Honda CR-V estate performance
Once upon a time the CR-V was available with the usual array of petrol and diesel engines, but times have changed. Diesel has disappeared, leaving a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine or a 181bhp hybrid system that combines a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor.
The 1.5-litre has 171bhp when hooked up to the six-speed manual gearbox or 190bhp if specified with the CVT automatic. The latter variant has a bit more torque, too, which will come in handy if you plan on transporting seven people.
In manual form with front-wheel drive, the 1.5 will take the big CR-V from 0-62mph in 9.3sec, increasing to 9.8sec if you order four-wheel drive. It feels peppy enough, and will pull you along reasonably well, even in fourth and fifth gears, if you keep the revs above 2000rpm. It continues to build speed progressively between 3000rpm and its limiter, and roughly matches the pace of a Skoda Kodiaq fitted with a similar-sized petrol, but there are plenty of quicker rivals on the market. It's worth bearing in mind that diesel rivals, which tend to have more torque, will pull a fully loaded car up hills with less effort.
If you go for the CVT automatic not only do you get four-wheel drive, but also more torque and more power. Not quite enough to match the rival diesels, but it does make the CR-V more drivable and relaxing to drive, even though it's slightly slower on paper.
The hybrid has even more torque than the petrol, and copes better when heavily laden. It's the quickest model in the CR-V range, getting from 0-62mph in 8.8sec, and would be our choice for the CR-V, but bear in mind that the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid offers a bit more poke. Just don’t expect it to tow very much, because, unlike a manual CR-V that can pull a braked trailer of up to 2000kg, the hybrid can only manage 750kg. To put that into context, the four-wheel-drive RAV4 Hybrid can tow up to 1650kg, which is the weight of a large caravan.
Honda CR-V estate ride
If you're looking to cruise in comfort, the CR-V will be a sound bet. It's set up on the soft side and is effortlessly compliant over most surfaces: it passes over even the most vicious crags without sending a crash through the bodywork, takes speed bumps in its stride and feels much calmer than stiffer rivals, such as the Mazda CX-5, on a long motorway journey.
It doesn't quite match the pillowy comfort offered by a Citroën C5 Aircross, but the upside is the CR-V feels better tied down over undulations, so it's less likely to trouble passengers prone to bouts of nausea.
Honda CR-V estate handling
This class has ‘large’ in the title – an adjective not normally associated with nimble things. Yet while SUVs don’t generally handle as well as low-riding cars, there are some tidy-handling offerings around, most notably the Mazda CX-5, but also the 5008 and Tiguan.
The CR-V isn’t in that company. It's not as wallowy as a Citroën C5 Aircorss, but where a CX-5 feels comparatively eager to tuck in to turns, the CR-V's conspicuous body lean highlights how much less keen it is change direction. The hybrid version is even less up for quick changes of tack, because the additional weight of its batteries exacerbates such body movements.
It’s grippy enough that you don't feel in constant danger of leaving the road, though, and the steering, while initially slower just off the straight-ahead than the sportier CX-5's, has a decent weight to it. Its rate of response improves the more lock you apply, getting quicker as well as heftier so you're always able to accurately position the CR-V on the road.
Honda CR-V estate refinement
Rev the 1.5-litre petrol engine hard and it sounds like a dog that’s had its tail trodden on: it barks like a sports car and not a hefty a wafty SUV, and at points in the rev range it’s also whiny and coarse. That said, it’s perfectly acceptable if you keep the engine revs low.
The extra power and torque you get in the automatic model help to prevent a common attribute of CVT gearboxes: that annoying tendency for the engine revs to soar unnecessarily. In the CR-V, the engine rarely draws attention to itself quite so brusquely. Quieter still is the hybrid version, which can run for periods of time in electric mode, switching the engine off altogether. However, since the electric-only range is less than three miles, respite from engine drone is brief.
Of course, you can control the revs more easily with the manual gearbox, but then you’d have to put up with its notchy, recalcitrant change. The clutch pedal has a lovely natural movement, though, and the brakes on all models are strong and progressive - even the Hybrid.
Sadly, road noise is prominent, even at moderate speeds, and wind noise increases when you hit the motorway.