In an overcrowded market place of SUV’s from almost every manufacturer, it takes something fairly special or cost-effective to stand out from the crowd. Even though many traditional saloon or hatchback drivers see them as automotive horrors on wheels ferrying Little Timmy and Tillie to school or being badly parked down as Sainsco, but whatever your opinion may be – there is a popular trend for them. My better half adores a lofty commanding driving position and after many years since parting with our own 4×4 SUV – it’s still sorely missed.
Honda of course, produce the CRV, and have done so for some years now with total units being way over the million mark and the latest generation continues the theme of promising good engineering with practicality. We got to grips with a range topping 2.2 diesel with four-wheel drive and manual gearbox and put it through most of the duty cycles a vehicle of this type would normally endure. Having previously been impressed with a mid range 1.6 diesel, it was interesting to see what difference the extra muscle would make, available power comes in at 150Ps and a rather useful 350Nm.
The CRV has many other rivals fighting this class to the bitter end, vehicles such as the BMW X3, Ford Kuga and Volkswagen Tiguan all seem to be chasing the same breed of customer. Some cost-effective vehicles such as the Hyundai iX35 and Kia Sportage also nibble away at the edges of this class – so as you can see and like I have mentioned, it takes something really good to stand above the others. As with the current Civic, the CRV is British made at Honda UK’s Swindon plant and just like other UK produced Honda’s – it’s a quality product with solid engineering behind it.
Looking resplendent with its optional Orchid White paintwork and “robust pack” consisting of bigger alloy wheels, skid plates and side running boards, the test car seemed very well assembled and painted. The optional pack makes the car look a little more “bling” and urban tough – this allied to the privacy glass on the rear doors gave one or two favourable comments from neighbours and friends. The running boards look especially neat, not only that but they also seem very robust and solid rather than just being there for a visual styling point.
Despite the lofty stance, the CRV is easy to hop in and out of and once inside its easy to fine tune the driving position thanks to an adjustable steering wheel and electric memory driving seat. The front ones are more like armchairs, they are trimmed in ruched and perforated leather, are heated and feature a pneumatic lumbar support. The gear lever is a short stubby affair mounted on the dash, it falls to the hand readily having a short throw and defined precise quality in use. The general ergonomic style of the facia works well – some of the incidental switch gear is mounted away down to your right, but its reachable and well illuminated at night.
As with the Civic family, there’s intelligent superb use of space with decent sized door bins – cleverly mood illuminated at night, a huge fabric lined glove-box, a floor mounted tray / coffee holder with lid and a good amount of space beneath the drivers armrest – here you will also find the multi media connections too. In the usual Honda way the interior is a bit gloomy and yearns for some lighter shaded materials, but you’ll have nothing to complain regarding fit and finish or quality. The switches are well damped in action and the column stalks feel robust and secure. Its panoramic roof is a welcome touch with an electrically operated two piece blind, in fact, this model is very well kitted out in terms of features.
On the subject of equipment, the CRV tested also featured a dual zone climate control system, heated front seats, headlamp power wash, touch button folding door mirrors and a comprehensive audio system that includes DVD, Bluetooth, MP3, reverse camera, D.A.B receiver, a very comprehensive trip computer and of course… the Sat Nav. But do be warned… this unit may be very advanced and neat but it’s amazingly complicated to fathom without first reading the booklet or randomly stabbing away at the buttons and knobs until the knack comes. On a plus side, its worth it once accustomed as the sound quality is very good partly thanks to a boot mounted Sub Woofer.
There are no complaints about headroom or legroom, it’s very spacious inside and the load-bay is particularly well thought out. Extra cargo space is at your fingertips with a neat single pull on a lever which automatically raises the squab and folds down the backrests of the rear seat – clever touch Honda! Also worthy of note is the comfort of the rear seat – passengers mentioned this over longer distances. The boot floor is almost flat once the 60/40 sections are lowered and when the seats are vertical again, a sliding roller type cover which is also easy to remove protects your effects from beady eyes or opportunist pilferers. What’s very handy too is the push button electric open and close of the tailgate – what a boon when loaded up with bags with the keyfob in your hand.
