Honda CR-V long-term test

Can the latest breed of hybrid SUV cope with a monster commute? Our senior photographer, who previously ran a diesel Honda CR-V, is finding out...

Honda CR-V long term

The car: Honda CR-V 2.0i-MMD Hybrid 2WD SR eCVT 

Run by: Will Williams, senior photographer

Why it’s here: To find out if the new breed of hybrid SUVs handle not-very-urban driving

Needs to: Be comfortable, smooth-riding and economical on a colossal commute, with plenty of space for photography equipment

List price £34,470 Target Price £34,144 Price as tested £35,320 Dealer price now £30,081 Private price now £26,739 Trade in price £27,481 Miles 12,797 Test economy 42.1mpg Official economy 49.6mpg (WLTP) Total running cost £1672.50

11 September 2019 – Final report

My time with the Honda CR-V Hybrid has come to an end, and I've got to admit I'm already missing its calming, confidence-inspiring nature. Of course, there were a few character traits that occasionally grated (more on that later), but this is true in any relationship, and on the whole the car left me massively charmed.

So, why have I changed? Well, like many men of my age, my head was turned by a Swedish model – in this case, a Volvo V90 Cross Country. But while that's a very big estate, it turns out its boot still isn't as accommodating as the CR-V's, and I've had to adjust the way I pack my camera gear accordingly.

There's also loads of space for passengers in the back of the CR-V. And its rear seats can be swiftly folded flat from the boot, which made it easy for me to transport my full-suspension XC bike.

LT Honda CR-V Hybrid with photographer in the boot

Then there's the way the CR-V deals with bumps. It was the first choice for me and my fellow photographers whenever we needed to take moving shots out of the back of a car – always a sure sign of a smooth ride. Plus, it was generally quiet, apart from a bit of road noise, made more noticeable by the way the car otherwise cruised along near-silently in electric mode.

I put all this down to the fact that Honda didn't try to make the CR-V 'sporty'. Don't get me wrong; it handles with reasonable composure and the steering is accurate. But the engineers clearly weren't prepared to sacrifice comfort in the way that so many modern cars do, even when they're supposed to be family-orientated.

I've run a few hybrids before and one thing that has always frustrated me is the grabby, inconsistent brakes – a shortcoming generally attributed to the regenerative braking systems that hybrids need to put energy back into their batteries. However, the CR-V offers good pedal feel; why other manufacturers can't achieve this when Honda can is a mystery to me.

It's not as if the CR-V struggled to recover energy. The slightest lift from the accelerator saw the battery level increase. And you can control just how strong the effect is via paddles behind the steering wheel.

LT Honda CR-V hybrid instrument readout

Given that some of those hybrids in my car history delivered disappointing real-world fuel economy, the CR-V's low-40s average came as a pleasant surprise. And I was able to get it up to almost 50mpg when I wasn't dashing around, so something that initially seemed like a mistake on Honda's part – not offering a diesel for high-mileage drivers – now makes total sense to me.

Unusually, the 2.0-litre petrol engine powers the front wheels directly only when you ask for full power, but whenever I did, I was impressed by the punchy performance that resulted, if not the accompanying noise.

Still, enough about the mechanicals; it's what's on the inside that counts, right? And I'd say that the CR-V's interior is probably Honda's best of recent times.

LT Honda CR-V Hybrid in-car storage

The dashboard of my car was finished in a leather-effect material that felt properly plush, even if Audi's quality control team won't be having sleepless nights. And I'm struggling to think of another car that can match the CR-V for in-car storage, with it featuring tons of cubbies, a massive central bin beneath the sliding front armrest and door pockets that could take all manner of refillable bottles to keep me hydrated. 

Visibility is also great compared with many SUVs, with this backed up by blindspot monitoring to help you avoid any close shaves.

But what of those less endearing traits I mentioned earlier? Well, I love my music, and the SR trim that I went for brings an upgraded sound system with higher-quality speakers, but it was let down by DAB radio reception that made it sound like the aerial had been made from an old coat hanger.

Weirdly, if I changed radio stations and back again, it would work for a few seconds before cutting out again, making me wonder if it was a glitch with the system rather than just bad reception.

LT Honda CR-V sat-nav

The infotainment system is also a major weak point – at least until I found the sub-menu that lets you speed up the responsiveness of the otherwise laggy touchscreen. But even then, the sat-nav's habit of trying to steer me the wrong way down one-way streets meant I ended up using an app on my phone via Apple CarPlay.

Still, now that the car is gone and we've got a newborn child (my partner and I, that is), I find myself reflecting more on the things I'll miss – for example, wide-opening doors that would help with getting him in and out of his child seat and a novel secondary rear-view mirror that provides a wide-angle view of the back seats.

These details might not sound especially exciting, but as any parent knows, they can really make a difference in day-to-day life – especially when they're combined with a huge boot and the sort of calm ride that helps soothe your child off to sleep.

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