Honda CR-V: Hybrid family SUV gets plug-in option and is bigger and better than ever

The latest CR-V is high quality, refined and efficient - but it’s not cheap

Honda CR-V travelling on road
The latest Honda CR-V offers strong economy, loads of space and great build quality, but it's not cheap

I don’t imagine that they spend much time sitting on their hands over at Honda HQ, but they’ve definitely been busier than usual in Tokyo’s Minato City over the past couple of years.

During that time Honda has replaced more or less its entire line-up with more efficient versions of their predecessors, each stuffed with the latest hybrid tech.

There’s been a push upmarket too. That’s reflected in the prices. As we’ve noted on these pages before, new cars are steadily becoming more expensive but even so, there’s something arresting about a nigh-on £30k Honda Jazz.

Best of Honda’s new wave is the Civic. It’s a nameplate that’s been around forever but on a car which they’ve managed to keep fresh, the latest iteration being fabulous to drive - notably so for a hybrid, it has to be said - good looking and shot through with a sense of thoroughly engineered quality.

Because most people want an SUV these days, there aren’t as many Civics on the road as there should be. Recognising this, Honda has built what is basically an SUV version of the Civic. It’s called the ZR-V and is worth your thorough consideration if you’re shopping for a Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Kuga or the like.

The arrival of the ZR-V means Honda has been able to let its long-established CR-V loosen its belt and once again grow a little larger.

Rear view of Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is a large family SUV

This new sixth generation CR-V certainly has an imposing presence, thanks mostly to a very large grille and a design that’s more about heft than svelte. It’s not unattractive, but nor is it exactly eye-catching. Where the Civic shows Honda can do sleek and lithe, the CR-V is bulky and trans-Atlantic.

Never mind - it’s what’s under the skin that traditionally tends to matter more where Honda is concerned.

Here we find essentially the same lovely hybrid drivetrain as found in the Civic and ZR-V, meaning a 146bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine paired with a 181bhp electric motor. Most of the time the engine powers the electric generator motor that drives the car - which means the CR-V feels like it is doing a convincing impersonation of an EV - with the engine only directly driving the wheels at higher speeds.

In addition to the regular hybrid, the CR-V is available as a plug-in hybrid. This adds a 17.7kWh battery to the mix, giving up to 50 miles of electric-only range… you do pay for the privilege though, with a price nudging £55k

In addition to the regular hybrid, the CR-V is available as a plug-in hybrid. This adds a 17.7kWh battery and an on-board charger to the mix, giving up to 50 miles of electric-only range. The trade-off is that where the hybrids are all-wheel-drive, the plug-in is front-wheel-drive only.

Honda CR-V badge
The latest CR-V is the sixth generation of Honda's trailblazing crossover

And if you do drain the battery, it has minimal effect on fuel consumption compared to the standard hybrid (45.6mpg for the PHEV compared to 47.9mpg for the hybrid on the WLTP combined cycle).

That is rather impressive in its own way, and a contrast to other makers’ plug-ins, which tend to have poor petrol-only fuel consumption as a result of lugging around the weight of a dead battery and electric motor.

Honda CR-V plugged in to a wall charger
Honda CR-V plug-in hybrid models can travel for up to 50 miles on battery power alone

The CR-V’s initial acceleration is spritely in the way we’ve come to expect from electrified drivetrains, but tails off above 30mph or so. Even so, a 0-60mph time of around 9.0 seconds is perfectly appropriate for a family car of this sort.

It’s a pleasant big thing to drive too; smooth and quiet on the motorway, but surprisingly engaging on a back road (that’s the Civic DNA coming through). Many hybrids can be prone to moments of jerkiness and hesitation as they juggle their power sources, but Honda’s approach manages to practically eliminate that. It’s impressive stuff, and gives the CR-V a layer of effortless refinement.

Honda CR-V interior
The Honda CR-V has a spacious, easy to operate and well built interior

The interior is everything you would hope of a big family SUV. There’s loads of space, needless to say, with bonus points for a back seat that can recline and slide in various combinations. The instruments are clear, there’s a good balance of touchscreen and actual buttons and, because the plug-in comes only in top of the range Advance Tech spec, it’s loaded with kit, from ventilated seats to a head-up display.

As mentioned earlier, you do pay for the privilege. The plug-in nudges £55k and the hybrids between £46k and £49k. That’s a lot, however you look at it. The CR-V is, however, also a lot of car.

Front view of Honda CR-V
The latest Honda CR-V has an imposing presence