Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
The first-generation CR-V was launched way back in 1995, and it was Honda’s first attempt at a mass-market SUV. Since then we’ve had the second-generation CR-V, which got a little bit bigger, a little bit safer and a little bit more economical, the-third generation which did all of that again, and the fourth-generation which, you guessed it, was bigger, safer and more economical.
This, the fifth generation CR-V, is the most advanced SUV Honda has ever made. Why? Well where previous CR-Vs have relied on petrol and diesel power, this new CR-V can be bought with a petrol-electric powertrain for the very first time.
The CR-V Hybrid is loaded with tech, as you’d expect. The base ‘S’ trim gets a 5-inch screen, but move up to the ‘SE’ model and you’re afforded LED lights, Bluetooth, lane-keep assist, keyless entry and start, dual zone climate control and a Garmin satellite navigation system. ‘Our’ car, the top of the range ‘EX’, came with leather seats, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, privacy glass, a panoramic glass roof, a DAB radio, a head-up display and heated front seats. The treat was the heated steering wheel, a very welcome addition to the spec given the UK’s unpredictable Spring weather.
Crucially for a mid-sized SUV like the CR-V, the cabin felt spacious, bright and well put together. The boot was cavernous, too. The only slight let downs being the printed wood trim pieces and the navigation interface – it isn’t the slickest. For the some, the lack of a third row of seats in the hybrid (the battery pack is stored under the boot floor, thus preventing the two extra chairs) will be an issue.
Yes, the CR-V Hybrid will do 0-62mph in between 8.8 and 9.2 seconds, depending on the trim, but is that why you buy a CR-V Hybrid? No, probably not. What you do need to know is that the car is driven by a 2.0-litre petrol engine, a lithium-ion battery pack and two electric motors, one for power generation and the other for propulsion. On the combined cycle Honda claims 51-53mpg, which might not sound impressive when compared to a diesel-powered CR-V that’ll manage more like 70mpg, but the CR-V Hybrid, thanks to it’s incredibly complicated but hugely impressive hybrid system, will manage 50mpg in the city.
You can choose to drive the car in full-EV mode using an EV button on the steering wheel, otherwise the car will decide how to propel you down the road. Sometimes you’ll be running on battery power, at other times the electric motor will drive the wheels while the petrol engine charges the batteries. If you put your foot down, of course, the petrol engine, batteries and electric motor all work together to get you down the road as quickly as possible.
On the move the CR-V is quiet and comfortable, exactly what you want, not just from a Honda but from a hybrid more generally.
The Hybrid’s performance isn’t bad, but it’s driving around on electric power alone provides a real thrill. While electric power perhaps doesn’t excite in quite the same way as some wild, Italian V6, you can feel just how much thought and effort has gone into making the powertrain work smoothly and effectively.
CR-Vs have proved popular for more than two decades now, and with the fifth generation there’s no reason for that to change. While some will no doubt prefer a conventional diesel or petrol SUV, the additional hybrid tech means the CR-V range is stronger that it has ever been before.
Cost of our car: £38,830 (including £550 of options)