What is it? Heavily revised version of Honda’s best-seller SUV.
Key features: 1.6 high-pressure diesel, nine-speed gearbox.
Our view: The Honda CR-V was an effective SUV to begin with, and the changes only make a good package better.
The Honda CR-V is a much more important car than many might realise.
In the UK the SUV is the brand’s joint best-seller, alongside the Jazz city car, and across the globe it is the third best-selling of all SUVs. UK CR-V sales totalled 16,500 in 2014 and the petrol version was the best selling amongst its rivals for the 13th year in a row.
It is also, for now, a British-built car – though that is set to change in 2017 to 2018 when the Swindon plant that produces the CR-V switches to becoming the global production hub for the next five-door Civic.
So a mid-life refresh of such a core model assumes great importance, and it is clear from driving the newly revamped CR-V, just arriving in showrooms, that the changes have been much more than cosmetic.
By far the biggest is the arrival of a new-to-the-range 1.6-litre diesel engine, replacing the previous 2.2 unit and bringing with it significant gains. One of Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams Technology’ series of engines, it’s a two-stage turbo unit of 157bhp, according to Honda offering 60 per cent more power than the 2.2 while returning fuel economy boosted by 15 per cent and emissions down 13 per cent to a minimum of 129bhp with all-wheel-drive and the six-speed manual gearbox.
The five grams penalty of choosing an auto transmission might be seriously tempting, however, thnaks to the arrival of a new nine-speed auto gearbox. Replacing a previous five-speed unit, it features a very low first gear which helps with rapid pick up, while the high top gear contributes markedly to those economy and emissions improvements.
Further assistance comes from the weight, or lack of it. The transmission tips the scales 35kg lighter, while together with the new engine there are 65kg less to get on the move.
The revamped CR-V and the 1.6 diesel nine-speed auto combination variant are well matched, if you are looking for refinement. The engine is very quiet and smooth and the gearbox equally so – it’s many ratio changes are slick but precise, and it does not hunt between speeds.
However, it’s all rather sedate. Despite having extra power the engine does not feel particularly enthusiastic, and while the gearbox is not an instant-reacting twin-clutch unit, even in its sportiest mode the shifts take a disappointing time – they’re smooth, but slow…
It’s not the only engine on offer – there are two others, both now Euro 6 emissions compliant. The lower-powered 1.6 diesel of 118bhp is only available with a manual two-wheel-drive transmission, while the 2.0-litre petrol can be specified in 2WD, 4WD, manual or auto.
Significant work has also been carried out on the CR-V’s chassis. There are new dampers, front suspension bushes, revised geometry, a track extended by 15mm front and rear and a slight increase in camber angle, all aimed at achieving greater stability and less understeer in corners.
Generally it works – though only to a certain level. The CR-V’s ride is competent if somewhat bland, and very soft – this is not a car in which one goes searching for a series of challenging bends. On the motorway cruise, however, it’s a very comfortable environment to be in.
The new Honda CR-V has seen some stylng changes, most notably at the front where the redesigned grille and headlamps both emphasise the car’s width and add to its presence. The rear LED lamps are new too, as are the alloy wheel designs.
Inside the styling changes continue – notably the chrome-effect inlay running the width of the dashboard, while generally the surfaces appear to be of better quality than previously.
Honda says the dashboard has been redesigned to allow easy visibility and we would agree that it’s all very easy to use, and this extends to the new seven-inch touchscreen which houses Honda’s Connect infotainment system.
This is Android-based – apparently despite the fame of Apple’s iPhone four out of five phone operating systems sold across the globe are Android-based. It works well enough, though the sat nav graphics could be better, and the row of buttons down the right of the screen give the unit a curiously retro look.
Other changes include a sliding armrest (60 mm fore and aft) between the front seats and a neat one-action fold-down rear seat. With seats folded the CR-V’s load capacity jumps from 589 to 1648 litres of flat space (1669 litres if a space-saver spare wheel is specified). And with a load length of up to 1,570mm, the car will easily accommodate two mountain bikes or four sets of golf clubs.
Pricing of the new CR-V starts at £22,345 – cars with the new 1.6 engine will cost from £27,570, with the nine-speed auto ‘box £29,350. According to Honda UK managing director Phil Crossman the new prices are only around £100 more than previous models, with a whole lot more for one’s money. “If you are an existing customer with 2.2 diesel auto of three or four years old why would you not want to change it?” he says. “You will get nearly £1,000 work of enhancements for around £100 on price, and it’s a more efficient car.”
We’d agree – generally the CR-V was an effective SUV to begin with, and the changes only make a good package better.
Honda CR-V – key specifications
Model Tested: Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC 160PS 4WD nine-speed automatic
On Sale: April 2015
Range price: £22,345 – £35,620
Insurance group: TBA
Engines: Petrol 2.0. Diesel 1.6 (2)
Power (bhp): 153. 118, 157
Torque (lb/ft): 142. 221, 258.
0-62mph (sec)*: 10.2 (10.2). 11.2, 9.6.
Top speed (mph)*: 118 (118). 113, 126.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg)*: 39.2 (38.2). 64.2, 57.6.
CO2 emissions (g/km)*: 168 (173). 115, 129.
Key rivals: Hyundai iX35, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage
Test Date: April 2015
* = all performance/efficiency figures with 17-inch wheels and manual gearbox where applicable
Figures in brackets 4WD