The new CR-V, which goes on UK sale on October 1 from around £18k, is typically Honda in hiding its extensive overhaul under a similar-looking suit. The CR-V is lighter, stiffer, more spacious yet no bigger, more efficient and with a host of new features which drag it from the gadget dark ages. Loyal customers will be delighted; the casual punter probably won’t even spot it’s a new model.
Honda CR-V headline news?
This fourth-generation CR-V will be the first available solely with front-wheel drive, although the 4x4 version will take the overwhelming majority of sales. Punters can pick from two carryover engines at launch: the 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel and the 2.0 iVTEC petrol, the latter uprated fractionally to 153bhp and 141lb ft of torque. Both are available with a six-speed manual gearbox or five-speed torque converter automatic.
The engines may be the same but carbon dioxide emissions drop by around 12%. The diesel manual’s CO2 emissions plummet from the Mk3’s 171g/km to 149g/km, while the petrol manual’s drop from 192g/km to 173g/km. Initially just the petrol will be sold with two-wheel drive (unlocking a 168g/km CO2 figure), though Honda’s forthcoming, all-new 1.6-litre diesel will also be a front-driver.
How has Honda made these efficiency improvements?
Everything is finessed: Honda is claiming the most aerodynamic car in its class (while refusing to quote a drag figure); the modified platform is said to be up to 20kg lighter, even with the new equipment. Stop/start is now standard with both engines, and the all-wheel drive transfer system switches from hydraulic to electronic control, ditching components and weight, and boosting efficiency. As before, the CR-V is typically 100% front-drive unless slip is detected, when up to 70% of torque can be shifted to the rear axle. One small but smart change is that the CR-V always fires up in all-wheel drive mode to help drivers pull away in slippery conditions, switching to front-drive once you’re on a roll.
As with the CR-Z hybrid and new Civic, there’s an ‘econ’ driving mode, which tweaks the engine map, throttle response and air-con settings to maximise efficiency. Drive the CR-V like you stole it and the instrument pack stays illuminated in white signifying the planet is heading for the pearly gates; gentle driving unlocks tree-hugging green. Honda reckons altering driver behavior can bring about a 20% fuel economy improvement, in addition to any benefits unlocked by the revised hardware. And for the record, the upgraded chassis sticks with MacPherson struts up front and an independent rear suspension, acquires fuel-saving electric power assisted steering and is stiffer to improve on-road precision and crash performance. New door seals and sound-proofing help to reduce high-frequency noise by 3 decibels.
Will the 2012 Honda CR-V fit in my garage?
The new CR-V has avoided a growth spurt: its 4570mm length, 1650mm height and width are the same or down on Mk3 dimensions. Rear seat height dips 30mm, but there’s still a good five-inches of headroom and there’s noticeably more shoulder space, decent legroom and good underthigh support. The boot lip is lower, and cargo volume now stands at 589 litres behind the rear seats, and 1669 when you’ve folded the seats in one easy action by yanking the side strap. Not sexy stuff, but the kind of rigorous attention to detail that keeps punters very happy.
Up front the incremental improvements continue: the number of power sockets doubles to two, there are three central cupholders instead of two, and an extra screen so you can see trip/music info and sat-nav instructions simultaneously. As we said, not sexy but delightfully practical.
Gadgets include a lane-keeping assistant, which uses cameras to monitor the car’s position and apply a bit of steering lock to stay between the white lines. Active cruise control maintains your distance from the car in front, and slams on the anchors if you’re heading for a rear-end shunt. Hill descent control applies the brakes for you to maintain an orderly trip downhill, and the headlamps politely dip if they’re blinding an oncoming car.
And the design?
The grand concept was ‘functional, efficient and confident’ which is hardly moon-shot in its ambition. So the rear-end has an arrow-head kink on the screen and window graphic, and Volvo should consider a law suit over the rear lamp design. The sheet metal is a bit tidier, the front end slightly bolder (Honda grille: now in three bar-shock, rather than two!) and wheels span 17 or 18-inches in diameter. All very evolutionary.
So that’s the new Honda CR-V. No rule books have been ripped up in the making of this car – and customers will probably be delighted as a result.