What is it?
It was already the first Honda SUV to offer seven seats, but now the fifth-generation CR-V has scored a second debut: it becomes the first SUV from the brand to be sold in Europe with a hybrid motor.
Honda is even going so far as to call the intelligent multi-mode drive (I-MMD) powertrain the most important one it has launched in the past decade. As it filters through to the rest of the range, it will play a big part in helping the company hit its goal of two-thirds of all sales across Europe being alternative fuelled vehicles by 2025.
Now that diesel engines are entirely absent from the CR-V line-up, it also becomes the de facto option for customers who prioritise fuel economy. So no pressure, then.
The hybrid system uses two electric motors in addition to a 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol engine: one for propulsion, producing 181bhp and 232lb ft of torque, and another for generating electricity that gets stored in a lithium ion battery. All are connected through a direct transmission with single fixed gear ratio, which Honda says allows for smoother torque delivery.
The car dynamically switches between EV, hybrid and engine drive modes, with the former drawing power solely from the battery. In hybrid drive mode, the engine supplies power to the generator, which in turn supplies it to the propulsion motor. Only in engine drive mode is the petrol motor connected directly to the wheels via a lock-up clutch.
The car switches between all three dynamically to maximise battery power, and to keep the engine in its optimal power band for as long as possible. Any excess shove it creates in hybrid mode is diverted to recharge the battery, and the battery can assist in engine mode for a boost to performance. It equates to a 0-60mph time of 8.8sec in front-wheel-drive guise, and 9.2sec for the all-wheel-drive model. Top speed is the same, at 112mph.
Honda expects the lion’s share of sales to be for the all-wheel-drive version, and it’s the one we’ve tested here. An equal split is also predicted between petrol and hybrid models, although with only £800 separating them, Honda is doing everything it can to make the hybrid more appealing to customers.