Honda CR-V review

We test the plug-in hybrid Honda CR-V.

Pros: high-quality cabin, refined manners, smooth drivetrain
Cons: expensive to buy, staid styling, needs regular charging to be at its best

Honda CR-V Design

The Honda CR-V has been around for six generations now, having first appeared in the 1990s – and therefore possibly laying claim, along with the similarly long-serving Toyota RAV4, to having popularised the idea of a crossover long before the 2008-launched Nissan Qashqai made its way into the world. Anyway, what we’re trying to say here is that the CR-V has been around so long that its shape is very familiar. And this new model is one of those cars where you cannot criticise the exterior looks… yet it’s hard to love them, either. It’s a very safe, careful design, although there are elements of it which look worryingly like details on other SUVs; for instance, the rear-light clusters are more than a little reminiscent of those on a second-generation Volvo XC60. Nonetheless, you can’t call the CR-V ugly, as its clean, unfussy appearance is highly unlikely to put any prospective buyers off it once they’re already in Honda showrooms.

Honda CR-V Interior

The conservatively boxy exterior of the CR-V hides the fact it has got bigger, offering both a roomier passenger compartment and boot as a result. This is possible because both the HR-V and the all-new ZR-V now occupy the market space the earliest CR-Vs once did, so the biggest Honda crossover/SUV can push further up into premium realms. Therefore, there’s little chance rear-seat passengers will complain about the amount of leg- and headroom they have in the CR-V, while the boot is a whopper at 635 litres. There’s no compromise having the plug-in hybrid drivetrain here, either, due to the positioning of its battery under the floor of the vehicle.

Up front, the material fit and finish is excellent, and the layout of the cabin is ergonomically fine too. The CR-V uses Honda’s distinctive ‘push-button’ gear selection system, freeing up space for a wireless charging pad just ahead of it under the centre stack, while a nine-inch infotainment display and a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster bring a technological feel to the interior. Admittedly, neither of these screens is resetting the bar in this segment, in terms of their graphical interfaces or configurability, but they both work perfectly well.

Honda CR-V Performance & Drive

Honda offers this latest CR-V with two hybrid drivetrains, one non-plug-in badged the e:HEV and then a plug-in called the e:PHEV. Both use a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and come with maximum outputs of 184hp and 335Nm, which are the numbers the electric motor fitted to both CR-Vs can generate on its own. This results in a 0-100km/h time of 9.4 seconds on either model.

The difference is that the e:PHEV, which is what we’re testing here, can go much further on its electric power alone – up to 82km, according to Honda. That also allows the company to quote impressive fuel consumption of 0.8 litres/100km and just 18g/km of CO2 emissions, officially.

The problem, however – and it’s by no means one specific to the CR-V plug-in, as it affects all PHEVs similarly – is that the only way you’ll see the real benefits of this drivetrain is to regularly plug it in (the clue’s in the name). That way, you can make the most of its 17.7kWh battery pack and get great economy.

We used the e:PHEV for 800km on a variety of roads, including two long motorway runs, and for most of the time its battery was low, showing just two bars left with no quantifiable electric-only driving range. As a result, the e:PHEV turned in an average of 7.5 litres/100km, with a best of 7.4 litres/100km on the motorway. And we suspect the simpler e:HEV model would have provided notably better fuel economy in the same circumstances, as it’s a lighter vehicle.

That said, the way the CR-V drives is incredibly accomplished. The ride comfort and rolling refinement are up with the current best-in-class standards, while the way it blends its petrol and electric resources together – seamlessly switching from one propulsion form to another – is superb. It even has surprisingly informative and weighty steering, although we’re not about to suggest the CR-V is entertaining to drive on a back road. Nevertheless, for its primary purpose of providing luxurious, quiet transport with the minimum of fuss, the e:PHEV is well-calibrated to achieve its goal with ease.

Honda CR-V Pricing

Tipping the balance slightly back in favour of the e:PHEV model when compared to the e:HEV, the plug-in Honda CR-V’s much lower CO2 output results in a beneficial VRT outcome, so that it is cheaper to buy here than the e:HEV. Prices for the e:PHEV start at €67,995, €2,000 cheaper than the e:HEV. That said, despite a lengthy standard kit list, and even in the context of modern-era new-car prices, in stark terms nearly 70 grand for what was once an affordable Honda crossover seems like a lot of money to us.

Carzone Verdict

Like any plug-in hybrid, the key to the Honda CR-V is how often you can plug it in and reap the benefits of its larger battery pack. If you know you can’t do that often, stick with the e:HEV and you’ll be fine. But whichever version of this machine you choose, what you have here is a very capable and likeable SUV, albeit one with derivative exterior styling and a chunky price tag.

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