Honda CR-V first drive

Honda CR-V The fourth generation Honda CR-V soft off-roader built in Britain is now in dealerships with deliveries to first customers due before the end of the year.

Available for the first time in the CR-Vs 17 year history are two wheel drive versions.  These front wheel drive models are powered by the revised 2.0-litre 153bhp petrol engine and lower the entry level to the range by £3,030. The mainstay 4WD models are available with the revised petrol and the 2.2-litre 148bhp turbodiesel engines. Both these uprated units are based on the previous engines.

Both units offer significantly less CO2 emissions and four wheel drive petrol and diesel models have the choice of manual or automatic transmissions.   Depending on the engine chosen, the range is offered with the choice of four trim and equipment levels; S, SE, SR and EX.  Prices range from £21,395 for 2WD petrol models to £32,650 for the top of the range 2.2 i-DTEC EX 4WD automatic variant.

The main selling diesel engine with a manual gearbox now emits just 149g/km of CO2 with Combined Cycle fuel consumption of up to 50.4mpg. This represents a 12 per cent reduction compared with the previous generation of CR-V, despite maintaining the same power output of 148bhp.  The 153bhp petrol unit with two wheel drive emits 168g/km of CO2 and fuel economy officially 39.2mpg. With 4WD this increases to 173g/km and 38.2mpg with a manual gearbox.

A third engine option will join the range in September 2013 when a brand new British built 1.6-litre lightweight turbodiesel unit will be introduced with two wheel drive.   This unit will also be used in the new Civic. Power output, fuel economy, CO2 emissions and prices are yet to be announced.

Over five million CR-Vs have been sold in 160 countries worldwide since it was originally launched with 160,000 of them sold in Britain. The CR-V has been built at Swindon since the year 2000 and production from this plant is exported to 60 European and other countries. Around 48,000 CR-Vs will be built in the UK this year and the UK is the largest market in Europe for CR-V sales. 

Honda CR-V Honda say UK sales of the CR-V this year are expected to be around 12,000 units, approximately 800 more than in 2011.  In 2013 Honda expects to sell over 17,000 CR-Vs in the UK which equates to 14 per cent of the SUV/Crossover market sector.  In its UK sales heyday year of 2007 the CR-V achieved 21,600 UK sales, 24 per cent of the market sector. Since then the sector has seen seven new competitor brands arrive.  This has resulted in the fall of CR-V sales due to the added competition, the financial recession and the shortage of parts from Japan because of the Tsunami.  The global recall just over a week ago by Honda of CR-Vs due to faulty window switches has had no effect on advance UK sales for the new model.

Honda UK said at the media launch this week that traditionally the British market has seen 64 per cent of customers choosing a 2.2-litre turbodiesel model and 36 per cent choosing petrol power. Sales of 2WD versions are expected to take 10 per cent of total CR-V UK sales. Currently 70 per cent of CR-V customers in the UK are retail buyers but the introduction later next year of the 1.6-litre diesel unit will give a bigger sales opportunity in the fleet and business sectors.  Interestingly just 21 per cent of diesel customers choose an automatic transmission for their CR-V while 55 per cent of customers opting for the petrol powered CR-V go for the automatic gearbox.
As for specification choices; with the diesel model 58 per cent of UK customers choose the top EX level with SR taking 15 per cent, SE 20 per cent and S just 7 per cent.  The petrol version shows a similar sales split. The expected best selling version of the new Honda CR-V will be the 2.2-litre i-DTEC turbodiesel EX manual priced at £30,995 on the road.

Swindon plant expansion
Production of new European CR-V began in September as part of new £267 million investment programme into the Swindon plant in the UK for new models and engines.

Honda CR-V The new investment takes Honda’s total spend at Honda of the UK Manufacturing  to over £1.5 billion supporting the production of the new Civic, the new CR-V  and the new 1.6-litre diesel engine from December 2012 to be used first in the new Civic. For now the Jazz continues to be built at Swindon but in due course this will be transferred to another Honda plant outside the UK. Taking the place of Jazz production at Swindon will be the Civic Estate due at the end of 2013 and the Civic Type R in 2015.

