Honda CR-V Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Wednesday 27th September
Latest CR-V is a sensible family buy and the new PHEV option makes sense for company drivers

Good stuff

Decent drive, respectable PHEV range, practical and comfortable

Bad stuff

It's all got a bit big over the years, only the five seats


What is it?

This is the sixth generation of Honda’s venerable SUV, the CR-V. It’s been around since 1995 and can lay serious claim to having invented the segment, or at the very least popularising it. These things sell in the high six figures across the world, so this is Honda’s bread and butter.

Does CR-V mean anything? 

In that endearingly wacky, Japanese carmaker way, CR-V actually stands for ‘comfortable runabout vehicle’. Could've been worse. 

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What’s changed with the latest version? 

The CR-V has moved a smidge more upmarket in its sixth iteration, in line with Honda’s overall push for a sleeker, more minimalist design language. It works well on this car: it’s large but not obnoxious, though the huge grille up front isn’t quite as successful in some colours. From the side it’s still recognisable as the CR-V. 

The big change is with your engine options: the previous generation went hybrid only (although not in the US, where they’re not bothered about saving money) and this new version is the same, but comes with Honda’s first plug-in hybrid powertrain.

So what are the engine choices?

You’ve got two powertrains to choose from: a standard hybrid and the plug-in. Both come with a 146bhp 2.0-litre petrol motor paired with a 181bhp e-motor. The electric motor is packaged in with the gearbox using Honda’s tech trickery. The hybrid powertrain is familiar from recent applications in the likes of the Civic and Jazz – petrol motor combines with a confusing set-up of two e-motors that act as an electric CVT transmission. It saves petrol, that's all you really need to know.

The auto transmission in the PHEV features a two-stage lock-up for maximum efficiency and also means that the combustion engine can be locked to the wheels to provide a useful towing capacity of 1,500kg. Otherwise the PHEV will manage around 51 miles from its 17.7kWh battery, but doesn’t have CCS rapid charging, so it’s best for those with somewhere to juice up at home.

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Which one is the performance option?

Neither is particularly quick. The sixth-gen CR-V will go from 0–62mph in 9.0-9.5 seconds, with a top speed of around 121mph. The hybrid manages 47.9mpg, while the PHEV is WLTP rated for 353mpg. But Honda helpfully admits it will do 45.6mpg with an empty battery because it functions like a standard hybrid at that point.

Is the CR-V practical?

More practical than ever. Although there's still no seven-seater option, which seems like an oversight. There’s 80mm of extra length in this car, with half of that in the wheelbase and of which 16mm is given to rear passenger legroom. A nice touch for rear passengers is that the backs of the rear seats recline up to 10 degrees in eight stages, depending on how laidback you’re feeling.

The rear bench will also slide by 190mm, but the boot is already a good size, with around 600 litres of space seats up and around 1,700 seats down. There’s actually more boot space in the PHEV model than the hybrid, because the former shoves its battery under the cabin floor.

Aren’t there loads of SUVs to choose from?

It is indeed a crowded part of the new car market, and the CR-V isn’t short of capable rivals, including the likes of the Toyota RAV4Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Suzuki Across, VW Tiguan and more.

The CR-V has always put more of the emphasis on its crossover leanings than being a full on 4x4, so its interior practicality and car-like driving won it plenty of fans. The latest version doesn’t mess with that formula. 

What's the verdict?

It doesn’t hurt that the car is reasonably fun to drive, too, so everyone will find something to like about it

The latest version of the CR-V doesn’t mess with the car’s winning formula, adding a dash of practicality and a plug-in hybrid powertrain that will appeal to those on company car schemes. It doesn’t hurt that the car is reasonably fun to drive, too, so everyone will find something to like about it. Unless you're looking for a seven-seater, in which case you're out of luck.

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