Honda CR-V – Understated excellence.


The Honda CR-V first hit UK shores in 1997. We’re now 20 years on and 4 generations of CR-V have come and gone, the current 2017 Honda CR-V being the 5th generation to proudly bare the iconic CR-V moniker.

The first generation of CR-V in 1997 was Honda’s first in-house designed SUV and initially only available with the frugal LX trim level. My how things have changed.

The years have been very kind to the CR-V and it has blossomed into a very well appointed, luxury SUV. Our test car was the 1.6iDTEC 9sp Auto EX.

Quite a mouthful and this what it all mean;

1.6iDTEC means it has the very smooth and quiet 1.6L diesel engine producing 160 PS and 350 Nm torque.

9sp Auto means the engine drives through a silky smooth 9 speed automatic gearbox, yes, 9 speed!

The EX refers to the trim level which means our CR-V was equipped like the space shuttle. It had every safety feature you can imagine and some you can’t. It could almost drive itself, no joke.

With a combination of Honda ACC (adaptive cruise control) which uses radar to manage the speed, relative to the distance of the cars in front and behind, and Hondas LKAS (Honda Lane Keep Assist), which uses a vision system to see the white lines between lanes and makes small corrections in the steering to keep you in your lane, it feels like you could take a nap.

Of course, this isn’t an autonomous vehicle so in reality, these safety systems are designed to help and not drive the car.

The ACC user radar to monitor the distance between your car and the cars in front and behind. You set your speed and the ACC manages the speed up to your set speed whilst maintaining a safe distance from the car in front and behind. If the traffic slows down, the system will slow the car down, applying the brakes if necessary, but not too hard to cause the car behind to have to brake sharply.

That’s not all, BA (Brake Assist ) and CBAS (City-Brake Active System) work together to prevent collisions. The system uses input from radar and vision sensors and is designed to warn drivers if it estimates a high risk of collision when the vehicle approaches a pedestrian or another vehicle. In simple terms, it sees more than we do and can brake for us or even steer a little to prevent an accident.

If the driver does not react to the audible warnings, the system automatically applies the brakes, distributing the brake force to each wheel individually for maximum effectiveness, which could avoid or considerably reduce the effects of the collision.  

We triggered it once and can tell you it really works. A car in front had slowed to turn left so we pulled around it. The system thought we were too close and a collision was imminent so stopped us, pretty damn quick. Very clever. We actually would have been fine. Our judgement told us the car would be gone when we got there but we must have got a little close and the system saw a potential collision. The car released the brakes the moment the danger wasn’t there any more.

These systems are a little intrusive from time to time. For example, the adaptive cruise control sees cars a long long way ahead and slows you down. You can adjust the gap (3 settings) but even at it’s closest setting, it leaves a very big gap between you and the car in front. The Lane Keep Assist also struggles to see faded white lines or temporary lines in road works on the motorway (of which there are loads) but none the less is a very effective safety aid.

That said, this technology could very well save your life and is outstanding. The Adaptive Cruise Control and Honda Lane Keep Assist car obviously be turned off if you wish.

As well as these potentially life saving features the CR-V is festooned with technology.

Take Motion Adaptive EPS for example. It’s a stability system which automatically reinforces steering feedback aimed at prompting the driver to steer in the correct direction in situations where the car is threatened with instability. In layman’s terms, it corrects your hamfisted steering and stops you crashing.

Our test CR-V had hill start assist, airbags everywhere, active headrest and so much more. 

Our car had the 160hp diesel engine which was great on fuel, very smooth and very quiet. It wasn’t fast but certainly wasn’t slow. I think the appropriate description of the performance was adequate.

We also had the 9 speed automatic gearbox. The gearbox on the CR-V is a thing of beauty. It changes gear so smoothly you can’t tell it’s actually changing gear. The only criticism we had about the drivetrain is a slight hesitation. What we mean is when you coast up to a junction or roundabout, almost stopping but not quite, the CR-V holds a high gear, probably to conserve fuel. When you put your foot down to accelerate, the car hesitates momentarily while it selects the correct gear. It’s no big deal but can be a bit frustrating.

As far as the interior goes, it’s a luxurious and comfortable place to be. The XE we had was upholstered in leather with high quality plastics and couldn’t have been further from the original 1997 LX version.

The 2017 CR-V XE is rammed with creature comforts such as smart keyless entry, a panoramic glass roof, privacy glass, fully electric seats with memory function, HONDA Connect™ in-car audio and information system with bluetooth hands free telephone plus there’s a huge boot with electric tailgate and so much more. It is a beautiful car.

We felt pretty special driving around in our CR-V. It’s effortless to drive, soaks up the punishment dished out by our ruined roads with ease and has great road presence. It’s a pretty big car so you can see over the top of most smaller cars which makes you feel safe and secure.

We were genuinely sad to see the back of our test car, maybe we’ll ask for another go.

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