First Drive: Honda CR-V
SECTOR Crossover PRICE £22,000-£33,000 FUEL 36.7-50.4mpg CO2 149-180g/km
Honda’s old CR-V was a surprising hit in the company car market, but while it helped lay the foundations of the sector, for the last few years it has been surpassed by more car-like crossovers.
So the new fourth generation CR-V has eschewed any rough, gruff off-roader pretensions, and Honda now cites crossovers such as the Volvo XC60 and Nissan Qashqai as its natural rivals, rather than the Land Rover Freelander.
With this in mind, all of the many changes over the old model are aimed at making the CR-V more saloon-like to drive while adding to the Honda’s impressive practicality. While using the previous model as its starting point, the fourth generation CR-V is more than just a skin-deep revision.
For starters, the suspension is redesigned to allow for better compliance over bumpy roads and it’s up there with the best in class for comfort.
Honda has also worked very hard with the suspension and under body design to quell noise in the cabin. This is one of the most obvious changes as the CR-V is now eerily hushed in the cabin all the way up to motorway speeds, with little road, wind or engine noise allowed to intrude.
Mechanical noise is reduced thanks to heavily updated versions of the previous CR-V’s petrol and diesel engines. The 2.0-litre 153bhp petrol engine is now available with front-wheel drive for the first time, which helps cut carbon dioxide emissions to 168g/km and improve economy to 39.2mpg, compared to the four-wheel drive model’s 173g/km and 38.2mpg.
However, it’s the four-wheel drive-only 2.2 i-DTEC turbo diesel that will interest company drivers most as it manages 149g/km emissions and 50.4mpg in its more frugal S and SE variants. Go for the higher spec SR or EX models and these figures worsen to 154g/km and 48.7mpg, while the optional automatic gearbox takes emissions to at least 174g/km and consumption to 42.8mpg.
The five-speed auto ’box feels sluggish and slow-witted next to rivals with more modern double-clutch transmissions. With a precise shift, relaxed cruising and plenty of low- and mid-rev shove for overtaking without the need to change gear; the CR-V is at its best with the diesel engine and manual gearbox.
Honda has lowered the CR-V’s roofline by 30mm but it maintains the comfortable, raised driving position of an SUV. Light steering is ideal in town and it weights up for faster driving.
The CR-V is still practical. It now provides 589-litres of load space with the rear seats in place, while 1,648-litres of luggage capacity is freed up when the back seats are dropped, at the single tug of a lever in the boot’s sidewall.
Honda has also upped the luxury quotient with the new CR-V and all models now come with a five-inch Intelligent Multi Info Display, climate and cruise control, stop/start for manual cars, LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, ESP, Trailer Stability Assist and Hill Start Assist for the entry-level S model.
It’s expected many CR-V buyers will go for the top spec EX model with panoramic glass roof, leather seats and collision avoidance technology. With prices for this version expected at around £30,000, it puts the CR-V into contention with the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5.
The new Honda CR-V has class, quality and driving appeal to compete with the premium badges in the SUV and crossover classes. However, company drivers may be better to wait for the 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine that will join the range in mid-2013 that will finally offer a diesel-powered, front-drive CR-V.