What Car? says...
The Power of Dreams. As slogans go, surely Honda's counts as one of the best. We love to dream, after all, and when it comes to the Japanese manufacturer, that could mean a superbike, a private jet, a speedboat engine – or this Honda CR-V.
We’re not suggesting the CR-V will have you dribbling with desire as profusely as the Honda Civic Type R hot hatch, but as a big family SUV with a hybrid engine, it's pretty hot property right now.
The previous-generation CR-V saw Honda ditch diesel and pure petrol power for a hybrid setup. This new version has taken things one step further by adding a new plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version on top of the regular hybrid, giving you two big cars to choose from that are each surprisingly efficient and affordable to run.
In fact, the PHEV – badged e:PHEV – is the first plug-in hybrid Honda has made for the European market, and while it looks like it has hit the ground running, there are lots of rival PHEV family SUVs – including versions of the Kia Sorento, the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Lexus NX.
Read on to find out how the Honda CR-V compares with the best family SUVs...
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Both versions of the Honda CR-V come with a 181bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor, but while the e:HEV has four-wheel drive, the e:PHEV is front-wheel drive and gets a much bigger (17.7kWh) battery.
We managed a 0-60mph time of 8.4 seconds in the hybrid e:HEV, which is very respectable. Indeed, there are faster and more powerful hybrid SUVs out there, but the CR-V mostly drives on its electric motor, which quickly picks up speed from stationary and doesn’t feel that slow.
Indeed, no matter which you go for, you won’t struggle to get up to motorway speeds or nip around slow-moving traffic.
That said, if you’re in the market for a PHEV with truly punchy performance, the 305bhp Lexus NX 450h is much quicker – we clocked one at our private test track accelerating from 0-60mph in just 5.8 seconds.
When its battery is charged up, the e:PHEV operates just like an electric car. That means smooth, quiet and fairly nippy acceleration up to motorway speeds and beyond. On our real-world test route, it covered 37.6 miles before the engine chimed in – short of its 51-mile official range but further than the 36.8 miles we saw from an NX on the same day.
A clever new two-speed gearbox has been fitted to the CR-V (to help out at low speeds) and the plus point is that it has allowed Honda to add a towing mode to the e:PHEV version. With that engaged, the e:PHEV can use all of the power from its petrol engine and electric motor, towing up to 1,500kg – the same as the Kia Sorento and the Lexus NX.
The e:HEV has no towing mode and can pull 750kg, much less than the 1,500kg of the NX 350h and the 1,650kg of the Kia Sportage.
Suspension and ride comfort
If you’re looking for comfort, the e:PHEV replaces the reactive dampers in the e:HEV with adaptive ones, resulting in a more supple ride of the two.
Even so, the set-up in either version manages to find a good balance between comfort and control. True, it doesn't quite match the pillowy comfort offered by a Citroën C5 Aircross but, as an upside, the CR-V feels better tied down over undulations and less likely to trouble passengers prone to travel sickness.
Luckily, the CR-V is competent on a twisty road. It feels more agile than a CX-60 or XC60, with body lean kept under tight control in corners. Its steering is heavy in town (if not overly so), but at higher speeds it feels reassuring and responsive. The tyres could grip harder, though, and we’d stop short of calling it fun.
Even if you set the CR-V e:PHEV’s adaptive dampers to Sport mode, it still doesn’t quite match up to an X3 or CX-5, which are more engaging overall.
Noise and vibration
The CR-V’s engine is more vocal than its rivals' when pressing on, working hard to generate electricity quickly and charge the battery while the electric motor is driving the wheels.
Thanks to its larger battery, the e:PHEV can eliminate engine noise altogether by driving on electricity alone for long periods. When the battery runs flat and the engine chimes into life, progress remains smooth – contrasting with the NX, which sends a small vibration through the steering wheel and seat.
The CR-V does generate quite a lot of wind and road noise at motorway speeds, though – more than you will experience in most rivals, including the Kia Sorento, the Lexus NX, the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Volvo XC60. On longer journeys, that could become a little tiring.
Strengths Smooth power delivery; e:PHEV has long electric range
Weaknesses Quite a lot of road noise; there are quicker rivals out there
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
If you want something that feels like an SUV to sit in, the Honda CR-V’s high seating position will be right up your street.