Despite some awful weather of wind and torrential rain, the CRV was unruffled. Only the hardest gusts almost knocked the car off the straight line. It was also a good test of the de-misters, aircon and the ABS / EBD system. Driving back from Suffolk in some awful driving rain, a kind member of the public saw fit to pull out of a parking bay right smack bang into our path. The CRV stood on its nose but never deviated from dead ahead and we managed to avoid stamping a Honda logo into the back doors of the Vauxhall Combo van too – oh… the CRV has an effective horn also! In these circumstances you really appreciate a car of this type and bulk.
In normal braking scenario’s, the Honda presents no problems whatsoever and the same applies with the steering – though the latter is a little lacking in communication and feel at the rim. For sure you have above average body roll and a long suspension travel but it corners safely, securely and does nothing to unsettle the passengers. Ride comfort is acceptable but the ultra low profile 17″ tyres fitted add a little extra bump thump into the cabin and tyre roar is noticeable on concrete or rough topped motorways. Mechanical refinement is generally very good though with no excessive thrash from the engine even when ringing down for extra power and the torque of the 2.2 diesel is excellent – it pulls like a train from any rev in pretty much any gear.
There wasn’t much opportunity to go “soft roading” but I can report that on wet grass and loose gravel the CRV seemed to offer more than adequate grip. Don’t expect to find items like hill decent or differential locks as you would in a Land Rover or the same off road prowess, but for water, mud and snow the CRV is bound to offer a distinct advantage to your typical front wheel drive SUV now the weather is turning. Overall, the British made CRV is a pretty fine vehicle, but far from perfect.
The styling is helped by the optional “robust” pack, otherwise the Honda CR-V would ever so slightly plain but there is no real stick to beat the Honda with in terms of faults. Is it worthy over other SUV’s? well… that’s a tough one as the brand can be sometimes viewed with a pedestrian image. What I would say is this – it’s a good, practical and enjoyable car that is well equipped and promises to run forever and when its time is up, should have better than average residuals. Being UK built and capable is a good enough reason for me to say its worth of a damn good look – I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.
OUR RATING? 8/10
THE HUMBLE OPINION:
I have a soft spot for the CR-V and found the recently introduced 1.6 diesel superb. This 2.2 diesel example provides lashings of power and heaps of torque from an engine that never seems fussed or out of breath. Allied to a slick gear change, decent handling and a solid chassis, you soon bond with the Honda and appreciate the well thought out package.
Is it enough to win the head as well as the heart? Over five million total CR-V sales say yes but there is some tough competition out there. I see the CR-V as a Tiguan rival more than the volume makes and the dealers are known for excellent customer care so you wont be let down… and if you are… it will be dealt with.
It’s not without fault, namely Honda’s usual habit of using dark hard plastic inside, the info-tainment system is frustratingly complicated at first. Also, the steering is a little lifeless too but the plus points far outweigh the negatives especially once space and practicality is taken into the equation – the boot space is enormous: almost 1150 litres with the seats folded down.
The brand image may be a little twee for some but the model on test looked chunky, stylish and people liked it – including me. So if you need a well made, spacious, wonderfully engineered 5 door SUV that just so happens to be UK produced – it might be for you. Not the cheapest and not the very best but I say try one for size and keep ’em peeled for the revised models that have just been revealed at the Paris Motor Show.
POINTS OF COMMENDATION: Strong performance – Refined engine – Good gearchange – Clever use of space – Very practical – Feels well built – Good brakes – Well equipped – Very comfortable seats both front and rear – Nicely engineered feel with a deep rooted build quality.
Reservations: Dark and sombre interior – Some plastics feel hard and cold – vague steering – Very complicated stereo / sat nav system – Brand image needs a lift – Pricing and Co2 levels need a little fine tuning – Suspension and tyre noise on rough roads.
THE MAIN STATS:
Produced by: Honda Manufacturing UK Swindon
Price: £32.340 (£35.185 as tested)
Engine: 2.2 transverse 16v turbodiesel
Power / Torque: 150Ps / 350Nm
Economy: 48.7mpg combined (42mpg on test)
Performance: 0-60 9.7 seconds (claimed)
Gearbox: 6 speed manual with electronic 4wd
Suspension: Independent coils all round
Brakes: Discs all round with ABS/EBD & EBA
For more info on CR-V CLICK HERE