Monday, 26 October 2015

REVIEW - Honda CR-V EX

In recent years Honda really seem to have found their mojo again. The Civic Type R is back. The NSX is on its way back. The Jazz just got jazzier and the dated Accord is gone. So with that in mind I was eager to try out their compact SUV; the popular CR-V. 2015 sees some styling changes and a new powertrain, so I was hopeful it would feel fresh and lively. I was sent a top of the range EX model with a few options on it, and wasted no time in setting about seeing why the CR-V is one of the most popular compact SUV’s in the world.

Looks – 8/10

I really like what Honda designer team have done with the CR-V. The front is sculpted and angular, with honeycomb grilles and lashings of chrome. The daytime running lights are extremely executive, and form a nice extension of the grille. My car featured the Aero Pack (£1,550) comprising front bumper, rear bumper, side running board and spoiler. It gives the CR-V a sportier edge and when coupled to the Crystal Black Pearl paint (£550) makes for an impressive looking car. I’m not 100% sold on the optional 19-inch black alloy wheels (£1,195), but there are silver or graphite options should they suit you better. At the back the CR-V is well-rounded. The chrome trim is shaped like the front of the car, and is a nice touch.

Step inside the CR-V and you’re faced with an array of pleasant materials. Being the EX model you get full leather seats, alloy door step garnishes and a combination of gloss black, brushed aluminium and silver trims. The 3-dimensional dials are impressive, and sit nicely in the driver’s eyeline. The automatic gear selector is a rather unusual one, and seems to sit a little awkwardly on the centre console. That being said the remainder of the console looks great; with the climate control, 7-inch touchscreen media system and additional information display. To finish off the interior there is ambient lighting and a wonderful panoramic roof.

Handling/Performance – 8/10

The engine in my test car was the 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel engine. I first experienced this engine in a Civic and was vastly impressed with it. With 160PS and 360Nm of torque, this engine definitely outperforms its size. The power is sent to all four wheels on the EX, and my car came with Honda’s new 9-speed automatic gearbox. 0-62mph is dealt with in 10.2 seconds and the top speed is 122mph. It may not seem too fast but thanks to the delightful gearbox the CR-V does feel quite sprightly. There’s always plenty of torque available, and this is a delightfully smooth, refined engine.

Another credit to Honda is that they have never strayed from driver focus. Even in a compact SUV like this you feel like it’s been designed for the driver. The driving position is excellent. The steering feels direct and weighty. In fact I would say it is perhaps a little too weighty, and this is most noticeable when making minor adjustments on the motorway. Stick it on an A-road though and the CR-V feels lively. There’s a little bit of lean as you turn in, but that direct steering and 4WD capability inspire confidence though the bends. The ride was smooth, even on the 19-inch wheels, and when coupled to the 9-speed automatic long-distance cruising is quiet and relaxing.

Economy – 10/10

When I drove a Civic with this engine in, I was extremely impressed with how economical it was in the real world. But there were several other variables here. The CR-V is bigger, has 4WD and an automatic gearbox. All of these should detriment economy, but you’ll be pleased to know that the CR-V returns 55.3mpg on a combined cycle. Even with the automatic gearbox you get start/stop technology, and CO2 emissions of 139g/km leave the car in VED band E. Currently road tax will cost you £130, and the same in the first year. For an executive 4WD car that’s hardly a hefty expense, and is very similar to that of other vehicles in class.

Practicality – 10/10

Despite all the flamboyance of the aero kit and black wheels, the CR-V is a properly sensible car underneath. There’s plenty of space in the front, and even more in the back. Even the tallest of rear-seat passengers will be comfortable. The rear seats are also rather clever. In one motion, the back folds down and base tilts up resulting in a flat load area of 1146 litres (compared to 589 with the seats up). Being a top of the range model you get all the bells and whistles, with keyless entry, power tailgate, electric driver’s seat with memory, heated seats, cruise control, cornering lights, rear view camera and dual-zone climate control to name a few. The auto makes driving easy, and the higher driving position gives good visibility of the road ahead.

Fun – 6/10

All Honda’s cars are designed with the driver at the forefront of importance. The dynamic handling is testimony to that. You can tell the driving position has been designed just so, and I found it a delight. The problem is that this is still an SUV. It’s not a car you want to go out and blast down a country road in. That’s not to say it doesn’t drive well, but it just doesn’t fill you with the urge to grab the keys. That being said there are plenty of toys to keep you entertained on any journey, and I really like Honda’s CONNECT media system, which allows for effortless use of your iPod through a 7-inch touchscreen. You can browse the internet, and use Aha internet radio via an app.

Concluding Remarks

So that’s my week with the Honda CR-V. Its angular design looks great, and with the optional aero pack has a sporty edge to it. The cabin is full of high-quality materials and feels well built. This is still a driver’s car, with weighty steering and relatively flat cornering. The experience behind the wheel is enjoyable, and with the EX you get all the toys you could want. I’d make sure to get a 4WD so that this is practical all year round, and the 1.6-litre diesel is a gem. The EX with the 9-speed automatic starts at £35,620. For more information log on to the Honda website or pop in to your local dealer. The Honda CR-V; dynamic, stylish, economical. And best of all – it’s built in Britain.

Total Score – 42/50

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