Honda CR-V SUV (2018 - ) review
The Honda CR-V is a compact SUV that competes with popular cars like the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan. It majors on comfort, quietness and practicality, and that makes it an excellent family car.
Interested in buying a Honda CR-V?
How good does it look?
The latest CR-V isn’t a huge departure from the model it replaces, so you instantly recognise it as a CR-V. That said, the design has been brought more into line with Honda’s other cars, so there’s more than a hint of the smaller HR-V about it, too. LED lighting is provided front and back to give you a fair amount of visual bling, while alloy wheels – which are standard on all versions – range from between 17- and 19 inches. The Hybrid model is identifiable by blue-tinted badging on the boot lid and the front wings.
What's the interior like?
You’d expect a high-end Honda to deliver a classy environment, and the CR-V doesn’t disappoint, because most of the materials you see are dense, tactile and high in quality. The not-awfully-convincing wood-effect trim won’t be to all tastes, but Honda UK is currently working on alternative trim finishes that will be more palatable alternative for British customers. The dashboard layout is simple and uncluttered, which is good in one sense, but it also means most functions have to be operated via the touchscreen infotainment system instead. It’s horribly awkward and unintuitive to use, while the graphics look dated and the screen transitions are slow and clunky. Your rear visibility isn’t great at the rear corners of the car either, due to chunky rear pillars and a small window, but that’s the only area where you’ll struggle for a clear view. The driver’s seat has lots of adjustment – electric on some versions – to help you get comfy, and there’s a decent range of movement in the steering wheel as well. The Hybrid model has its own specific instrument cluster that shows graphical displays relating to the petrol-electric drivetrain and its use of the resources available.
How practical is it?
The CR-V’s performance in this area all depends on whether you buy the five-seater or the seven-seater. The five seater is nothing short of brilliant as a family car. There’s absolutely bags of room in the back, especially when it comes to legroom, so even the gangliest of teenagers will be spoiled for space. The wide middle seat and flat floor also means that the CR-V is better than most similarly sized SUVs at accommodating three people across the rear bench. The boot is simply gargantuan at 561 litres (this is reduced to 497 litres in the Hybrid), and there’s a moveable floor that gives you a perfectly flush load area when you fold the rear seats down. Add in a low load lip and catches in the boot for releasing the spring-loaded rear seats, and family life will seem like a doddle.
Unfortunately, the CR-V is not nearly so impressive as a seven-seater, and not because there’s not enough room. As long as those in the middle row sacrifice some of their overabundant knee-room, by sliding the bench forwards a bit, there’s enough for adults to sit in all three rows, although those in the third row won’t want to remain there for too long. The bigger problem is that the seating system isn’t as clever as you find in many such cars. To gain access to the third row, you have to pull a number of tapes and tumble half the middle row out of the way, and despite all the kerfuffle, the aperture you climb through is still pretty tight. Boot space, too, is severely reduced. With most seven-seater SUVs, you find the they have more-or-less identical boot space to their five-seat counterparts when used in five-seat mode, because the two extra seats fold flush into the boot floor. In the CR-V, though, they sit on top of it, meaning your load area loses several inches in depth and a full 89 litres of capacity. That doesn’t sound like all that much, but it makes a big difference to how practical your car is, and it means you have to make a comparatively large sacrifice if you only plan to use your extra two seats occasionally. Also bear in mind that the CR-V Hybrid cannot be specified as a seven-seater.
What's it like to drive?
The CR-V is an SUV that makes no attempt whatsoever to pretend it’s a ‘proper off-roader’, or that it’s in any way sporty, and it’s all the better for it. It concentrates of delivering the kind of comfortable, cosseting ride that’ll suit the family car buyers to which it’ll appeal, and it does a great job. It floats along serenely mopping up all sorts of lumps and bumps in an impressively fuss-free way. The hybrid version isn’t quite as wafty as its conventionally-engined counterpart, but it’s still a very comfortable car.
And despite the impressive comfort, the handling is reasonably secure, with strong grip – regardless of whether you choose the front-wheel drive car or the four-wheel-drive car – not too much body roll and steering that’s light but accurate. Most of the time, the CR-V is a quiet car, too. You don’t hear a peep from the suspension as it deals with bumps, while wind noise is also really well contained. That’ll be helped, in no small part, by the active noise cancellation system that comes fitted as standard on all versions. Despite that, though, a fair amount of road noise does find its way into the cabin.
This serene driving experience is only enhanced by the Hybrid model, which has the ability – for short distances – to run purely on electric power, and also come with extra sound-deadening (over and above the 1.5-litre petrol model). The hybrid system is also super-smooth in action, which means it’s the one to go for if you’re often picking your way through congested urban areas on poorly-surfaced roads.