500 new Associates have already been recruited at Swindon and trained to manufacture the new products, taking the total workforce to 3,500. By the end of the year, production at the Swindon plant is forecast to have doubled on last year’s figure – up to 183,000 units. Honda aims to increase that figure to 250,000 units per year within 3 years.

New Honda CR-V first drive impressions
The new five seat Honda CR-V built in the UK at Swindon and priced from £21,395 to £32,650 still offers Tardis-like space with all the seats in use the load area offers 589-litre of space and with the three easy to fold rear seats folded away the load area is a massive 1,669-litres.  Keyless entry and a power operated tailgate on the top EX trim make it an even easier vehicle to live with. Trim levels are S, SE, SR and EX.

Over the many years of UK sales the CR-V has built up an enviable reputation for being a family-friendly vehicle, reliable, car like easy to drive, comfortable, spacious and well built. It has coped well with our UK motoring needs whether it has been the urban jungle or the  countryside  so we have found a broad spread of users from school-run mums to business execs travelling in some comfort up and down our motorways.  It copes well with our poor road surfaces supported by the on demand 4WD system which comes into use automatically as and when poor road conditions or off road traction required although it has never been a serious mud-plugger.  Those low mileage users who never go near the mud of the countryside probably will go for the new front wheel drive only petrol models but most users, 64 per cent, will go for the diesel version with 4WD. Most of the driving time these 4WD models do only actually use front wheel drive but the rear wheels will be automatically engaged as conditions demand. 

Honda CR-V  Currently the new CR-V is available with revised 2.0-litre 153bhp petrol and 2.2-litre 148bhp turbodiesel engines with two wheel drive models joining the line-up for the first time. These versions use the petrol unit but it is also available with the on-demand 4x4 system as fitted as standard to all diesel versions.  A 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine will join the line up next September but with two wheel drive only.

The new CR-V is instantly recognisable from past generations. There is a prominent three-bar grille and deep-set headlights continuing the introduction of Honda’s new “Y” shaped ‘face’. At the rear vertically stacked taillights which have been a CR-V signature since the first generation introduced in1995 continue. Additions to the European model include a revised front bumper, front LED daytime running lights and rear LED lights with a three-dimensional design.  The body structure is stiffer and a full-length underbody tray is fitted to reduce road noise and ease the airflow under the car for improved aerodynamic efficiency

The height of the car has been reduced by 30mm compared with the outgoing model, without reducing the interior space for the occupants. The introduction of easy fold-down rear seats has also made it possible to transform the CR-V from a five-seater to a versatile load-lugger at the pull of a handle, but still no seven seat model is available.

The fascia features a number of horizontal layers that emphasise the feeling of space. The major controls are grouped according to their function with a ‘driver interface zone’ behind the steering wheel and an ‘information interface zone’ in the centre of the cabin.

Under the bonnet of the CR-V, customers will find either a 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol engine or a 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel. Both are developments of the engines found in the third generation CR-V but both have been comprehensively redesigned with a focus on reducing CO2 emissions. For example, the main selling diesel model with a manual gearbox now emits just 149 g/km of CO2. This represents a 12 per cent reduction compared with the previous generation of CR-V, despite maintaining the same power output of 148bhp.

Honda CR-V The new CR-V has been tested extensively in Europe and the McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension has been tuned for improved ride comfort and high speed stability. Motion Adaptive electric power steering has also been introduced for better manoeuvrability with increased feedback and response at higher speeds. Petrol-engined models can be supplied with front wheel drive but most CR-Vs sold, petrol or diesel will continue to use Honda’s Real Time AWD system which is now electronically activated rather than a hydraulic system for improved efficiency.

Fitted as standard or as an option the latest CR-V has a comprehensive range of safety equipment designed to help the driver avoid or mitigate an accident, or to protect the occupants should a crash become unavoidable. Honda’s Collision Mitigation Braking System and Adaptive Cruise Control continue to be a part of the safety equipment. Now for the first time on the CR-V they are complemented by Honda’s lane keeping assist system. The vehicle also comes with front, side and curtain airbags.

