The Honda product range is steadily heading in an ‘electric’ direction
Car Reviewed: Honda CR-V e:HEV
In the meantime, and probably being very wise to hedge bets about the rollout of the battery electric vehicle industry, Honda has given us the widest choice and the family-friendly CR-V series. The Honda CR-V was launched in 1995 as the Japanese manufacturer wanted to capitalise on the rapidly developing SUV sector. It was built in Swindon for several years before the plant closed.
It is the largest Honda SUV sold in Britain and has been the most popular model worldwide for over six generations.
Honda’s Compact Recreational Vehicle is sold in both front and all-wheel drive in Britain, in Elegance and Advance trims. It marks the gradual shift towards pure battery power with the self-charging version we tested or plug-in hybrid models today.
It is derived from the latest Civic platform and thereby related to the HRV models, so buyers have the widest choice of bodies for families. If you’re minded to go all-electric, then the e:Ny1 could be right up your drive, but otherwise, the CR-V is a very good alternative, albeit more polluting than its green stablemate.
I like mild hybrids because you don’t have to think about using traction battery power as the system sorts it out and then boosts itself as you drive. If minded you can use a sort of rocker switch on the transmission tunnel to extra more power or stretch out the battery reserve. It’s simple, effective and trouble-free.
Honda’s familiar four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine is a model of smoothness and quietness, almost being inaudible at times when modestly cruising.
Kick down the throttle to overtake or compensate for a higher load and the engine’s instant response is boosted by the electric motor, or rather twin motors in the case of our test car.
Unfortunately, it also carries quite a bit of weight, and combined with some long-legged gearing, the acceleration suffers, as does the maximum speed indicated.
Balance booting it with being more light-footed and the economy easily exceeds 40mpg, but in a rapid trip we saw it plunge to 29mpg. Use it or abuse it at your pleasure.
And a pleasure it generally was with very comfortable, large seats and an impressive amount of legroom throughout. The rear seats did not fold completely flat to extend the luggage area quickly, but the space was generous and the bootfloor was low to ease putting things in or pulling out.
Access to the cabin was also easy, and the climate controls kept everything as desired, with plenty of ventilation and heating options.
Oddments room was good throughout as well for a family car and five should be able to enjoy it and have space behind for their luggage or sports equipment.
For the driver, everything fell immediately to hand; the steering was well balanced, the brakes strong yet smooth and the automatic transmission very efficiently acting and changing.
Secondary controls were around the wheel or close on the fascia and console and the straightforward instruments were big, clear and well marked.
Infotainment features accessed through the central display were comprehensive, with a repeater system in front of the driver for essential details, which is very welcome.
Visibility was good to the front and sides, not so unobstructed to the rear, wipers and wash were effective and lights reasonably bright for some wintry country roads.
The CR-V’s ride was slightly firm but not uncomfortable; it was just noisy over bad bits of tarmac. Occasionally, it would jar over deeper potholes or higher tarmac ridges, but overall, it was good with a hint of body roll on tight bends.
Having all-wheel-drive beneath you inspires confidence on our wintry roads and the handling was very surefooted.
Noise levels were low unless the road surface was particularly coarse or the engine was pushed into the higher half of its range.
The outward appearance of the Honda CR-V is pretty standard, with few highlights to set it apart from rivals. At the same time, the interior is definitely designed with practicality and longevity in mind, not looking eye-catching.
Honda could do a lot better with its interior design to match its engineering expertise without compromising on durability. It would certainly improve its desirability.
The biggest obstacle to overcome is the price of the CR-V. It is probably reasonably competitive with rivals but still a lot of money for private buyers and the road tax bills for five years are high.
Costs aside, the Honda CR-V HEV 4WD exudes engineering excellence and feels bulletproof.
Robin contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.
Robin was the longest serving chairman of The Western Group of Motoring Writers. He specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes WheelsWithinWales.uk which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.