The castrati of SUVs is back, eh?
Steady. The CR-V isn’t the most macho of off-roaders but that hasn’t stopped it being popular. In fact it’s been the market leader for the past few years and given the Land Rover Freelander a girly slap in the process. But you’re right, it looks a bit apologetic for a supposed Freelander rival.
So the CR-V is happy having its SUV credentials laughed at?
Absolutely. The Freelander and BMW’s X3 might seem the obvious rivals but Honda actually benchmarked the CR-V against small executive cars like its own Accord. It sees the the CR-V as simply a more versatile estate car rather than a proper mud-plugger and that’s exactly how buyers see it too: Honda’s research found that 75 per cent of buyers had never taken their cars off road and never planned to. More important to them is the commanding driving position, slideable seats and useful boot. And not being seen as an SUV means side-stepping the hate lobby. With good reason too: the CR-V is actually safer and more environmentally friendly than a Mini Cooper S.
So it’s more of an MPV?
I suppose so. The rear seats slide back and forth to suit your boot space:rear leagroom needs or can be folded forward and the boot can be split into two levels by a large board that rests atop the two rear wheel housings. The materials are top quality and the old car’s weird one-armed bandit handbrake lever has thankfully gone.
What about the oily bits?
You’ve got two engines to choose from, both lifted from the Accord: a 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol producing 148bhp and 140lb ft and a 2.2-litre diesel with a much healthier 138bhp and 251lb ft of grunt. There’s nothing between them on paper, the petrol reaching 62mph in 10.6sec, two tenths ahead of the diesel but running out of steam at 110mph, leaving the diesel to storm ahead to a heady 112mph. But as usual the seat of the pants verdict is entirely different and the torquey diesel feels the far fleeter. It’s refined too and manages 42.2mpg to the petrol’s 30.4mpg although the pronounced turbo lag does irritate. And unlike the petrol, the diesel can’t be ordered with an auto box.
So does it feel like a car or a truck.
Very much like a car. The body, 10mm smaller than before, is also lighter and stiffer which helps agility and although the power steering (electrically assisted on the petrol, hydraulic on the diesel) doesn’t offer much feel and the ride could be alittle more polished, there’s little a regular saloon can do that the CR-V can’t. Conversely, the CR-V’s still got a few tricks to teach saloons. While operating mostly as a front-wheel drive car, it does have the facility to send power rearward and the towing capacity has been massively improved. So it’s useful for pulling your caravan but you still wouldn’t want to attempt any serious mud-plugging.
And what does it cost?
Bottom rung is the SE petrol at £18,075; securing a diesel underhood means digging deeper to the tune of £1175. Both come with manual air conditioning and steel rims but step up to the Executive (£23,450 in range-topping petrol form) and you convert air con to fully automatic climate control, gain alloys, leather, metallic paint and various other goodies.
You have to applaud Honda for being prepared to stand up and admit that these cars are not bought with mud in mind so why pretend otherwise. The resulting CR-V is better to own and drive because of it. Of course that might just deter a few snobs, but those who’d rather spend time in a car that better suits their needs than one that the neighbours will view enviously will find lots to like here.