Honda CR-V 2015 620x277

First Drive: Honda CR-V

Here’s something you didn’t know about the Honda CR-V; it’s the best-selling SUV on earth. Not just in the UK, or Europe, but around the world.

It must be doing something right, but Honda feels there is still room for improvement, so here’s the facelifted CR-V.

That means there are plenty of changes to the engine and gearbox options. Gone is the powerful and economical 2.2-litre diesel engine, replaced by a powerful and economical 1.6-litre diesel engine. If that sounds like it might not be up to the task of shifting a chunky SUV, then 160PS and 350Nm of torque should convince you otherwise.

The six-speed manual gearbox remains, but if you want the car to shift ratios itself, then the optional automatic gearbox now comes with nine gears. Yes, nine.

Elsewhere there are cosmetic tweaks, with chrome ‘wings’ at the front and rear of the car standing out amongst other minor fiddling. A new infotainment system, a raft of safety kit and a handful of changes to the chassis and suspension cover the rest of the changes.

All the changes don’t combine to create something exciting, but that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead, the CR-V does normal, everyday driving exceptionally well. That new diesel engine provides more useable power than the number suggest, while that nine-speed gearbox makes for refined and smooth progress.

Take the big Honda around some twistier sections of road and it reacts as if you’ve just asked a teenager to bring plates from their room. It does it perfectly well, clinging on long after you’ve lost confidence, but there’s no sense of enjoyment or urgency about the situation.

A better idea is to sit back and relax, and live life at a slightly slower pace. Unless you’re on the motorway, where the CR-V feels right at home – it smoothes out the bumps with aplomb and increased level of insulation keep the outside world at bay.

Supremely comfortable seats will allow you to relax inside your cocoon of near-silence, while there are enough toys to keep anybody occupied. A seven-inch touch screen allows you to take control of the infotainment system using Honda’s Connect system, which also allows you to ‘mirror’ your own smartphone. That means you can use compatible apps on your phone directly from the car’s screen, as well as access any music you might have on there.

You’ll also find climate control and cruise control across every model, while higher models get auto wipers and lights, leather seats and parking sensors. Splash out for a top-of-the-range EX model and you’ll also benefit from a powered tailgate and large panoramic roof.

Practicality is also a strong point, with a boot able to accommodate 589 litres of whatever you store in a boot when the seats are up. Fold them down and you get the largest completely flat load bay on the market, so Honda claim.
Keeping the seats up, you’ll find enough space in the back for three kids, and more than enough room for two adults. There’s no transmission or exhaust tunnel in the middle, so there is also plenty of room for everybody’s feet.

Economy, for an SUV, also promises to be pleasing. The powerful 1.6-litre diesel engine here pumps out 139g/km of CO2, which means a car tax bill of £130 a year, while officially returning a reasonable 53.3mpg. Sacrifice a little power and the lower-spec diesel engine drops the tax bill to just £30 and promises an impressive 64.2mpg. It’s also just about powerful enough for the car, although if you’re frequently five-up with luggage, then spend the extra on the new engine.

The revised CR-V might not offer the driving appeal of BMW’s X3 or the badge cachet of the Audi Q5, something that might be important when you’re shelling out around £35,000, but there’s a winning formula hidden away here.

Lightly, slightly more agile, more refined and better equipped than ever before, it’s an extremely competent all-rounder. Forego the four-wheel drive option (really, you’re not going to go off-road with it) and the price tag drops, making it a strong rival to the likes of the Nissan X-Trail.

That might be enough for the CR-V to retain its place at the top of the charts. It’s not exciting, but it really is very good.

Model Tested: Honda CR-V EX 1.6 i-DTEC Automatic
Price: £34,120
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 122 mph
0-62 mph: 10.2 seconds
Power: 160 PS (158 bhp)
Torque: 350 Nm (258 ft-lb)
Combined fuel economy: 53.3 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 139 g/km
VED Band: E / £130 per year
Car insurance group: 27E
Kerb weight: 1,724 kg
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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