Our Fleet Test Drive: Honda CR-V - Final Report
30 July 2007
Author: Guy Bird
New top spec Honda proves it's more Freelander than RAV4
Honda is one of those brands - like VW - that often gets caught in the gap between 'prestige' and 'volume'. But it's avoided this no-man's land with the new CR-V.
After seven months in the company a top spec EX-plus trim model, I think the CR-V has left the Toyota RAV4 behind for the higher ground of new Land Rover Freelander and BMW X3 - but without the negative baggage those models' brands sometimes attract. No one thinks ill of you in a Honda.
The prestige transformation starts with the CR-V's curvier looks compared to its boxy predecessor, while cool, tinted rear windows, panoramic sunroof and smart alloys add to the upmarket feel. It has one of the best interiors in the business, too, with a spacious cabin decked-out with soft leather but supportive electrically adjustable seats in the front, and rear seats that will take 6ft adults comfortably.
Other high quality touches are the easy-to-use instrument panel with a beefy single CD stereo that reveals itself - at the touch of a button - from behind the intuitive, large screen colour DVD satnav, and the way that same unit doubles as a colour reverse camera screen , turning small parking spaces into highly manageable ones.
We also like the neat handbrake and spacious, well-integrated cubbyholes , plus the 555-955-litre split-able boot space that accommodated a family holiday's worth of luggage [3 & 4].
The fantastic 2.2 i-CDTi modern diesel engine is smooth and responsive at all speeds and makes driving easy. The ride is not as firm or the steering as sharp as an X3, but it's no roly-poly 4x4 on-road either. Off-road we only got as far as a muddy field on a very rainy day, but its ground clearance was a boon and it never felt less than assured. A decent real-world 34.5mpg average over the seven months on test made it easy on the pocket, too, while low-for-class 173g/km CO2 emissions do the same for tax. The trip computer's digital real-time 'mpg-ometer' and regularly updated average mpg display option made me temper my right foot further still.
But it wasn't all good. The hidden plastic insert from one of the rear-door grab holes went missing one day (I blame the kids); the satnav packed up twice and sent me to a couple of dead-ends; and the voice recognition on the hands-free phone system was weak - entering the number you want to dial in threes followed by a button press after each sequence takes ages and it rarely understood the number in the end anyway. The boot didn't always shut first time, either, and the front lip of the car still looks a little odd to these eyes. Also there were a few times when I hankered after a six-disc changer and/or an iPod dock rather than just a single CD player.
But the biggest issue was the advanced safety pack kit, that made the car £2000 more expensive than the standard EX, is probably not worth it and is set up too conservatively. The adaptive cruise control (ACC) leaves too much space compared to other systems so that even on its shortest setting we were occasionally beeped by drivers behind who thought we were hogging the outside lane. Similarly, the collision mitigation braking system (CMBS) quite often flashed warnings on the display panel when turning out of roads with lots of parked cars on either side, and once even starting braking on our behalf because of a slow-moving but very obvious big red bus crossing our road - we had it covered thanks. The 'bendy lights' (AFS), meanwhile, are good for dark country roads but still a little pricey.
Would we recommend the CR-V as a business car? Yes, without hesitation, but for the sake of RVs and monthly lease rates, we'd recommend dropping the advanced safety pack and going for the still very high spec EX model - you'll have much lower bills (£473 per month vs. £523 lease rates and a cost per mile of 36ppm vs. 39p) and, of course, the same newly prestige driving experience. Watch out Land Rover and BMW.