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Honda CR-V test drive

The latest CR-V is a well made, spacious SUV offering from Honda. How does it stack up against rivals?

What is it?

The Honda CR-V has been around since 1995, and is now one of the world’s best-selling SUVs. It’s gone on to become sleeker, more efficient and quieter too.

It’s now been updated for 2018, adding a more distinctive look as well as better levels of standard equipment and technology. Comfort is still the name of the game, though, just as it was with the original car back in ’95.

We’re testing it here in range-topping EX trim level.

What’s new?

Being the updated 2018 model, the CR-V gets the latest exterior features applied to many current Honda vehicles. The exterior gets the latest ‘face’ (a large chrome grille framing an even larger Honda badge), which comes alongside a distinctive new headlight design. You’ve also got four distinct trim lines to go from with S, SE SR and top-level EX offering something for all budgets. Even base-spec cars get alloy wheels, LED headlights and climate control.

The CR-V is also available in five- or seven-seater configurations, meaning there’s an option for larger families too.

How does it look?

2019 Honda CR-V review (The Car Expert)

Though it’s battling against some dynamic and interesting looking new rivals, the CR-V can keep its head held high in the styling department. It’s a distinctive looking thing, that’s for sure, with a variety of different cut lines combining with some key chrome elements to aid it in standing out.

It looks particularly striking in shades such as the red our test car was finished in, though darker colours do give it a certain undercover air too.

What’s the spec like?

Standard equipment levels are, funnily enough for this £36,455 EX model, very good. You’ve got 19-inch wheels, heated rear seats, a heads-up display and a fully opening panoramic sunroof all combining with a myriad of extras to create a car which feels fully loaded with kit.

In truth, the middle-ground SE version makes more sense, as it still brings with it a host of goodies but at a lower cost – close to £6,000 less, in fact.

A common issue with all the ranges is the standard-fit infotainment system, which you’ll find in almost all Honda vehicles. It falls a long while behind current rivals, and can’t deliver close to the same level of user-friendliness nor responsiveness. It’s an area we’d gladly change.

What’s it like inside?

2019 Honda CR-V interior - The Car Expert
The interior of the CR-V is well made for family life (PA)

Family vehicles such as the CR-V need to be robust enough inside to cope with daily life, and you get the sense that this Honda’s interior has been designed with that in mind. That’s not to say it’s basic – certainly not in this EX-spec version, at least – it’s just that all of the plastic trim sections have been solidly placed together while the leather seats feel well-made and up to years of abuse.

Everything is very accessible to the driver too. The gear selector is high-set and immediately next to you, and the steering wheel has plenty of adjustment as well. Many key functions can easily be accessed via the steering wheel too, with volume adjustments and track changes best made via the wheel-mounted controls.

What’s under the bonnet?

Engine choices are simple with the CR-V – there’s just one to choose from. It’s a 1.5-litre turbocharged unit, which sends power to either the front or all four wheels through a six-speed manual or CVT automatic gearbox.

We’ve got the four-wheel-drive CVT version here, and fuel economy is down a touch compared to the manual, while emissions are raised somewhat. It’ll do 39.8mpg, as opposed to the 42.8mpg you’ll get in the manual, while 162g/km emissions contrast the 151g/km you’ll see in the six-speeder. After lower emissions? Then hold fast – Honda is introducing a hybrid version soon.

Though performance isn’t the name of the game here, the CR-V’s 1.5-litre engine produces a respectable 190hp – an interesting 20hp bump over manual cars. This is backed by 243Nm of torque, which will allow the CR-V to hit 60mph in 9.8 seconds before cracking a top speed of 124mph.

What’s it like to drive?

2019 Honda CR-V road test (The Car Expert)

If there’s a car looking to set the motoring world alight, then it’s certainly not the CR-V standing in the corner holding a petrol can and a box of matches. It delivers a drive that you’d expect for a car of this type; predictable, refined and relatively uninspiring.

The steering actually has a decent amount of life to it, while the ride is comfortable and does well over the pretty rough road surfaces.

Then there’s the engine. It’s punchy enough, but the gearbox is its downfall. We’ve said this countless times about the CVT, and it’s an issue we’ve found to trouble many different vehicles.

There’s just no middle ground with it; it’s either tips the engine right down at the bottom of the rev range, or has it at the point where you think the valves are going to bounce out of the bonnet. Were it our choice, we’d be ticking the option for the manual ‘box every time.


With such a wealth of SUVs currently available in the UK, it’s a tough thing to stand out – particularly for any car which has been around for quite some time. However, this newly-refreshed CR-V feels like a genuine competitor, certainly taking its interior robustness, general level of standard equipment and dynamic looks into account.

Drop the CVT gearbox, and this is a decent car to drive with an experience which is neither awful nor write-home exceptional. As far as all-rounders go, this CR-V is pretty well-rounded indeed.

Model as tested: Honda CR-V
Price: £37,005
Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol
Power: 190hp
Torque: 220Nm
Max speed: 124mph
0-60mph: 9.8 seconds
Fuel economy: 39.8mpg
Emissions: 162g/km

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.
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