‘CUT DOWN ON COST, BUT NOT QUAL­ITY

THE NEW HONDA CR-V HY­BRID IS PUT TO THE TEST:

Leek Post & Times - - MOTORING -

■■WHAT IS IT?

Diesel is the bad guy in the motoring world of late, with man­u­fac­tur­ers shun­ning oil burn­ers as gov­ern­ments world­wide crack down on emis­sions. In a re­flec­tion of this, Honda re­cently an­nounced it would be drop­ping the diesel CR-V from its range, leav­ing just a petrol ver­sion and this – the new CR-V Hy­brid. The man­u­fac­turer claims it should re­turn the same econ­omy as the re­cently ditched model, while im­prov­ing low-speed emis­sions thanks to the in­tro­duc­tion of those elec­tric mo­tors.

■■WHAT’S NEW?

The big­gest changes come un­der the bon­net – although we’ll get to these shortly – while there have been some other al­ter­ations else­where. It’s got a wheel­base that is 30mm longer than the older CR-V, and this pro­vides bet­ter in­te­rior space. Honda has also in­cluded ac­tive aero­dy­nam­ics, which al­lows a shut­ter to open or close be­hind the grille de­pend­ing on how well the en­gine is be­ing cooled. There’s even a warn­ing sound when driv­ing in all-elec­tric mode, so that hear­ing-im­paired pedes­tri­ans can know it’s com­ing. Plus, of course, Honda has in­cluded a wide va­ri­ety of its lat­est safety tech­nol­ogy.

■■UN­DER THE BON­NET

Here’s where things get in­ter­est­ing. You see, the CR-V Hy­brid uses a far-from-con­ven­tional pow­er­train setup, but the fun­da­men­tals are there. Un­der­neath the bon­net is a 2.0-litre petrol en­gine, along with two elec­tric mo­tors and a lithium-ion bat­tery in the boot. Thanks to what Honda is call­ing ‘in­tel­li­gent Mul­ti­mode Drive’, or I-MMD for short, it can seam­lessly switch be­tween power op­tions while on the move. At low speeds, for in­stance, the bat­tery pow­ers just the elec­tric mo­tors that drive the wheels – the en­gine is kept out of the equa­tion. You’ve got around 1.2 miles of all-elec­tric propul­sion, although when switch­ing to Hy­brid mode the en­gine sup­plies power to the elec­tric mo­tors, which then drive the wheels – and it can charge the bat­tery back up too.

Fi­nally, there’s En­gine Drive, which comes into play at higher speeds. This al­lows the en­gine to di­rectly drive the wheels, by­pass­ing both the bat­tery and the elec­tric mo­tors. There’s no gear­box, just a lock-up clutch that trans­fers power de­pend­ing on need.

■■WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

On start-up, it’s busi­ness as usual. There’s no noise what­so­ever, and the CR-V silently whisks away in the man­ner we’ve come to ex­pect from hy­brids. Gain a lit­tle pace, and the en­gine chimes in seam­lessly, grum­bling away ever so slightly. The over­all re­fine­ment is very good, and it’s helped no end by the added sound in­su­la­tion ma­te­rial through­out the car, as well as Honda’s in­no­va­tive ac­tive noise­can­cel­la­tion sys­tem.

Un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, the en­gine does pro­duce a hefty din, but once you’re up to speed it set­tles down well. It’s quiet and com­fort­able, and the ride re­mains com­posed. Honda claims a 0-60mph time of nine sec­onds and it felt hon­est to this, as it did to the car’s claimed 51.4mpg.

■■HOW DOES IT LOOK?

In a time when man­u­fac­tur­ers must cre­ate cars to stand out in what is a heav­ily sat­u­rated mar­ket, Honda has done well to make the CR-V look dif­fer­ent. It’s a chunky-look­ing thing and that’s good, with dy­namic lines run­ning the length of the car help­ing to hide its over­all bulk. The front head­lamp de­sign is par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able, as is the large chrome grille. It’s also pleas­antly ‘nor­mal’. Save for a few model badges on the flanks, you’d be hard-pressed to tell that this had a cut­ting-edge pow­er­train un­der­neath it, and that’ll likely ap­peal to those who don’t want to shout about the fact they’re driv­ing a hy­brid.

■■WHAT’S IT LIKE IN­SIDE?

The cabin of the CR-V Hy­brid is tried-and-tested Honda: Solid and well built, if a lit­tle unin­spir­ing. There are harsher plas­tics to be found, although the rub­berised dash and large, chunky but­tons help to give it an over­all feel­ing of ro­bust­ness. The door pock­ets are size­able enough for a few bot­tles of wa­ter, and there are cub­bies dot­ted through­out the cabin to help keep it clut­ter-free.

Rear-seat head and legroom lev­els are ex­cel­lent, and there are twin USB sock­ets back there for charg­ing de­vices too. Although the boot is some­what smaller in the hy­brid than the reg­u­lar petrol (497 litres down from 589 litres, be­cause of the bat­tery tak­ing up space), the over­all area is wide, square and easy to ac­cess, thanks to a low floor and min­i­mal load lip.

■■WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE?

Equip­ment spec­i­fi­ca­tions for the CR-V Hy­brid mir­ror those avail­able on the petrol ver­sion, so buy­ers can choose from S, SE, SR and EX ver­sions, as well as the op­tion of ei­ther two or all-wheel drive. Although all cars get cruise con­trol, traf­fic sign recog­ni­tion and Honda’s full suite of safety as­sis­tance sys­tems, the firm ex­pects the range-top­ping

EX to be the best seller – it ben­e­fits from a heated steer­ing wheel, head-up dis­play and panoramic sun­roof over the other still com­pre­hen­sively kit­ted-out grades. The lat­est gen­er­a­tion of Honda’s in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem still lingers some­what be­hind ri­vals’, both in terms of ease of use and look, although the stan­dard fit of Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto goes some way to al­le­vi­ate this is­sue.

■■VER­DICT

Honda be­lieves this hy­brid CR-V to be a fair re­place­ment for its popular diesel ver­sion – and we’d have to agree. Dur­ing our test route, it de­liv­ered sim­i­lar econ­omy fig­ures to the oil-burner, and when you fac­tor in the lower cost of petrol at the pump, it means that po­ten­tial buy­ers could see them­selves sav­ing a lit­tle more when fill­ing up.

It’s also only go­ing to cost around £800 more than the stan­dard petrol ver­sion, which makes it ex­cel­lent value when you con­sider the amount of tech­nol­ogy re­sid­ing un­der the bon­net. All in all, the CR-V Hy­brid would be an ex­cel­lent propo­si­tion for those look­ing to drive down fuel costs with­out mak­ing too many sac­ri­fices in terms of over­all driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

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