One tank to Frank(furt): Feeling frugal with the Honda CR-V

The facelifted Honda CR-V was driven by FrontSeatDriver.co.uk recently, with Phil Huff being rather impressed with it.

The world’s best-selling SUV has plenty going for it, being comfortable, practical and tremendously well equipped. It even promises excellent fuel economy figures, and with that in mind we devised a little test to see if it was fibbing or not.

Yes, the CR-V was going on an economy run and, with the Frankfurt Motor Show just around the corner, that run had really written itself. It was decided that we would take the Honda on an airport to airport trek, from Heathrow to Frankfurt, and we’d have to do it on just one tank of the fuel.

Our chariot was the top EX-spec loaded to the brim with every toy available but, far more importantly, the new 158bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine. With a manual gearbox and four-wheel-drive, our CR-V spec sheet said we should be able to get a very healthy 55.4mpg. Naturally we banked on getting less than that, calculating that we’d need a minimum of 47mpg to reach our destination without the assistance of the German equivalent of the AA.

Three-thirty in the morning, sitting in a BP station by Heathrow Airport, working my way through my third Red Bull; I was raring to go and with the tank full and bags packed, we began the first sector of the journey to the bleak port of Dover. We needed to get off to a solid start and so the early hour proved favourable to us, with a quiet M25 providing perfect conditions to potter to the coast at a steady speed. 53mpg scored, we had time for a quick kip before boarding the ferry to swap a British port for a French port that was every bit as bleak.

French motorways led us quickly towards our next waypoint – the outer ring road around the Belgian capital of Brussels. So began one of the worst days of my driving life, all beginning with some nasty jams around the city and some decidedly unpleasant looking clouds.

Exactly how much time we spent packed into the automotive sardine tin that is the Brussels ring road we can’t say. Even once we had broken through, things didn’t improve. The dark clouds opened up with a fury not often witnessed, providing some of the most frightening motorway conditions imaginable. Downpours were to ravage us for the rest of our trip; visibility was down to 50 metres in some places, with large patches of standing water pulling at the wheels, and vast walls of spray.

The CR-V’s driver assistance gadgets and safety equipment were a reassuring presence at this time. Lane assist and blind spot monitoring kept an eye out as we moved around the slow-moving cargo haulers and petrified pilots of old French boxes. In this sort of situation it might be wise to spend an hour or two in a service station as it simply isn’t worth the risk driving in conditions as bad as it was on that day. However, with the CR-V’s numerous safety nets, 4WD, and excellent modern ESP systems, we were in one of safer vehicles on the road and we cautiously pushed on with the challenge. It was a real reminder of the importance of safety technology and the security it provides to drivers and their loved ones.

The heavy traffic in Belgium had dropped our MPG to just 43, not terrible by any means but below our target figure. Frankfurt was beginning to look doubtful. During the appalling weather we had ceased driving with economy in mind and instead focused on survival but, as the rain eased off, our eyes were able to be taken off the road to glance at the trip computer. Steady German autobahns had been kind to us and without trying we were still managing to nudge 50mpg.

It really isn’t difficult to obtain a decent fuel efficiency figure from the CR-V, but no doubt the slower than average speeds caused by conditions assisted us. Passing Koblenz on the motorway, we were now certain we would be able to reach Frankfurt airport on our single tank of fuel.

After a pit stop in one of those European service stations we were fast approaching the now drenched banking capital of Europe. Joining the heavy motorway traffic (and animals forming up 2 by 2) around Frankfurt airport, we had made it on just one tank with an indicated 60 miles of range left. That meant we were able to push onto our hotel in the nearby town of Wiesbaden still using the same tank of fuel.

The result was this – 498 miles travelled, an average of 48.5mpg achieved, and two exhausted but very happy drivers celebrating with a beer called “hell” that seemed so very appropriate given the conditions.

Over the beers, we discussed the CR-V. Not surprisingly, the 1.6-litre diesel engine got a big thumbs up, being grunty enough for overtaking – buyers worried about it not having the power to shift the CR-V’s heavy body simply needn’t worry.

Scoring that 48.5mpg, without needing to focus exclusively on economy, was impressive, too. Around half of our near 500 miles were driven in dangerous conditions; given clearer weather we are pretty confident 50-52mpg would have been achievable.

The Honda also rode very well, providing near armchair levels of comfort, although the lumbar support wasn’t supportive enough for my liking. Clever rear seats also deserve a mention, operated with two levers in the back. Pull these and the rear seating folds down in one fluid motion, increasing your boot space from 589 litres to a huge 1,627 litres. It’s just as easy to put the seating back into place too, with a couple of simple lifts and clicks getting them back into posterior hosting mode.

Despite the comfort, economy, and practicality, the interior is a little bland for a car costing over £30,000. That can be mostly forgiven when it’s loaded with such a large amount of useful equipment, though the infotainment system is difficult to use – finding your favourite DAB station provides a gameshow-like challenge, which I lost.

It’s really rather easy to see why the CR-V is selling so well. It still has that now-traditional Honda issue of being unstimulating and cold, but the equipment levels and quality of drive are high, and it provides a comfortable, practical and safe method of transport.

And it keeps you dry, an underappreciated benefit.

Jonny Edge

Driven by an intense passion for cars seemingly since birth, Jonny throws himself into his writing as if it was a twisty corner in his native region of Devon. While lost, he once drove around aimlessly for nine and half hours inside central Paris - and he's still getting over it.

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