What is it?
This new variant of the Honda CR-V is the first available with a hybrid drivetrain, replacing the previous diesel.
The Honda CR-V Hybrid could be an answer for those looking for a comfortable, spacious SUV that offers an effective performance without writing headlines.
It will particularly appeal to those who have always liked the economy and emissions of a diesel but no longer want to buy one.
But while it beats the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid for comfort, its rival offers more power and performance for similar efficiency.
From the dawn of hybrid powertrains, two Japanese manufacturers have dominated the petrol-electric market and proved deadly rivals to each other. Where Honda had the Insight, Toyota had the Prius. Honda offered a Civic hybrid, Toyota the same with its Auris.
So now that Toyota has ditched the diesel version of its RAV4 SUV in favour of one with petrol-electric power, Honda is doing the same with its CR-V – especially relevant now that diesel engines are like those embarrassing friends that sit in the corner of the party with no-one talking to them…
The only significant difference between the two brands is that while Toyota is putting all its RAV4 eggs in the hybrid basket, Honda is being more circumspect – the CR-V Hybrid comes to market alongside the 1.5-litre turbo petrol version which was launched some months ago.
While it’s no longer built in Britain, the CR-V remains Honda’s best-selling model. That means persuading all those who formerly bought diesel versions of the car that hybrid is the way to go will be crucial.
Buying and owning a Honda CR-V Hybrid
The Honda CR-V has always been a large SUV with a muscular visual presence, and the latest, fifth-generation version loses none of this appeal. It’s slightly longer than its predecessor, while the wheels are closer to the corners thanks to a 3cm longer wheelbase that also helps free up extra interior space.
Externally there are strong horizontal styling lines, though not too many of them. The aerodynamic performance is aided by Honda’s Active Shutter Grille system, now offered on the CR-V for the first time. Generally, it keeps a shutter closed across the grille to improve the aerodynamics, but when rising engine temperatures demand the shutter opens to increase the airflow.
The hybrid system is different too – whereas on the Toyota version the petrol engine drives the wheels at all times, assisted by the electric motor, the Honda uses two electric motors. The engine, of 2.0-litre capacity, powers one of the motors to generate electricity to power the second which is connected to the wheels. The only time the engine drives the wheels is when one is accelerating quickly.
CR-V choices range across both front and all-wheel-drive variants, and four trim levels dubbed S, SE, SR and EX, prices starting from £29,105. One can only have the S model with two powered wheels while the range-topping EX is only available with 4WD.
The other thing one can’t have with the hybrid is the seven seats offered on the petrol CR-V. There’s a very good reason – fitting in the hybrid powertrain requires 64 litres of the boot space, so there’s no room for those extra bodies.
A highlight among the standard specification on all models is the safety package. Dubbed Sensing, Honda’s suite of driver aids includes autonomous emergency braking, a forward collision alert, lane keeping and lane departure warning, a system to prime safety systems if the car leaves the road, and adaptive cruise control.
The CR-V hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but the previous model scored five stars back in 2013 and Honda will be expecting a similar performance from the new model.
You will spend around £1,900 upgrading from S to SE – and if you want an SE in 4WD form, it will cost another £1,100. Extra tech includes parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
Produce another £2,500 for an SR and blind-spot and cross traffic warnings are added to the safety package, as well as keyless entry and starting, a leather interior and headlamps that look round corners.
Finally there’s the EX, costing £37,255 and adding a panoramic glass sunroof, electric tailgate with no-hands operating, heating on the steering wheel and rear seats, and a natty head-up display.
Continued on next page: Interior, driving experience and our verdict