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REVIEW – Honda CR-V Hybrid EX

Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer


Honda CR-V 2.0 i-MMD Hybrid EX AWD CVT
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
4

Summary

The Honda CR-V Hybrid has a self-charging system, which means a modest economy boost for minimal effort. The EV mode may only cover you for a mile or so, but the combined fuel consumption is reasonable, with no need to plug in. The range-topping EX model is nicely finished and well-equipped. Unfortunately it it let down by a number of minor niggles, such as the wood-effect trim and eCVT transmission.


Image Gallery

Exterior Styling

The fifth generation Honda CR-V has been around since 2017. It was then refreshed in 2019 to keep it looking sharp. This is a proactive approach by Honda, and helps the CR-V feel current on the outside.

At the front, there is a prominent grille which combines chrome trim and honeycomb mesh. It’s a nice balance – any more shiny trim at the front and it might have looked a bit like the bond villains Jaws or Mr Bullion.

Either side of this grille are headlights which incorporate sweeping LED daytime running lights. There are also LED fog lights in either corner of the front bumper.

To the side, the EX Hybrid model gets 18-inch allow wheels, finished in a two-tone silver and gloss black. This offered a nice contrast to the Modern Steel Metallic paint of our test car. There is a bit more chrome on the side skirts and the window surrounds, but again this is nicely balanced.

At the rear there is a subtle roof spoiler, and one more flash of chrome across the tailgate. The taillights are slim, and extend a fair way into the tailgate.

The overall image of the CR-V EX is a premium one – with the flashes of chrome, privacy glass and a more ‘elegant’ design approach. Should you wish for more aggression there is the optional Aero Pack, but in our view this doesn’t really suit the CR-V; neither visually nor characteristically.

Interior Finish

The cabin of the Honda CR-V is very much a tale of two halves. Let’s get the grumbles out of the way first, and finish on a more positive note.

Wood-effect trim is very much a 1990’s Rover thing. Real wood can be classy, and luxurious in the right setting. But there is no right setting for the stuff used here which, quite frankly, isn’t fooling anybody. It gives the cabin a dated feel, and at this price point we’d expect better.

Secondly, the infotainment interface and instrument cluster are still feeling very dated. Once you’ve seen the Honda e, and what Honda is capable of when it comes to cabin technology and design, you will see why the CR-V is a bit disappointing. Especially when this is, essentially, the flagship model in the current line-up.

That being said, the cabin is actually a nice place to be. I especially like the Ivory leather (a no-cost option on the EX). It gives the cabin a light, airy feel, and compliments the grey exterior. There are no issues when it comes to build quality either; everything feels solidly assembled and the materials used are high quality.

The panoramic roof on the EX model lets a lot more light into the cabin, but also gives an upmarket feel.

With some improved tech, and that wood-effect trim in the bin, the CR-V’s cabin would be in a whole other league. But as it stands, the overall feel is a bit old fashioned.

Engine/Performance

Honda has opted for a self-charging Hybrid powertrain in the CR-V. There is a 2.0-litre petrol engine which is joined to two electric motors – one for propulsion and the other for regeneration – and a small 1.4kWh battery pack.

The combined output is 184PS and 315Nm, and this is sent to an adaptive 4WD system via an eCVT gearbox. And truth be told it works rather well for the most part. The CR-V is smooth to drive, and you wouldn’t really know what the hybrid system was doing if not for a display which tells you where power is coming from, and going to.

What’s more, you can use this in conjunction with the battery level to really see the hybrid system work. Under more eager acceleration the battery will drain quite rapidly, but you can feel the extra power of the electric motor. Then when you are braking or coasting you can see the battery being replenished. And because it is a small battery it recharges quite quickly.

Performance is not what you’d call exciting. 0-62mph takes 9.2 seconds and the top speed is 112mph. And take those figures as a given, because any attempt to verify the 0-62mph time will unearth the CR-V Hybrid’s biggest problem: the eCVT gearbox.

As a rule, I avidly dislike CVT gearboxes. They are unpleasant under anything other than modest acceleration, causing the engine to rev hard for extended periods of time. Yes, the theory is that you can keep the engine at its peak power, but it just doesn’t seem like the natural progression that going up through the gears gives.

The CR-V suffers from this very problem. Floor the throttle and it will hold maximum revs until you lift off. And it’s not even fast, so don’t bother.

Ride/Handling

Honda has always put the driver at the forefront of its handling characteristics. The driving position, for example, is always spot on. All of the controls are easy to reach, with sufficient adjustability in the seat and steering wheel to find the perfect balance.

In a similar style, the steering is always direct, with a sharp response to input. It may lack feel and, at times, weightiness; but the responsiveness is to be admired.

With the CR-V Hybrid, both of these statements are true. I should also add that the suspension is set up well for this car. It is towards the softer side, which is more appropriate in this car.

The downside to this setup is that there is more pitch and roll when you throw the CR-V at a B-road. But the lack of pace, and eCVT transmission annoyance means you will probably not do this all too often.

Grip is plentiful thanks to the all-wheel drive system, which moves the power around to ensure it is put to best use, though with a mighty 184PS there’s not enough to get you into trouble. What it does mean however is that even in wet, greasy conditions the CR-V Hybrid is composed and drama-free.

Motorway cruising is enjoyable with the softer suspension setup. You can settle down into those comfortable leather seats and watch the miles rack up. Thankfully when cruising the eCVT and engine work together well, keeping quiet with little noise finding its way into the cabin.

