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First Drive: Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC EX 5dr Auto (2012-2015)

£33,605 when new

Car specifications

Budget
£33,605
Brake horsepower
150bhp
Fuel consumption
41.5mpg
0–62 mph
10.60s
CO2
175g/km
Max speed
118Mph
Insurance Group
27E

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What’s this, then?

Before getting behind the wheel of Honda’s most exciting cars - the forthcoming Civic Type-R and NSX - later this year, we must first have a go in a subtle refresh of one of its least exciting: the British-built CR-V.

Not that the outgoing CR-V is by any means a bad car, just terminally uninteresting. It’s a spacious, well-made and rather comfortable thing, worthy of consideration if you need a big, squishy, bulletproof means of ferrying your brood around the countryside. But it possesses no character whatsoever.

So what about the new one?

As facelifts go, this is a fairly big one. The headline-grabber is a new engine-gearbox combo: gone is the old 2.2 diesel, and in is a more powerful version of Honda’s new-ish 1.6 with 158bhp and a handy 258 torques. And, should you so wish, you can have it with a brand-new nine - yes, nine - speed automatic gearbox. A six-speed manual remains standard…

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With the auto, 0-62mph takes 10 seconds, and the top speed is 122mph. Honda claim 46mpg and 134g/km of CO2.

Elsewhere, there’s the new Android-based Honda Connect infotainment system, myriad styling tweaks, a few chassis and suspension upgrades, and some new active safety tech to keep you from burying the CR-V’s LED-laden nose in the back of a Latvian HGV.

Is the new engine any good?

It’s OK. Refined, hushed at speed and powerful enough to haul the CR-Vs considerable bulk up to speed. The manual gearbox is fine - the clutch light and forgiving - but we’d go for the smooth-shifting auto. There are flappy paddles behind the wheel, but it’s best left to make its own mind up. There’s such a thing as having too much choice, and having nine gears at your disposal is an unnecessary complication. Besides, you won’t be driving it particularly spiritedly anyway…

Why not?

Because this is still not a car for enthusiastic drivers. If that bothers you, get a Ford Kuga. This is a car for pootling. Honda’s done its upmost to make the CR-V more responsive: the track is 15mm wider, there’s an extra half a degree of positive camber, and the steering’s a little quicker, but this remains a car that does not like being hustled.

It’s on the motorway where the CR-V feels more at home. The ride is smooth enough - though it does bounce around a little over larger imperfections - and the seats comfortable, if flat as East Anglia. And thanks to Honda’s determination to improve on the old CR-V’s NVH levels (by doing things like doubling the thickness of the door-seals), it’s quiet too.

Anything else worth mentioning?

Yes. The CR-V is the first Honda to be fitted with its new intelligent active cruise control. As well as maintaining a set gap to the car in front, Honda claims its i-ACC system can predict when a car is likely to cut in ahead of you, and prepare itself accordingly. Does it work? Thankfully we didn’t encounter a situation in which to find out.

Present too is Honda’s suite of active safety tech, like Lane Keeping Assist (very aggressive in the manual we drove, curiously ineffective in the auto) and autonomous emergency braking. Unfortunately Honda is yet to introduce a system that reminds the drivers of its cars that they are needlessly occupying the middle-lane of a near-deserted motorway.

Doesn’t sound too bad.

It isn’t, but the CR-V still suffers from the same problems as the first one - namely, it’s tedious. To drive, look at, be in: it’s just dull, and we’re not sure there’s much Honda can do about that beyond launching the CR-V Type R.

No matter. The CR-V was the best selling SUV in the world for the first nine months of last year - we know, us neither - and the new one is no less accomplished. What it sets out to do, it does well. Pricing is yet to be confirmed, but we’d expect it to start at around £22k, rising to £34k-ish for a diesel auto with everything.

Now, the NSX…

What do you think?

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