Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC EX (2013) long-term test review

Published: 08 October 2013

Month 5 running a Honda CR-V: is the CR-V beaten by the Kia Sportage?

After two Our Cars stints, first with the Kia Sportage and now with the Honda CR-V, it’s worth making a comparison. They’re considered direct competitors, but in our case it’s not a totally fair fight as the Honda is fully loaded while we got by without sat-nav, a reversing camera, keyless entry or a powered tailgate on the Sportage. That said, the differing specs are slightly irrelevant – what you tend to remember most about a car is how it drives, looks and, in this case, what you can fit in it.

On the loadspace shoot-out, the Honda wins because the Kia’s falling roofline scuppers any chances of piling quite as much in the back. The Honda’s rear seats convert magically and by yanking one tab on each side, flip down completely flat. In contrast, the Kia seat squab stays put, seatbacks flopping down on top to leave a slight slope.

But crossovers are so named because they drive like hatchbacks rather than trucks and both cars do shrink around you. The Honda has a more compliant ride, the steering is more tactile and smoother over centre and the brakes less urgent. It feels more relaxed and maybe that’s why it seemed a little dull after the Kia. I missed the funky looks and edgier feel of the Sportage, though not the dodgy fit of the dashboard trim.

The CR-V has grown on me though. It’s a tad straight-laced but there’s satisfaction to be had from the fine engineering and attention to detail. A dramatic improvement in fuel consumption from 34mpg to 40.5 mpg (gentle handling and no towing or race tracks) has earned it Brownie points too.

As for the looks, the CR-V has lost that hideous dumpiness, but the Kia’s got real presence. Given the choice, which of them would I keep? Despite the Honda coming top in our group test with the Toyota RAV4, Land Rover Freelander and Ford Kuga in the June issue it would be the Sportage for me, but in KX-3 nav spec rather than KX-2 I tested (that’s £24,635 rather than £21,545). But that’s still six grand that would stay in my back pocket by not choosing Honda.

By Jesse Crosse

Month 4 running a Honda CR-V: latest update on the Honda crossover

In the last four months the CR-V has been used for everything from towing a rally car to spending time out with the new pup, and I’ve had plenty of chance to fiddle around with all the in-car tech. The voice control system of my previous set of wheels, the Kia Sportage, tapped straight in to my iPhone’s address book, so once it was paired I could make a call by speaking the person’s name. Simple. Unfortunately it was hit or miss, and while it understood a listing like ‘home’ it struggled when you got four people sharing the same Christian name.

With the Honda, you store a voice tag against each entry to use voice-activated dialling, so what you ask for doesn’t necessarily bear any relation to the name you tapped into a phone years before. It seems a bit clunky but at least I’m less likely to end up with a wrong number. The sat-nav (available only on this, the EX model) is hooked up to the Trafficmaster RDS TMC, as standard with no subscription involved and saved me during a trip to Heathrow recently when the M25 was closed. The system flagged up the problems ahead, re-calculated the route and delivered me to the joys of airport security on-time, listing new traffic events as they happened. These systems often look good on paper, but this one works.

By Jesse Crosse

Month 3 running a Honda CR-V: the best and worst of the CR-V's gadgets

The Honda has completed its second rally – towing my Escort to the Goodwood Stages, I mean. It’s a long trip from my place but the diesel showed its mettle with that smooth, low-end grunt and the cabin gave up its great comfort levels once again. The mileage is up to over 4000 now but there’s no difference in performance.

I’m not usually bothered with gadgets (steering, brakes and throttle work well for me) but the standard equipment is good. The electric tailgate is really handy, and the rear camera is perfect for trailer hitching as well as reversing. The auto-dipping headlights don’t always dip quickly enough, but the active cornering lighting is a useful detail – it recently alerted me to a pretty solid gatepost lurking in the gloom of a dark driveway. The trick lights are also available in the next model down, the SR (£28,540), but for the extra £2455 my EX also gets loads more including sat-nav, panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, leather, driver memory seat and the power tailgate. Fuel consumption swings between 34mpg and 39mpg – wide of the claimed 48.7mpg but to achieve that I’d have to stop towing a trailer full of Escort… and move to another planet.

By Jesse Crosse

Month 2 running a Honda CR-V: the CR-V's good first impressions continue

One month in and the Honda CR-V has already crept in from left field and grabbed my attention in a big way. It’s towed my rally car to Rockingham and back again, and made an airport run, so the basics are fine. It has less of a falling roofline than my previous Sportage, so I can stack the rally car wheels three high towards the back of the load bay.

Fuel consumption has improved since the last report (when most of my driving had involved towing) and I’m really appreciating the Honda’s high levels of fit-and-finish. It feels premium in here. The rear seats do the whole fold-flat thing with just the tug of a tag and no need to fiddle with headrests, and the electric hatch is a stroke of genius in a car at this price. The loading bay is lined with a box-like rubber tray which lifts out, so cleaning is a doddle, and that rear-view camera means I have fun dazzling people with my amazing judgement when hitching a trailer. The steering is smooth and responsive with plenty of feel. It’s quiet on motorways with low levels of wind noise. A proper good start.

By Jesse Crosse

Month 1 running a Honda CR-V: the new CR-V makes it CAR fleet debut

Life is full of surprises and Kia’s Sportage was one of them. I was optimistic about it before it arrived, impressed with the comfort, agility and practicality when it was here and sorry to see it go. The Sportage was always going to be a tough act to follow, so the new Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC EX 4WD manual (catchy, eh?) is going to have its work cut out.

This is almost the top-spec CR-V money can buy and we’ve chosen the six-speed manual model. We passed on the auto because like most (but not all) others, the maximum towing weight of the automatic CR-V is only 1500kg versus 2000kg for the manual, and I have lots of towing to do. Expectations are high though, since the fully-loaded EX comes in at £31,495, including the £500 optional ‘Passion Red Pearlescent’ paint. The only other options available are a collision mitigation braking system, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control which you get in an advanced safety pack for £2250. The 2199cc, 4-cylinder diesel engine produces 148bhp and 258lb ft torque, which should pull a trailer well, and the six-speed gearbox has a positive, precise gate which is satisfying to use.

The previous CR-V had a reputation for being steady and reliable but was dumpy to look at. The new car’s styling is slicker and sharper, the sloping grille and low-profile headlights giving it an altogether more modern look. It’s easy on the eye – elegant, even.

So, what have we got in terms of equipment? The EX has lots of goodies including sat-nav and my favourite toy, a rear camera for reversing which also shows the towbar, a major plus when hitching a trailer solo. There’s also a powered tailgate which should prove useful when loading up with the inevitable payload of rally car wheels, tyres and equipment. Premium equipment includes heated front seats, full leather upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming mirror, cruise control, keyless entry and most things that could be electrically adjustable, are.

The headlights are bi-xenon but the CR-V also has active cornering lighting and ‘high-beam support’ (in case you’re too dumb to dip the beams against oncoming traffic). Wheels are 18in but I’m glad to see they’re equipped with sensible profile 225/60 tyres which should give a decent secondary ride on rubbish surfaces. The engine is equipped with stop/start too, so I’m hoping I can get closer to the claimed 48.7mpg than I did with the Kia.

One early problem cropped up when the diesel pump nozzle wouldn’t go in the tank – the camera-shutter-like fuel filler, designed to prevent mis-fuelling, had developed a fault but it was replaced quickly and everything’s now fine.

I don’t need a high performance tool (I tow one around) but something that’s enjoyable to be in, doesn’t offend my eye, is economical to run and practical. If the Honda can fulfil those requirements, we’ll get along just fine.

By Jesse Crosse

By CAR's road test team

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