In 1995 Honda revealed to the world the future in a new model named CR-V. Little did they know then what a runaway success this “soft roader” segment of the market would be. Today every mum on the school run or pensioner picking up their grandchildren has such a car, and through three generation the CR-V has led the pack. From its debut MK1 model to the MK3 Honda have sold 5 Million units world wide. Fantastic, but the problem for Honda’s engineers this time around was how to improve on an already successful formula? The market has become flooded with some tough competitors but the CR-V has always done very well within its target audience. We went to Germany to find out if one of Japans engineering superpowers can keep its SUV crown.
Not available in the UK until late October, the new Honda CR-V is a vehicle with high levels of polish, particularly in our top spec EX trim test car. Aesthetically it demands more of your attention than its predecessor thanks to a sloping roofline and stylistic windows. It isn’t imposing but it does really stand out amongst what would be considered its competitors. From the outset it presents itself as a premium looking 4X4 and inside the cabin this continues. The dashboard is clean and simple with tasteful detailing. Seating in this car deserves general all-round praise as not only do the rear units collapse at one pull of a strap, but the seats themselves proved high levels of comfort and support. The interior roofline is 8mm taller, not much you say, but it does go a long way to make this CR-V feel spacious. The much desired high driving position is complimented by a large front windscreen adding to already good levels of visibility. The boot is vast and more than capable of swallowing a months worth of shopping with room to spare. With the rear seats folded flat you can fit three full size mountain bikes in the back as well as one passenger thanks to its class leading capacity. Everything you touch in the cabin is typical Honda, by that I mean it feels solid. You know that every screw will be up to doing its current job 10, 20, even 30 years from now and this is something this company has been very good at doing for decades.
Starting up the cars 2.2 litre diesel is a prominent reminder of how far the oiler burners have come. Gone are the days of canalboat sound effects and black smoke, a refined hum is all that lets you know that the motor is running. Setting off it was immediately clear that this engine provides plenty of low end grunt. High torque levels combined with four wheel drive meant that the relatively heavy car was more than capable of surging up the autobahn. Wind and tyre noise was kept in check throughout and toys such as cruise control added to the refinement this car offers on long hauls. The manual gearbox, however, was a bit clunky at times and required a firm grip of the gear knob to avoid embarrassingly bouncing back into neutral. Some of this can be blamed on the very low millage the car had done, but it did leave us questioning if it could just be the design of the gearbox itself. Moving onto more demanding country roads the CR-V again impressed with plenty of grip and a chassis that can tolerate the tarmac when things get twisty. The suspension at first seemed a little firm at higher speeds but pottering around towns it appeared to absorb bumps and stray potholes well. Steering inputs were met with adequate responses but feedback from the road to the driver was limited. Parking such a big car is always a challenge to do well but the CR-V has a few tricks up its sleeve. Front and rear parking sensors team up with a display screen giving you a visualisation of just how close the nose the car may be to an object. The reversing camera keeps a watchful eye out for the rear end whilst the door mirrors angle themselves downward so you can see just how far from the curb you are. This car really is very good at making day to day tasks much less tedious. Honda say that the 2.2 lite i-DTEC of this car is good for 45MPG, not bad at all for its class and something that will be most welcome to buyers as the cost of fuel continues to rise.
Conclusion. The new Honda CR-V is a very competent crossover. It feels much more akin to driving a car as opposed to a 4X4 and considering the sort of people who will go and buy this that can only be a good thing. It might not provide the most enthralling experience amongst its rivals but it does cover more bases and to a higher standard than most. This CR-V can stand proud amongst its highly successful forefathers safe in the knowledge that it to is sure add to more than 142 global awards the nameplate already has.