its car-like drive. But it's since been joined by an abundance of rivals such as the BMW X3 and Ford Kuga. Because of the number of competitors, Honda shifted the CR-V into a more premium luxury class, introducing higher specifications and extra comforts and accessories. All that while maintaining the CR-V's reputation for value and reliability, the downside is, of course, a higher price that's more in keeping with the likes of the Audi Q5. The CR-V now comes with two engine choices, a 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel, and in six different specifications – entry-level S, S-T, SE, SE-T, SR and top-of-the-range EX – with the EX diesel the most popular. The CR-V also offers a high driving position, spacious interior and a big boot. Practicality is boosted some clever rear seats that fold down at the pull of a handle.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
We’d recommend going for the two-wheel-drive available on the 1.6-litre diesel or the much less economical 2.0-litre petrol, because the 4x4 versions do cost a lot more to run. The 1.6-litre diesel will return more than 60mpg in fuel economy and emit just 119g/km of CO2, which is generally impressive for an SUV of this size and weight. If you want more performance, power and grip, then the 2.2-litre diesel is the best choice but, again, it will set you back substantially more at the petrol station and in road tax. However, reasonable fixed-price servicing deals and service intervals of 12,500 miles should help to balance it out.
Interior & comfort
The latest CR-V is significantly quieter and more comfortable than its predecessor. Noise reduction, in particular, is excellent, especially on the motorway. The revised rear suspension also does a better job of absorbing any bumps in the road, giving passengers a much nicer ride – but once you hit faster speeds, things get noisier, bumpier and less comfortable all round. So, if you have gone for the quieter petrol engine, you still get a lot of tyre noise because it's not as well insulated as the diesels with their louder engines. The 1.6-litre engine is also a bit noisy as soon as you stop cruising and start accelerating properly. Inside, however, quality is much higher, with the highest specification models coming fitted with leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof as standard, which really does make the interior a lovely place to be. The interior offers plenty of space for five adults and their luggage, too, while equipment levels are excellent.
Practicality & boot space
The latest CR-V significantly boosts the amount of space inside the SUV compared to the old model. The boot now offers a substantial 589 with standard-fit split-fold rear seats still in place – fold down the back seats and that expands to an impressive 1,146 litres. You also get a low boot lip to make loading and unloading of large or long objects even easier. Access to the interior is improved by back doors that open out to nearly 90 degrees, while the rear seats have clever handles to make folding them down even easier. The SUV's dimensions mean that headroom in the back is good, even for tall passengers, and the back will comfortably sit three adults, with a flat floor also offering lots of legroom, too. There's also lots of storage cubbies dotted about the interior to make daily use very practical for families. However, the one thing the CR-V does lack compared to key competitors, such as the Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento, is the option of seven seats – the CR-V is strictly a five-seater.
Reliability & safety
The latest CR-V is still too new to feature in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey – but luckily for Honda, the previous model is still going great guns, coming 32st in the in top 100 cars list. That's pretty amazing for a car that was first launched in 2006 and, even though it has dropped 19 places from its 2012 ranking at 12th, but reliability and build quality are still top drawer. Honda itself held strong in the manufacturers rankings, staying at number 6 (out of 32) and continuing to bolster its reputation for supreme reliability. As the new CR-V feels more solidly built and well engineered than the car it replaced, expect it to perform very well indeed when it does qualify for the survey. The CR-V was also awarded the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests thanks to lots of safety equipment that comes as standard. All models are fitted with a collision mitigation system that brakes the car before any collision, and also a stability control system that works to prevent towed vehicles from weaving about in the road behind the car. And if you don’t mind shelling out a bit extra, you can also add the advanced driver assist, which includes lane keeping systems to alert the driver if the car drifts out of its lane on a motorway.. The combination of this equipment and the high seating position makes the Honda feel very secure on your journey.
Engines, drive & performance
When Honda built the CR-V, it was one of the first SUVs to be designed to drive more like a road car than a pure off-roading vehicle – a tradition that continues with this latest generation. The suspension does a good job of absorbing any large lumps and bumps and the steering is accurate if a little lacking in feedback. There's minimal body roll when driving through the corners, despite the CR-V being quite a high vehicle. Both the 2.0-litre petrol and 1.6 and 2.2-litre diesels come with the option of a five-speed automatic gearbox – and something we’d avoid, given that it feels old-fashioned and dramatically reduces performance and efficiency. The front-wheel drive petrol model is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox. The 2.2-litre CR-Vs are all four-wheel drive, which allows for some basic off-road ability – though they're better suited to giving extra grip on damp days rather than ploughing across rivers. The 1.6-litre diesel produces 118bhp, and is lighter and better to drive, with more precise steering, too. However the engine feels underpowered for a large car like the CR-V and it's hard work to drive. Overall, the Honda CR-V drives fairly well, but isn't a match for the BMW X3.
Price, value for money & options
When any manufacturer moves a model upmarket, that inevitably brings with it an increase in list price. Having said that, you do get loads of equipment for your money with the CR-V. The base model comes fitted with climate control, alloy wheels and electric windows as standard, while the SE models also include parking sensors, a parking camera, an uprated stereo, and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers. Meanwhile, SR models get more powerful headlights, heated front seats and larger alloy wheels, and the bestselling EX spec comes with a panoramic sunroof, sat-nav and leather seats all fitted as standard. When you compare these equipment levels to rivals such as the BMW X3, suddenly the higher list price looks like much more of a bargain. It should also have strong resale value on the used car market, even though it probably won’t hold its value as well as the Mazda CX-5 or Hyundai Santa Fe.