The new CR-V is available with four generously equipped trim levels S, SE, SR and EX.
The entry-level S features 5-inch Intelligent Multi Info Display, driver power lumbar support, idle stop/start, dual zone climate control, cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, fabric interior, hill start assist, steering wheel stereo controls, USB/iPod auxiliary input, one touch folding rear seats, plus a CD tuner and 4 speaker stereo, vehicle stability assist, anti-lock braking system,  electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, trailer stability assist and central locking.

The next trim level is SE which includes all the equipment found in S but adds a leather steering wheel and gearlever, rain sensing wipers, dusk sensing auto lights, auto dim rear view mirror, front and rear parking sensors, rear view parking camera, one-touch power windows, electrically folding door mirrors, 6-speaker stereo with tweeters, Bluetooth hands free telephone connectivity, front fog lights and a CAT1 alarm.

The next step up is the SR featuring  half leather and Alcatraz interior, heated front seats, ambient lighting for driver/passenger footwall and doors, upgraded audio with DAB radio, colour-coded roof rails, privacy glass, Bi-HID lights with auto levelling, cornering lights, headlight washers, 18-inch alloy wheels, passenger power lumbar support and manual passenger seat height adjustment.

The EX tops off the range with standard goodies such as smart entry, leather interior, power tailgate, and electric driver seat with memory function, panoramic glass roof and integrated satellite navigation.

I had the chance to test drive the expected best selling new Honda CR-V 2.2-litre EX 4WD manual version in Scotland prior to customer deliveries starting in November although demonstrator vehicles are now in dealerships. My test version, priced at £30,995, is going to be the best selling variant despite its high price. In reality this puts it into the premium brand league in the SUV sector where its competition will be the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Land Rover Freelander, Volvo C60 and possibly the new Hyundai Santa Fe. 

Other cheaper versions will see the new CR-V compete against the market’s best selling Nissan Qashqai, the Ford Kuga, Mitsubishi ASX, Toyota RAV4 and Suzuki Grand Vitara.  Softer crossovers such as the Hyundai iX35, VW Tiguan and others are also competitors given the move by customers for down-sizing and reducing motoring costs.

The new CR-V for me impressed with its useable size making it very roomy and with lots of load space, the lower height rear sill makes for easy loading of heavy items, access to the seats is first class, there is no transmission tunnel intrusion into the rear seat area so foot space is plentiful, there is first class solid build quality and generally the vehicle is good overall. It is not outstanding in any particular way but again it doesn’t have any vices.  The performance is no more than average, the handling is safe, secure and sure-footed, the ride quality can be a bit harsh with the 18-inch wheels, standard on my test model, but better with the 17-inch wheels on the lower spec versions, and the price is on the hefty side. 

The official Combined Cycle fuel economy for my 2.2-litre diesel test version was 48.7mpg and on my test drive using the hilly Scottish roads around Loch Lomond returned a creditable 46.8mpg.  The 154g/km of CO2 emissions results in a VED road tax cost of £170 which is reasonable and company car drivers will pay 24 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax.  Lower mileage uses will find the 2.0-litre EX manual petrol model priced at £28,900 more financially attractive to buy and the test drive fuel consumption was good at 34.8mpg.  The Road tax for the 177g/km CO2 emissions is a bit hefty at £325 for the First Year rate but that comes down to £215 for the second year onwards.  

Current owners of CR-Vs will have no issues with the new model and their high loyalty rate will continue but with so much competition in the market sector the new version will find it harder to find conquest customers.

MILESTONES: Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC EX 4WD manual. Price: £30,995. Engine/transmission: 2.2-litre, four cylinder, turbodiesel 148bhp, 258lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm, 6-speed manual with electronic on demand variable power split all wheel drive. Performance: 118mph, 0-62mph 9.7 seconds, 48.7mpg, (46.8mpg on test), CO2 154g/km, VED road tax £170, BIK company car tax 24%. Insurance group: tba. Dimensions/capacity: L 4,570mm, W 1,820mm, H 1,650mm, 5-seats, boot/load space: 589 to 1,669-litres. For: Practical, competent, spacious for passengers and huge load space with low height rear sill for easier loading of heavy items, well made, good fuel economy. Against: Top level versions are expensive, conservative styling, just average performance and handling, it’s good but not exceptional.    Miles Better News Agency

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