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The Top Gear car review:Honda CR-V
For:Build quality, refinement, packaging, impressive fuel economy
Against:Still dull to look at and to drive, 4WD system is lightweight, no seven-seater
1.6 i-DTEC SE 5dr 2WD
Japan’s big, sensible SUV has been facelifted, but is it any less dull? Tom Harrison investigates
Practical, economical and competent for a smallish diesel engine. And spec for spec, it’s about two grand cheaper than the 2.2.
We’ve driven the latest CR-V. It’s brilliantly good but remarkably dull…
One of the original SUVs gets a minor facelift. It’s still competent, but surrounded by a market full of fresh talent.
What we say:
Recently-facelifted CR-V is far from exciting but remains one of the most sensible buys in this sector
What is it?
Honda’s just given its hugely popular CR-V – which pioneered the soft-roader segment way back in ’97 – a bit of an overhaul, and if you’re patriotic you should pay attention because it’s built in Swindon. Nothing has been radically altered: beside minor revisions to exterior and interior trim pieces, there are new, greener engine and transmission options and some clever safety tech.
As before, the most impressive thing about driving the CR-V is that nothing will irritate you about it. Trouble is, it’s also one of the most boring cars on sale – not a single character quirk, nothing to make you sit up and take notice of it. On the plus side, it’s extremely refined and very comfortable.
The old 2.2-litre diesel is gone, and has been replaced with a more powerful version of the 1.6-litre diesel at the top of the range. It’s 10bhp up on the old 2.2-litre, and with 258lb ft of torque, it’s got enough punch to make light work of motorways. Mated to the also-new nine-speed automatic gearbox, it’s our choice. There’s also a less powerful 1.6-litre diesel and an asthmatic 2.0-litre petrol.
Handling characteristics? Well, it rides, steers and handles with precision, but with no excitement. Honda says the 2015 CR-V has been given a few choice modifications to make it ride and handle better than before. Have they made much difference? Not really – the steering’s a little quicker and the ride a little better, but it’s broadly the same as before. Solid, if unremarkable.
Handling characteristics? Well, it rides, steers and handles with precision, but with no excitement. The CR-V does have a four-wheel drive option, but it’s a basic system that’s not been designed to tackle anything too rough. Indeed, few will be able to split it from the new front-drive alternative…
On the inside
Here’s where the Honda excels. There’s plenty of soft-touch plastic and all the major touch-points have a level of quality that shames some premium brands. Pull door handles, or wiggle switches, and there’s no play in any of them – the CR-V feels like it will last for millennia, or at least for a few years’ use by your hoards of children.
There is no seven-seat option available, but don’t go thinking that makes it impractical. The boot is huge, and by pushing the front seats outwards, Honda’s found space for decent cupholders. Clever. New for 2015 is an Android-based infotainment system called Honda Connect. It’s standard on all but the most basic CR-Vs, and is reasonably easy to operate.
Fans of automatics will be pleased to hear the new nine-speeder (only available with the 158bhp diesel) manages to stick close to the six-speed manual’s economy figures – 57.7 for the manual plays 55.3 for the auto. The less powerful 1.6-litre diesel manages 64.2mpg and 115g/km in 2WD trim. Residual values and reliability are strong and the British build quality faultless.