It’s also a plus that it’s really easy to get comfortable, with the standard-fit eight-way electrically adjustable seats giving you plenty of movement. Better still, all but the entry-level trim also get a handy memory function, so you’ll never lose that position even if someone else has a drive.
A 10.2in digital driver’s display is standard across the range. While you can configure what a couple info screens display, you can’t change the layout as you can in a VW Tiguan.
Other than that, the screen is crisp and clear, making it easy to read at a quick glance as you drive along. All but entry-level Elegance models get a clear head-up display, showing you the same info right in front of you.
Best of all though is the fact that you get lots of physical buttons and dials to quickly access parts of the infotainment system or to adjust the air conditioning. That makes it far less distracting to use when you're driving than the touch-sensitive buttons in a Seat Tarraco or Volvo XC60.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Thanks to the CR-V’s tall side and rear windows, visibility is excellent. And despite the rear pillars being rather wide, the large side windows help with the view over your shoulder.
Parking should be pretty easy, too, thanks to every CR-V getting front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Top-spec Advance Tech trim swaps the camera for a 360-degree one and even gets Honda Parking Pilot, which will park the car for you in certain circumstances.
Bright LED headlights with automatic high beam come as standard, so you’ll always be able to see plenty at night. If you avoid the entry-level trim, you’ll get adaptive high beam, allowing you to keep your full beam on without dazzling other drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
The 9.0-inch touchscreen in the CR-V is identical to the one found in the Honda Civic. It's conveniently positioned high on the dashboard for quick visibility, and has physical shortcut buttons and an audio knob for easy on-the-go control.
The screen responds quickly enough and the layout is easy to get to grips with. However, it falls short in terms of screen resolution and presents a somewhat outdated user interface.
The 12-speaker Bose sound system offers a sharper sound quality than the 10-speaker setup in the Lexus NX but has to work harder to overcome road noise.
Build quality is pretty good, with everything feeling sturdy and solidly built. There are soft-touch plastics and leather-effect materials on the upper areas of the CR-V, something that looks like stitched leather on the door trims, plus gloss-black panels and silvery highlights.
It's predominantly dark inside though, and it doesn’t take much searching to find vast amounts of scratchy plastics in very obvious areas. When you consider the price tag, especially for the e:PHEV, that’s disappointing.
The NX, the Mazda CX-5, the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Volvo XC60 all knock it for six here. Even the Sorento is smarter and more solid overall.
Strengths High driving position; great visibility; physical air-con controls
Weaknesses Interior materials are a bit disappointing; digital driver display isn’t as configurable as in some rivals
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
We have few complaints about front space in the Honda CR-V. If you extend the front seats all the way back, you'll have plenty of leg room unless you're exceptionally tall, and there's loads of head room.
Even with the standard-fit panoramic glass roof, you won’t be at risk of smearing hair gel on its glass underside or the roof lining. By comparison, in a Peugeot 5008 with a panoramic roof, head room is greatly compromised.
The interior is suitably wide, with a decent-sized armrest between the driver and passenger that lifts to reveal a cubby with a sliding tray. There are two cupholders and a wireless phone-charging pad with a built-in fan to cool your device. On the downside, the door bins are quite narrow and the glovebox isn’t huge.
On paper, the CR-V looks massive, thanks to acres of leg room and a flat floor that doesn’t rob foot space from a middle-seat occupant. However, it’s impossible to ignore the giant hump in the roof that sits right in front of your forehead when you're in the back.
That hump is where the roller blind for the panoramic roof lives, and it makes the rear seats of the CR-V feel rather claustrophobic – even if you’re an averagely tall adult. Oh, and don’t even think about sitting in the middle, because the raised middle seat robs you of more head room.
If you have young children, the abundance of wide door openings will ensure that putting them in a car seat is a breeze. Furthermore, the low sills offer excellent accessibility for grandparents.
Keep in mind, though, that the vehicle only accommodates five seats. If you require more seating, be sure to consult our guide to the best seven-seaters.
Seat folding and flexibility
Regardless of which trim you go for, your front-seat passenger will get electric seat adjustment but without seat height adjustment or adjustable lumbar support. They will, at least, get a heated seat if you go for the entry-level trim or a heated and ventilated seat if you go for one of the Advance trims.
