New 1.6 diesel with nine-speed auto is a compelling mix, offering 158bhp and 258lb ft while emitting just 134g/km of CO2 in four-wheel-drive form

What is it?

Few manufacturers can claim the sort of SUV sales Honda has enjoyed with its CR-V. Since its launch back in 1997, more than 750,000 have found a home in Europe; during 2014 alone, 50,000 dotted lines were signed.

To ensure more of the same, the CR-V is being revised for 2015, going on sale in April. But this is no mild facelift; Honda’s engineers have been busy.

To keep the CR-V looking fresh, there’s a new grille and redesigned headlights and tail-lights, while wider tracks, increased tyre camber, a quicker steering rack and new front suspension bushes, knuckles and arms are intended to improve ride quality, handling and refinement.

Inside, thicker door seals aim to improve refinement, and there's a brand new infotainment system. City braking also becomes standard across the range. 

Most notable, however, is the new 158bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine, available with an equally shiny new nine-speed automatic gearbox. Together, they replace the outgoing 2.2 diesel/five-speed auto combo, improving fuel economy and emissions, yet still offering a respectable slug of low-down muscle.

What's it like?

Two-wheel-drive versions of the CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC 160 are restricted to a six-speed manual ’box, but the nine-speed auto we’re driving is worth the extra should you be tempted. It doesn’t dither too much in lower gears and never changes down too many should you ask it for a sudden burst of acceleration.

It helps the 1.6 diesel to show off its strengths, chief of which is its decent pull from around 2000rpm. It also stays reasonably hushed, only getting raucous in the sort of high revs you're unlikely to want to explore very often in a diesel SUV anyway, although there’s a light buzz at the pedals even at more moderate engine speeds.

The changes to the chassis haven’t transformed the CR-V into a handling superstar, but turn-in is now slightly more urgent on the four-wheel-drive model and the steering feels less vague than before. There’s still noticeable body lean in tight corners, although the soft set-up means large bumps and broken asphalt are no trouble for the CR-V’s dampers, which take the sting out initially. Unfortunately, it also means that a lot of the imperfections in the road cause the body to bob about, especially at speed and over mid-corner bumps. 

At least there’s little road and wind noise on the motorway to disturb things further, and although there’s some vertical movement from the body on the motorway, the CR-V’s steering requires little input to maintain a straight line.

For all the changes, Honda has kept one of the CR-V’s strongest suits: space. Four adults sit very comfortably inside, thanks to impressive legroom, while the long, square boot is a huge 589 litres with the rear seats in place.

The practical touches CR-V owners love remain, too - particularly the spring-loaded rear seats, which split 60/40 and fold themselves down flat via levers on the boot walls to open up the cabin.

The new 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system (standard across the range) is, in effect, an Android-based tablet. It uses a mobile processor and has super-sharp graphics, but still suffers lag between button presses at times. The integrated Garmin sat-nav (optional on all but top EX trim) can be dim-witted, too, although connecting your phone takes seconds and the general menu layouts are simple to navigate.

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Should I buy one?

Drive a CR-V hard and there are few thrills to be had, but then it doesn’t pretend to be the last word in handling dynamics.

What it aims to do, and does well, is space and practicality. The addition of this 1.6 diesel with its impressive 134g/km CO2 output and 55.4mpg fuel economy as an automatic four-wheel drive has given private and company buyers even more reason to consider it.

Even so, while the CR-V has rivals such as the diesel auto variants of Nissan's X-Trail and Mazda's CX-5 beaten on running cost figures, prices haven't been confirmed yet. All that efficiency could be for nothing if it doesn't come at the right price to begin with, so we'll hold final judgement until we know exactly what it'll cost and drive like in the UK. 

Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC 160 EX auto

Price £34,000 (est); Engine 4 cyls, 1597cc, turbodiesel; Power 158bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1658kg; Top speed 122mph; 0-62mph 10.0sec; Economy 55.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 134g/km, 22 per cent

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bomb 21 January 2015

With this facelift they've

With this facelift they've now made the front as ugly as the back.
The Apprentice 20 January 2015

The only other choice for a

The only other choice for a sub 130g/km 4wd is the Qashqai but that only manages 128bhp from its 1.6 and is considerably less roomy and boot spaced so Honda have got a good thing going here. Nissan have VERY heavily discounted the Qashie into fleet sales, Honda will need to respond with good discounts too although I expect the residuals to be good so that helps.
fadyady 20 January 2015

Impressive figures

Impressive figures for a small-ish diesel engine with an auto box in a car the size of Honda CR-V. In comparison VW's 1.6L diesel offers only 108bhp.
Check your facts please. Last time I read Honda had sold more than 3 million CR-Vs worldwide. We readers look up to you guys. Let's keep it that way, please.