Economy

When it comes to economy, expectations have to be managed. This is a self-charging hybrid system, so it is never going to compare to a pure electric, or plug-in hybrid system for out-and-out economy. But then neither is a 48V mild hybrid system, but that’s not to say those cars aren’t economical. It’s all relative.

With a 2.0-litre petrol engine and 4WD, the CR-V Hybrid achieves 39.2mpg on the WLTP combined cycle. Considering it weighs 1,743kg that’s not half bad. And it will achieve this sort of figure in the real world.

All things considered, that’s not bad at all. It shows that the clever electric motors in the CR-V do their job well, because a 4WD SUV with a petrol engine would never see that sort of return otherwise.

CO2 emissions of 163g/km on the WLTP cycle make for first-year VED of £545. The list price of most CR-Vs, including the EX, will be beneath £40,000 if you avoid the £2,500 Aero Pack. Avoiding the VED surcharge is a bonus, and means subsequent VED costs of £145 will be much easier to stomach.

Where this self-charging hybrid falls down is for company car drivers. The CO2 figure of 163g/km means the Benefit-in-kind (BIK) rate of this car is a whopping 36%. That means a monthly tax charge of £235 for a basic rate tax payer, and £470 for a higher rate tax payer. Ouch.

Practicality

Right now, the UK does not have a viable infrastructure to support a mass movement to electric cars. That’s especially true here, up North, where I have only a handful of charging points within a reasonable distance to home.

The result is that any pure electric vehicle has practicality limitations, which can make them a hard sell. To some degree, it’s the same story with plug-in hybrids, because you either rely on the non-existent charging network or plug it in at home for 5 hours to get 25 miles of range.

The CR-V Hybrid has neither of these issues. Its clever self-charging setup is enough to bolster economy to a reasonable level, all the time. Yes, it can only go about a mile in EV mode, and it won’t ever allow you to severely cut your fuel bill. But there is no driver effort needed. No cables, or charging stops. Just get in and drive. There’s something to be said for that.

And the CR-V is a great family car to live with day to day. Even with the Hybrid setup, the boot space is a very respectable 497-litres. Leg and headroom throughout the cabin is generous, and with goodies such as heated rear seats on the EX model, all passengers are going to feel like VIPs.

Unfortunately it’s not the same story when it comes to towing – the CR-V Hybrid is rated for a measly 750kg braked, which means the caravan has to stay at home. But considering how the eCVT would likely behave with a caravan in tow, that’s probably for the best…

Equipment

The Honda CR-V range as a whole is well-equipped, especially when it comes to safety. All grades get Honda Sensing safety technology suite, which helps the CR-V achieve a 5-star Euro NCAP rating.

The standard offering includes collision mitigation braking system, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, lane keep assist, intelligent adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and intelligent speed limiter.

For models with CVT transmission the adaptive cruise control also has low-speed following function, whereby the car can come to complete stop if the car in front does. Simply tap the accelerator once the car in front moves, and it will carry on as before.

All models get alloy wheels, LED headlights, auto lights, climate control, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and driver lumbar support.

SE specification adds auto wipers, dual-zone climate control, Honda CONNECT with Garmin Navigation, Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto.

SR trim adds privacy glass, leather upholstery, heated front seats, keyless entry and go, bling spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and passenger lumbar support.

At the top of the CR-V line-up is the EX grade, which adds an opening panoramic roof, head-up display, heated steering wheel, heated outer rear seats, hands-free power tailgate and a power-adjust driver seat with memory function.

The way the range is set up is great; allowing you to select the model which has what you want, with a gradually-increasing standard specification. There are no huge options lists to worry about, either.

It would be good to see Honda introduce some of the more modern technologies into the car – the infotainment system could be slicker, there is no wireless charging pad for your telephone, and a digital instrument cluster would be nice.

Value For Money

The ‘normal’ CR-V range starts at £33,090 on the road, for the SR trim with 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and CVT gearbox. But for £33,120 you can get the SE trim with the same engine, but a 6-speed manual gearbox. Personally this would be a wise choice, but then I really dislike CVT transmissions…

If you get into the Hybrid powertrain, the starting price is actually cheaper, at £30,880 for the S grade with 2WD. Unfortunately all Hybrid models have the eCVT transmission…

Moving up the trims there is a Sport Line which is 2WD only, SE and SR grades which are 2WD or 4WD, and the range-topping EX that is 4WD only.

The range-topper as tested here starts at £39,840, with all other models sitting somewhere between the 2WD S and this. Given there aren’t many optional extras available – bar a few styling packs – you simply have to decide which grade suits you best.

In that sense the CR-V is decent value for money; what you see is what you get, and there are no meaty options lists to send the price soaring.

The problem with the CR-V Hybrid is that there are a lot of cars in this segment, which means that buyers have a lot to choose from. Certainly the Kia Sportage – now available as a 48V mild hybrid – is strong competition with a very impressive specification for quite a bit less.

Ultimately it depends what you are looking for in a ‘Hybrid’. The Honda CR-V sits above the mild hybrid, but below the plug in, which gives it a somewhat of a niche.

Facts and Figures

Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol with electric motors
Max power 184PS at 6,200rpm
Max torque 315Nm at 4,000rpm
Drivetrain eCVT transmission, four-wheel drive
0-62mph 9.2 seconds
Top speed 112mph
Fuel tank size 57 litres and 1.4kWh battery
Fuel consumption 39.2 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 163 g/km WLTP
Kerb weight 1,743kg
Towing capacity 750kg braked / 600kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 497 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £39,840
Price as tested £40,390
Company website www.honda.co.uk/cars/new/cr-v-hybrid/overview.html

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