Build quality, refinement, plus it's comfortable and spacious...
Infotainment, tricky to get into rear seats, quite tedious
What is it?
Another crossover-cum-SUV. Because that’s what people want nowadays. And it seems the one they want more than any other is this one – the Honda CR-V. Now in its fifth-generation, Honda sells hundreds of thousands of these things every year to people who want something practical and reliably tedious – something to tow their caravan or horsebox of a weekend, and/or deliver their children to and from school, all without giving them any reason to visit their local dealer or phone the AA.
In its many years on-sale the CR-V has become the world’s best-selling SUV – making it a hugely important part of Honda’s line-up. A new one is therefore A Big Deal. Only it isn’t strictly new. The fifth-generation CR-V has been on sale in the States for 18-months or so already, but we’re told steering and suspension changes make European cars much better to drive. In fact, Honda claims the new CR-V is the “most dynamic car in its class”, thanks also to a stiffer chassis that makes much use of high- and ultra-high-strength steels.
The big, technical news is that Honda will not offer the new CR-V with a diesel engine. A petrol, non-plug-in hybrid is coming early next year, but for now the only engine available is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol (also seen in the Civic), paired with either a six-speed manual or CVT transmission and either front- or part-time all-wheel drive.
But these are fundamentally family cars, so space matters. As does how you use it. We’re used to cars getting bigger with each generation, but the fifth-generation CR-V is the same length as the old one. It’s mainly because Honda’s stretched the wheelbase by 40mm – pushing the wheels closer to the corners and “contributing to the more muscular stance of the SUV” – that you get more space inside.
Second-row passengers get 50mm more legroom, and for the first time Honda has managed to squeeze in an optional third, child-friendly row of seats that fold flat into the boot floor. Elsewhere inside we’re promised more connectivity thanks to the same infotainment system you get in the Civic and broader use of higher-quality materials.
Sales start this September, with the first cars arriving from the factory in Japan (Honda’s Swindon factory only builds Civics nowadays) soon after.
What's the verdict?
Honda’s done a good thing. The CR-V is not without flaw, but it will make a good family car when it arrives in the UK. It’s spacious, comfortable, reasonable to drive and, as it’s a Honda, it should comfortably outlast its first eight owners. And their kids. It doesn’t have any sporting pretensions – no drive modes – and we respect it for that. The infotainment system is off the pace, the seven-seat option robs boot-space and can be tricky to access, and well, it’s a bit dull – but what small SUV isn’t? Honda says its biggest competitor is the Tiguan – but we disagree. The Skoda Kodiaq remains our choice in this segment, but there’s no denying the CR-V is a big step up from what went before, and is an able rival to the likes of the Kodiaq, Land Rover Discovery Sport, new Hyundai Santa Fe and so-on.