When you first come face to face with Honda’s latest CR-V, it’s safe to say that you’re not going to miss it – particularly in the metallic cherry red paintwork that graced our top-of-the-range CR-V EX demo car. And what a face it is. A collection of razor sharp angles, gleaming chrome and truly dazzling lights combine to create a stunning front aspect with a distinctly futuristic feel. If “futuristic” seems a little over-the-top, perhaps I should explain myself. This may be a fairly personal opinion but, these days, I seem to come across more and more new vehicles that feel somehow caught up in looking back at the past, taking cues from previous glories and wallowing in that highly fashionable ‘Retro” look. While some carry that styling off with a certain amount of flair, for me, it’s refreshing to see a manufacturer of Honda’s calibre looking straight ahead at the future and designing a car that’s put yesterday in the rearview mirror and set a course for tomorrow. It’s also a fairly brave step, when you consider that in it’s previous forms, the CR-V has become the World’s best-selling SUV.
Those crisp, sharp lines and angles continue along the length of the car and culminate in rear lights just as dynamic as the ones at the front, creating a highly satisfying whole. It’s fair to say that there isn’t a viewpoint on this car that I didn’t like. It really is an impressive beast and Honda’s decision to increase the vehicle’s wheelbase to put the wheels closer to all four corners really pays off. It adds up to give the CR-V a more muscular and powerful stance. It also helps with the car’s handling an overall poise in all road conditions.
In our CR-V EX, I have to say that the driving seat is a particularly fine place to spend some time. High quality leather, firm, hugging contours and a vast range of adjustment via the fully electric controls mean that you’re guaranteed the perfect driving position, (although I have to say that my partner and co-driver for the day was somewhat disappointed that her seat adjustment was resolutely manual. Maybe future generations of the CR-V will address that. It does seem a tad mean). Thankfully both seats are electrically heated. Not needed on our test-drive but always welcome in the winter.
Of course I could wax lyrical about the car’s looks all day but let’s get down to where an owner will be spending most of their time. The interior.
A steering column with full adjustment for both height and reach completes that package.
The instrument layout is conventionally styled and will feel familiar to anyone who’s had the pleasure of driving any of the current Honda range, and is none the worse for that. All the important dials and warning lights are exactly where you’d expect them to be and are presented in a cool, clear fashion. A touch I particularly like is that, while using the infotainment system’s Navigation function, any important directions that are coming up soon are displayed within the speedo area, reverting to the big central screen until needed again. A great feature that keeps the driver informed when needed, leaving the dial clear again when not.
Looking around the whole interior, it’s immediately apparent that Honda have used the very best materials in every area. A tasteful balance of chromed plastic, brushed satin finishes and particularly stylish faux wood panels, that look and feel more expensive than one would perhaps expect, add up to create a tasteful, contemporary package. It’s also worth noting that the extended wheelbase I mentioned earlier has increased legroom for rear seat passengers. Much against everything that comes naturally to a Motoring Editor, I actually experienced one journey “in the back”, and very comfortable it was too! The whole experience is doubtlessly helped by a huge glass sun/moon roof that allows light to flood into the cabin but can be hidden away behind an electric blind to create a much more subdued interior on those rare occasions when the sun’s that bit too bright.
In the all-too–brief time that I had the CR-V in my possession, I decided to put it through its paces the best way I know how. With a combination of Motorway miles, a trip along a couple of country roads with the tightest turns and most varied gradients I know and a trip through the city. The real off-road experience was beyond my reach on this occasion, though I have it on good authority that the CR-V is highly capable in those conditions too. Maybe next time, I’ll head for the nearest mountain range.
Perhaps the best word to describe the CR-V’s performance is “effortless”. In fact, it’s amazing to think that a mere 1.5 litres of engine resides under that bonnet and, while the performance is obviously enhanced by a turbocharger, it’s still highly impressive just how well that motor takes you down the road.
Joining the motorway is a breeze. A small push on the “go” pedal results in beautifully smooth acceleration as the automatic gearbox chooses the perfect ratio for your needs. 70mph is reached in the blink of an eye with driving licence endangering speeds very obviously attainable. Not that this writer would know for sure, obviously.
The car feels beautifully “planted” at higher speeds, with none of the buffeting you might expect in what is a fairly tall vehicle. In fact, one of the most striking things I found about the whole driving experience is that such a large vehicle seems to “shrink” around you when on the road. Perhaps it’s that perfect driving position or the very slim pillars all around the car but you always feel that you can put the CR-V wherever you need it to go.
That sensation became even more apparent when we reached the country roads I’d been aiming for. The car is beautifully weighted, creating the confidence to push through tight bends without slowing to a crawl. A capability that one really appreciates when confronted by another SUV coming in the opposite direction, piloted by someone with an apparently loose grasp on which side of a white line they should be adhering to. The CR-V reacts instantly to driver input, smoothly, confidently and with the minimum of drama. It’s a car I feel that I could drive for hundreds of miles and step out feeling just as good as when I stepped in.
Arriving at our destination of a particularly lovely market town, I parked the CR-V alongside a collection of the top-of-the-range SUV’s that are a familiar fixture in such places. Glancing back it was reassuring to see that “my” car looked perfectly at home with vehicles at twice the price.
Perhaps the greatest praise I can give to the CR-V EX, is that I was more than reluctant to give it back. It really is the kind of car that can do absolutely anything you can ask of it, and do it all very well.
Around town, if feels far more nimble than it’s size would suggest, while it’s array of sensors and a truly state-of-the-art reversing camera system mean it’s a real joy to park. Trust me, I was a bit wary about navigating my local multi-storey but all those aids made me look a far better parker than I really am!
There’s room inside for the kids, the shopping, plenty of luggage and even a trip to your favourite furniture warehouse without the need for a trailer. Loading up the back is a treat in itself, with the tailgate automatically opening and closing via a neat little button on the key fob. A great touch.
What’s more, it really looks the part. Drive out into the countryside and you’re Lord of manor, park it in town and you’re a city slicker.
In fact, wherever you choose to go, you’ll find that the CR-V feels perfectly at home.
All in all, another winner from the Honda stable. Which only makes you anticipate the next ride.
Writer Andy White
Images Abeiku Arthur