The Honda CR-V isn’t dissimilar to Hive’s smart, app-based home thermostat. It’s not the trendiest product on the market and owners don’t tend to shout and rave about theirs, quietly letting them get on with the tasks at hand. Yet Hive now has a 52% market share and over a million UK customers who would fight ‘til their fingernails dropped off to keep theirs, much like CR-V stalwarts often end up being customers for life, Honda’s SUV topping European sales charts for quite a few recent years. Having driven its way into the hearts of discerning owners from young families to the more mature, smitten with the notion of mild adventures, practicality and rock-solid reliability, Honda didn’t take the risky path of radically restyling its now fifth-generation CR-V, which gently evolves proceedings nicely.
Despite a restyled bumper, fresh headlights, a grille that opens and closes automatically in the name of economy, plus one or two other details, the front of the new model for Europe, which has been knocking around over the pond for some time, hasn’t changed significantly. The new rear light clusters that spread horizontally across the tailgate in L-shapes rather than just vertically may take a moment for fans of the CR-V’s predecessors to digest, but they work well, complemented by fresh LEDs, various new creases and some chrome fillets. Honda’s latest SUV looks particularly sophisticated in Premium Agate Brown Pearl, while EX trim as tested comes with attractive 19” shoes.
With the usual aspirational premium aura experienced aboard Honda’s more expensive cars, the new CR-V in EX guise definitely feels discretely plush and like it’s built to stand up to the aeons of time. Okay, the fake wood may look tacky in some eyes, but the design of the dashboard appears smart, the controls feel slick and ergonomics are strong on the whole. The pews are lovely and soft with an elegant stitch to them, rear passengers even getting heating for their posteriors, while the steering wheel is heated, too. Most things are automatic, as one would expect, and the panoramic roof bathes the cabin in extra light. The head-up display feels slightly gimmicky like they do in most cars, and aside from the steering wheel presenting too many buttons, one of the primary let-downs in the new CR-V is the infotainment system. The actual screen unit looks the part, but the menus appear frightfully dated, and even tech-savvy teenagers will likely struggle performing basic functions like finding the desired radio station.
Shrewd motorists have increasingly discerned over the years that the Honda CR-V provides bucket-loads of boot space, and the latest version will keep parents, outdoorsy people and scores of other load-lugging drivers smugly satisfied. A 7-seat petrol variant is available, but the 5-seat car as tested here offers 561 litres to the window line when the back seats are in use, expanding to 1,123 litres when they’re folded down, or 1,756 litres up to the roofline. Families will appreciate Honda’s new single-action ‘dive down’ rear seats that split and fold, and although the CR-V isn’t crammed full with quite as many practical touches as a SKODA Karoq or Kodiaq with ‘Simply Clever’ features, the configurable boot floor, dirt-busting sills and wide-opening rear doors all nicely complement the cabin’s large bins and other storage areas, along with twin USB sockets in the rear.
On the road, blimey, the 1.5-litre VTEC TURBO petrol CR-V is eerily quiet around town and on slower roads, making it quite a joy to drive, Honda’s work in endowing the CVT transmission with a naturalness certainly reaping rewards in these situations. Indulge in a spot of overtaking or accelerate down a slip-road onto a motorway, however, and traditional CVT whine immediately makes itself heard, so this lady’s definitely not for hurtling. With 193 horsepower, Honda’s Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System™ and a decent 208mm of ground clearance, the overall package is wholly decent bearing in mind the car’s intentions. There are no off-road or sport modes to play with, here. It does what it says on the tin, effectively at that, but never pretends to do more. CO2 emissions of 162g/km aren’t much to write home about and averaging just shy of 43mpg after around 450 miles will do little to persuade die-hard diesel fans, the hybrid version likely better for those prioritising running costs.
Even on EX trim’s 19” wheels, the new CR-V’s ride is pretty good, and the suspension and steering both do a respectable job, too, considering how bad the UK’s roads are and what most of the moniker’s customers are looking for. Mature drivers or those with reduced mobility will appreciate the latest version’s slightly lower hip-point and driving position, while everyone will benefit from the reversing camera, which is standard across all CR-V trim grades.
Safety has always been another strength of the CR-V and Honda’s creations in general, and it won’t be any surprise if the revised SUV receives a 5-star EURO NCAP rating when it goes through testing. The test mule totted up to a fiver over £37,000, which is pricier than some similarly-specified rivals – but Honda aficionados are often willing to shell out a tad extra for the ensuing quality and other characteristics.
A very affable car for the spectrum of drivers and uses, the new CR-V in 5-seater 1.5 VTEC petrol AWD CVT guise may not shout and scream for attention but it certainly ticks plenty of important boxes, especially when it comes to real-world motoring and what really matters, so will doubtlessly accumulate on driveways across the UK over coming months and years.