With its new seven-seat layout option and after the growth spurt we’ve already described, this latest Honda CR-V ought to be well placed to build on its strengths of convenience, practicality and functionality – and so it does.
Having grown to become a 4.6-metre car, of course, the CR-V now contends with greater expectations of roominess than it used to – although it still manages to surpass them. And, before we move on, we should note that (at least if you go for it in seven-seat form) you might still think of this car as usefully compact; it’s nearly 100mm shorter than the Skoda Kodiaq and almost 200mm shorter than the Kia Sorento.
The car offers its driver’s seat at a very convenient hip point height as you board, so the average UK driver won’t need to either bend down or climb up to get in. What you find once you’re inside is a pleasant and very spacious cabin whose layout and appearance are both more conventional than those of the more quirky Honda Civic hatchback, but whose apparent standard on material quality is both higher and more consistent – and which isn’t short on useful storage features.
The CR-V’s driving position is comfortable, straight and well-supported. Instrumentation is presented on a digital flatscreen with an analogue-style rev counter at useful scale and a digital speedo. Below both is some digital display space that can be configured to show anything from four-wheel-drive torque distribution to audio track information – although for flexibility it’s some way off the segment’s better digital instrument binnacles.
The Honda Connect 7.0in infotainment system, included on SE trim and up, partners a nine-speaker audio set-up whose quality we found to be respectable if not outstanding. Integrated in a larger, free-standing black surround, it looks like it ought to be larger still – but, in use, you won’t complain that the size of the display seems mean or makes usability harder.
The system is slow to boot up and often to respond to fingertip inputs, although being able to hop directly to the menu using the shortcut keys mitigates the latency problem somewhat. The fitted Garmin navigation system isn’t particularly becoming of a £35,000 car, being troublesome to use and short of mapping detail and graphical appeal. Here, the CR-V’s bacon is saved by smartphone mirroring compatibility for both Apple and Android handsets.
Honda has arranged the car’s transmission controls quite high on the centre stack, freeing up a lot of storage space where the tunnel might otherwise be – most notably a deep cubby with a sliding lid that would easily accommodate a small laptop and keep it out of sight. The car’s gear selector could hardly be chunkier or easier to use. There are shifter paddles on the car’s steering column but once you’re used to the character of the car, you’re unlikely to reach for them much. There are no four-wheel-drive system overrides at all.
The assumption is that, come what may, CR-V drivers will be happy to let the car’s driveline manage itself – which tells you as much as about the drivers courted as the driveline itself. Second-row passenger space is outstanding: there’s 800mm of typical second-row leg room here, where the Skoda Kodiaq offers 750mm and the Mazda CX-5 only 730mm (although, if you want sliding second-row seats, you’ll have to opt for the seven-seat version). In the boot, the CR-V offers broadly similar amounts of seats-up loading length and width as its key rivals but beats almost all on loading height.