How powerful is it?
It’s a sign of the times that Honda has no plans to offer a diesel-engined CR-V. Instead, buyers choose between a 1.5 turbocharged petrol and a petrol-electric hybrid. The 1.5 has 173 horsepower when paired with the slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, but despite the impressive power figure, it’s a little flat at the bottom of the rev range and it takes its time to build revs up. If your car also has four-wheel drive, you’ll be left wanting a little more urge from time to time, but the performance will be (just about) okay most of the time. Settle for front-wheel drive, though, and the reduced weight will make your car feel a shade perkier, although it still won’t exactly be a ball of fire. If you choose a CR-V with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), your power output is hiked to 193 horsepower, but you won’t detect any performance advantage. And yes, the CVT does do that classic CVT thing of sending the revs shooting sky-high when you ask for anything more than light acceleration, causing unnecessary engine noise, but in fairness, it’s better on that score than a lot of other CVTs we’ve tried.
Meanwhile, the hybrid version combines a 2.0-litre petrol engine with two electric motors, one acting as a generator and one for propulsion. Depending on how much juice the battery has, and what the car decides is the most economical solution at the time, these combine in any number of ways to drive the car: it can run purely on electric power, it can use the engine to drive the wheels or it can use the engine to generate electricity to power the electric drive motor.
Whatever the case, the hybrid’s extra pulling power means it has quite a lot more urgency than the 1.5. Unlike most hybrids, it doesn’t use a CVT (it doesn’t actually have a conventional transmission), but it still behaves a bit like one in that the revs soar when you ask for strong acceleration, but it’s much quieter than the 1.5 when that happens and it takes a much heavier pressure on the throttle to provoke it. Most buyers are unlikely to bother using the Sport mode provided, but it does make quite a difference to how rapid the hybrid feels.
How much will it cost me?
Generally, Hondas are a tad more expensive than the average in each class the company competes in, and the CR-V is no exception. While not wildly expensive, the CR-V looks pricier than certain key competitors on paper. The Hybrid is even more costly, although this is skewed by the fact that it is not offered with a manual gearbox. The 2WD model comes in S, SE or SR grades, while the 4WD version starts at SE and culminates in EX. At the top-end trim levels, where the CR-V is expected to sell best, the price gap between equivalent petrol and Hybrid models is very small, so it makes sense to go for the latter, especially as its quoted emissions figures and average economy returns make it comparable to a similar-size diesel SUV, even though it runs predominantly on petrol.
How reliable is it?
Honda has a peerless record in this area, and the Japanese manufacturer sits on or near the top of pretty much any reliability study going. That’s certainly the case in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and although the CR-V doesn’t do as well as some other Honda models in the rankings, it still sits comfortably in the study’s Top 100 cars. Our owner reviews paint a similarly rosy picture of life with previous incarnations of the CR-V, so the signs are good that the latest one should prove to be dependable.
How safe is it?
The CR-V hasn’t yet been crash tested by the experts at Euro NCAP, but on the strength of the in-house testing that’s been carried out, Honda is bullishly confident of a maximum five-star score when it is. Six airbags are on hand to help keep you safe in the event of an accident, but it’s the suite of systems designed to stop you having that accident in the first place – which is standard across the range – that is more impressive. It includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and a lane departure warning that’ll also steer the car back into the lane for you. Adaptive cruise control keeps you a safe distance from the car in front, and can even anticipate a car cutting into your lane in advance, and adjust your speed accordingly. You also receive warnings when a car is sitting in your blind spot, and when you’re reversing out onto the road and traffic is approaching from the side. A multi-angle reversing camera is also provided.
How much equipment do I get?
Honda offers generous specification across the board on the CR-V, with the base S model (1.5 petrol only) providing 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control and automatic headlights as standard. Moving up to SE enlarges the wheels to 18-inchers, while automatic wipers, a rear parking camera and parking sensors are all added to the kit list. The SR models get leather upholstery, smart keyless entry, heated front seats and a blind-spot information monitor, while the top-grade EX variants have 19-inch alloys, a panoramic opening sunroof, a powered ‘hands-free’ tailgate (opened by a kicking motion underneath the rear bumper), a heated steering wheel and a head-up display.
Impressive space and practicality make the CR-V an excellent family car, while its sophisticated driving manners, classy interior and fashionable looks make it desirable, too. Choose the hybrid version, and it could easily have a distinct financial advantage over a more conventional diesel-powered rival, too, especially if you’re a company car driver. A cracking all-rounder.