SUV has been given evolutionary redesign, and we drive it in US, where it’s a big hit
Honda CR-V has never been as big in the UK market as it is in the US, where it’s the best-selling SUV; Americans buy nearly twice as many CR-Vs each month as Brits do in a year. So while UK buyers will have to wait at least 12 months to get behind the wheel of the new fifth-generation CR-V, it’s already on sale in the US.
Given its success in the States, it’s no surprise the formula hasn’t changed. The underlying platform is new (and shared with the Civic), with increases of 40mm and 30mm in wheelbase and length respectively. But the styling is very similar to the previous-generation CR-V’s; the visual updates are most pronounced at the back, with tail-lights that extend into the tailgate and the sides of the body, and in profile, with reshaped lower-body creases.
As before, passenger space is very good, while headroom has increased by 50mm. Load area can be boosted by folding split rear seats.
More substantial changes come inside. The dash is made of soft-touch materials, and the old analogue gauge pod has been replaced by a digital display with a ribbon-style rev counter and a digital speedo. Climate controls and the touchscreen stereo stand apart from the dash on a handsome glossy panel, and Honda has finally fitted a proper volume knob.
It has also switched to Garmin navigation – a big improvement, although the system is still slower and less intuitive than you’ll find in the likes of the S koda Kodiaq.
There’s plenty of storage space, too, and aside from the awkward- looking wood-effect plastic in our top-spec test car the overall design is cohesive and attractive.
The CR-V now has an extra 50mm of headroom. European boot measurements have not been released, but there is a small increase over the current car’s 589-litre load bay. Our model had a power tailgate and a removable boot floor that can be set in two positions: low to maximise space or high to provide a flat floor when the rear seats are folded. As before, door-pull handles let you drop the 60:40 split seats with one hand.
Our C R-V was powered by a new 190 bhp 1.5-litre turbo petrol. That engine has also been confirmed for European-bound Civics, so it’s likely we’ll see it in UK-spec CR-Vs as well; a 1.6-litre diesel is expected to join it.
The CVT transmission (the only choice for US buyers) solves the sluggish-shifting problem of the current CR-V’s nine-speed auto, although the way this keeps the engine at near-constant revs under gentle acceleration can be disconcerting. UK buyers are likely to get the option of a six-speed manual gearbox, however.
Turbo lag from the new engine is all but undetectable, and overtaking ability is decent, even though this unit doesn’t have as much in-gear shove as a punchy diesel engine. We covered just over 1,000 miles through California and Arizona, and while official fuel economy figures have yet to be announced, our all-wheel-drive test car averaged 34.6mpg. It’s safe to say a that diesel model will be the one to go for if running costs are a concern.
Out on the open road, the CR-V impressed us with its high-speed stability and refinement: it feels as calm at the motorway limit as it does at 40 mph. The adaptive cruise control system does an excellent job of matching the speed of cars ahead with no surging or hard braking.
ON THE ROAD
CR-V handles rough surfaces well, but steering lacks feedback
The newcomer rides comfortably over rough surfaces, although it wallows on bigger bumps. One of the biggest gripes with the current C R-V centres a round the handling, and steering that is accurate but lacking in feedback indicates that Honda has done little to improve it on this early drive in a US-spec model, at least.
Specs yet to be announced, but our US-spec car offered lots of USB connections for passengers. New digital instrument cluster should come as standard
However, major changes to UK versions are likely to focus on suspension revisions, so there is hope for a more complete package when the C R-V arrives over here.
Overall, the new C R-V isn’t such a huge step forward over the current model. It’s a big improvement inside, silly fake wood not with standing, and the passenger space and practicality are hard to beat.
But the interior lacks the posh feel of the Kodiaq and Kia Sportage, while the driving dynamics of this US car are miles behind those of the Mazda CX-5.
Price: From £24,000 (est)
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl turbo
Transmission: CVT automatic, four-wheel drive
Top speed: n/a
On sale: Late 2017
Honda’s new CR-V follows the path set by its predecessor, with minor changes to the styling and space and significant updates to the cabin and powertrains. We like the new 1.5-litre turbo, but the driving experience still leaves a bit to be desired. We’ll have to wait to get our hands on a UK car and pricing and specs to see how competitive it will be here.