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The Top Gear car review:Honda CR-V
What is it like on the road?
Honda knows how to make a fine-handling car. The regular Civic is pretty good for what is ostensibly a humdrum, family hatchback. As a Type R it’s one of the very best, sensibly-priced cars on-sale today. A former Top Gear Car of The Year, no less. Even if it does look a bit ridiculous.
The CR-V is no Type R, obviously, but it does drive quite well for what it is – a big, heavy, seven-seat family SUV that majors on practicality instead of outright fun. Most impressive is the ride, which is helped by hydraulic bushings. Granted the Austrian roads on which we sampled it were fairly smooth, but the CR-V rode what few scarred, pockmarked bits of tarmac we could find with dignity and composure. It doesn’t roll too much (even though ride-height is up by 35mm, the centre of gravity is unchanged) and the steering is progressive and well-weighted – not too twirly-light – if lacking in that fabled, illusive thing reviewers long for called ‘feel’. But it’s a family SUV, so who really gives a damn? The CR-V delivers a composed, controlled and confident drive that won’t irritate you in the slightest, regardless of whether you choose front- or all-wheel drive, and that’s what matters at this end of the market.
What might annoy you though is the CVT gearbox. Japanese car manufacturers love these things. We do not. But as CVTs go, Honda’s isn’t a bad one. We’d still choose the six-speed manual – because if Honda does one thing better than almost any other mainstream car manufacturer, it’s manual gearboxes – but we won’t judge you if you go for the auto. The seven ‘fake’ gears don’t totally eliminate the flaring of revs when you step on the gas, but they help, and the rubber-band effect you often get with CVTs isn’t so pronounced thanks to clever mapping.
An unintended consequence of this is that auto cars actually make a little more power than the manuals (190bhp and 179lb ft plays 171bhp and 162lb ft), but in practice both feel equally fast. Or should we say slow. A front-drive, manual CR-V does 0-60mph in 9.3 seconds, and runs on to 131mph. An all-wheel drive auto does ten seconds flat and 124mph. The manual transmission is available with either front- or all-wheel drive, whereas the CVT is AWD-only.
CVT cars have paddles behind the wheel for manual control of those steps – handy for towing, driving in snowy conditions and so-on.
When you’re pootling around town the 1.5-litre engine is quiet and well-mannered as anything, although despite noise-cancelling tech things get a little louder when you start to plunder the depths of its power and torque reserves. At any speed many seals and lots of work in the wind tunnel mean tyre- and wind-roar are minimal.