The rear seats split 60/40, rather than the more useful 40/20/40 arrangement you get in the Mazda CX-60, the Peugeot 5008 and the VW Tiguan Allspace. Still, they can be slid back and forth so you can prioritise rear leg room or boot space.
What’s more, rear head room can be increased thanks to the rear seats reclining in eight different settings. Yes, eight. That means head room can vary from "good" when the seat is upright to "great" if you recline the seat.
Unlike with most hybrid and PHEV versions of the same car, the CR-V e:PHEV has more boot space than the e:HEV – 635 litres against 579.
We managed to fit in eight carry-on suitcases (one more than a Lexus NX) in both versions, with space left over for a couple of soft duffle bags.
Only the PHEV comes with a height adjustable boot floor. It's a shame, though, that it doesn’t run the length of the boot in its lowest setting. Instead, it stops short of the rear seat backs giving the CR-V an uneven boot floor. Without the awkward ridge, we reckon it would swallow 10 carry-on cases.
You shouldn’t have any issues loading bulky items into a CR-V, because there’s no load lip to speak of. Unlike in the Mazda CX-60, the CR-V doesn’t have levers in the boot to remotely fold down the rear seats.
Strengths Loads of rear leg room; big boot; generous space for front-seat occupants
Weaknesses No height or lumbar adjustment for passenger; less versatile 60/40 split-folding rear seats; small glovebox and door bins
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
If you look at the list price, the Honda CR-V e:HEV looks quite expensive and will cost you more as a cash purchase than the Citroën C5 Aircross, the Kia Sportage and the VW Tiguan. At least it comes with loads more equipment than those rivals, somewhat making up for the extra cost.
The CR-V e:PHEV is expensive however you look at it. It only comes in the top trim level and is priced in line with premium rivals such as the Lexus NX and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Efficiency helps to offset the price tag, with even the e:HEV managing a real-world fuel economy figure of 38mpg on our test route – which is more than a petrol Volvo XC60 B5’s 29.6mpg figure on the same day. In stop-start traffic, where the electric motors do most of the work, expect a figure above 40mpg.
What’s more, unlike the e:HEV, you can plug the e:PHEV in to charge and that allows you to maximise the time you spend driving on electricity.
With a maximum charging rate of 6.8kW, plugging the CR-V into a 7kW home charger will get you from 0-100% charge in around 2.5 hours. That’s an hour faster than the Kia Sorento can manage, because that can only accept up to 3.3kW, but much slower than the Discovery Sport that can accept up to 32kW.
Equipment, options and extras
The CR-V range opens with Elegance trim. It comes loaded with standard equipment, including 18in alloy wheels, wireless phone-charging, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, electrically folding and heated wing mirrors, a heated steering wheel, a power tailgate and lots of other equipment.
Next in line is the Advance, which is the top trim you can have with the e:HEV. That version builds on the standard kit list and adds heated rear seats, along with the head-up display, electric memory seats, adaptive high beam and upgraded sound system that we talked about earlier.
Advance Tech sits at the top of the range and is reserved for the e:PHEV (it’s also the only trim you can have with the PHEV). It gets all the bells and whistles, including exclusive exterior styling, some bespoke details around the interior and other extras.
Honda’s default warranty is three years/90,000-miles, including breakdown assistance. That’s pretty par for the course in the class and can’t match the five-year/unlimited mileage warranty that you’ll get from Hyundai or the seven years Kia gives you.
Safety and security
The new CR-V has yet to be tested for safety by the experts at Euro NCAP but you can rest assured that every version comes with plenty of standard safety kit.
Indeed, every CR-V comes with 11 airbags and Honda’s latest Honda Sensing 360 system, which keeps an eye on all areas of the car and includes blind-spot monitoring and cross traffic monitoring (front and rear).
What’s more, automatic emergency braking (AEB) is standard, along with lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, lane-keeping assistance and a driver attention monitor.
Strengths Loads of standard equipment; efficient engines, especially in the city; lots of safety kit
Weaknesses High list price; average warranty
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|RRP price range
|£45,895 - £53,995
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|hybrid, petrol parallel phev
|MPG range across all versions
|353.1 - 42.8
|Available doors options
|3 years / 90000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£755 / £3,285
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£1,510 / £6,569