Honda CR-V: Now with added room
WITH its rich tradition as one of the motor industry’s great innovators, it is perhaps no surprise that Honda spotted the potential of the family SUV well ahead of the competition and decades before the sector’s current all-conquering boom, writes William Scholes.
The original CR-V debuted in 1995, ahead even of other early and influential SUVs like 1997’s Subaru Forester, with a blend of attributes that became something of a template for this style of vehicle: practical, roomy estate bodywork; the same easy to drive and economical to run attributes as a family hatchback; and a raised ride height and driving position.
What was out-of-the-ordinary more than two decades ago has gone on to become par-for-the-course today.
Everyone has an SUV in their line up now, and the sector is well on its way to account for 40 per cent of the new car market in Europe.
The formula for the CR-V - it stands for ‘Comfortable Runabout Vehicle’, if you must know - was an immediate hit in the United States.
Perfect for soccer moms, trips to Home Depot, family vacations and weekend biking and hiking excursions, the CR-V routinely topped the sales charts for its size class.
The importance of the American market helps to explain why the CR-V of today is physically larger than the original - people with bigger bodies need, well, a bigger body to haul them around.
It also explains why, when it comes to the European market, the CR-V is just about the largest family SUV of the lot, at least before you head into the territory of leviathans like the Land Rover Discovery.
The CR-V has just landed on these shores in shiny new fifth generation form, though it looks highly similar to the model it has just replaced.
This has already been on sale in the United States for a year, during which time Honda has sorted out the steering, handling and ride for our more finicky European tastes.
Honda will hope it has been worth the effort. The US might be a vital market but a quarter of all Honda registrations in Europe are CR-Vs, and the company will surely be hopeful that the general surge in SUV sales sees that share grow further.
Same-again styling won't harm the Honda's chances, particularly if twinned with the bombproof reliability that keeps customers loyal to the brand.
The CR-V competes against a bunch of rivals distinguished, if that is not a contradiction, by their blandness. For example, the Volkswagen Tiguan is hardly a headturner, while the Skoda Kodiaq couldn't be more invisible if it was painted in B2 Stealth bomber black.
Things are a little more interesting beneath the Honda's ever-so-slightly American-flavoured bodywork.
A diesel engine won't be offered, and Honda reckons that a petrol-electric hybrid, which joins the range next year, will fill the gap
For a start, a diesel engine won't be offered. This will be a blow to the legions of drivers who have enjoyed Honda's excellent 1.6-litre diesel unit in the outgoing CR-V.
Honda reckons that a petrol-electric hybrid, which joins the range next year, will fill the gap. Only time will tell if this persuades Irish motorists, who are yet to swerve past diesel with the vigour of their counterparts in Britain and Europe.
The hybrid version pairs a 2.0-litre petrol engine with two electric motors and, in a novel solution for a hybrid, uses just a single gear to feed its power.
The system's outputs are 182bhp and 232lb.ft, and Honda claims the hybrid can achieve up to 53.3mpg on the new combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 120g/km.
Until the hybrid arrives in 2019, the only engine is a 1.5-litre petrol turbo, similar to that already found in the Civic.
It can be paired with either a six-speed manual gearbox of an automatic transmission of the CVT variety.
Manual cars can be either all-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive; the auto is offered only with four-wheel-drive.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, the 1.5-litre petrol comes with two power outputs - manual gearbox cars have 170bhp while CVTs have 188bhp.
But perhaps the biggest shake up is the possibility to order your CR-V with seven seats, arranged across three rows.
An Achilles' heel of seven-seaters can be access to the third row of seats - or the boot, as children will call it - but Honda is promising that the CR-V banishes such problems thanks to a "wide and low step-in aperture".
The middle row of seats can slide by 15cm and all three rows can recline.
Perhaps the biggest shake up is the possibility to order your CR-V with seven seats
If you want a seven-seater, then you are obliged to also have all-wheel-drive.
The hybrid will be available only with five seats.
Five seats or seven, the CR-V is larger inside than ever, thanks to a 4cm longer wheelbase, 3.5cm more width and tricks like thinner seats and a slimmer fuel tank.
Honda claims, for example, a growth in rear kneeroom of 3cm and legroom of 5cm.
The body is stronger than before, as you would hope and expect of a new car.
A long list of practical flourishes includes rear doors which open six degrees wider than before, a loading space that is flat and just over 1.8m long, large capacity door pockets for family junk and a centre console that Honda says is large enough to hold a laptop computer.
Trim grades follow the S, SE, SR and EX hierarchy familiar from the last CR-V.
Parking sensors, a rear-view camera and a bunch of safety kit - including a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition - is standard.
SR and EX cars also have blind spot warning and cross traffic monitoring, while the CVT version has a ‘low speed follow’ feature.
Full-fat SR trim also adds smart entry and start, a leather interior, active cornering lights and front windscreen de-icer; EX further includes a heated steering wheel, a head-up display, hands-free access power tailgate, heated rear seats and a panoramic glass sunroof.
Prices start at £25,995, with the most expensive version priced from £36,445.
AT A GLANCE
Honda CR-V 1.5-litre SE AWD manual
Engine and transmission: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, six-speed manual gearbox, four-wheel-drive; 170bhp, 162lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 129mph, 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 42.8mpg (combined), 151g/km
Car tax: £515 in first year, then £140 annually
Benefit in kind: 31 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Not yet tested