They may only have 1bhp, but that's all these angry little cars need...
You are here
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 160 SE 5dr Auto
What we say:
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.
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. Honda says this is why people keep buying them, it gives the reassurance that it’ll be the only car they ever need, so they keep on buying them.
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. There’s also 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 ace.