From £27,2708
Hybrid tech makes its debut in the grown-up CR-V family SUV, and makes amends for the limitations of the petrol model
Tom Morgan, deputy digital editor
16 November 2018

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.

What's it like?

Driven in EV mode, the CR-V hybrid delivers silent, linear acceleration, with the combustion engine seamlessly joining in or taking over when required. Torque isn’t delivered as a huge shove like some electric powertrains, and pushing hard will force the petrol motor to engage.

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Engine noise has apparently been tuned to sound more natural, but while it doesn’t need to constantly rev high like a CVT, it does an uncanny impression of a leaf blower at moderate speeds. Not unpleasant, but not unnoticeable either. For city centre driving, you hear nothing beyond a low hum.

The petrol engine only really revs high under full throttle acceleration, but quickly quietens down again once you lift and the electric motors take over. You have to really hustle it for the engine noise to become constant, and that isn’t in keeping with its efficiency ethos.

It might lack the gears to shuffle through, but the hybrid still finds a use for the wheel-mounted paddle shifters: they simulate engine braking by increasing or decreasing the amount of regeneration applied to the brakes, and are largely effective. You can’t quite use them in lieu of the brake pedal, but attentive drivers will be able to maximise their range with very little effort.

This powertrain feels like a middle ground between noisy CVTs and completely mute EVs, and as a result the hybrid is a more refined drive than the 1.5-litre petrol.

The extra weight of the hybrid system hasn’t had a detrimental effect on ride quality, which remains quiet and comfy, albeit not to the same level as the segment best.

In most other respects, the hybrid is nigh-on indistinguishable from the petrol CR-V, with all the implications that brings. The family SUV category is filled with models unafraid to make a statement with their styling, which can leave the Honda feeling a little humdrum.

The cabin is spacious and well-equipped, even borrowing its dash-mounted park, neutral, reverse and drive buttons from, of all things, the NSX hybrid supercar. The digital instruments are comprehensive, and can be configured to show engine modes swapping in real time, but the graphics feel a little dated.

Our mid-spec SR model came with a leather interior, keyless start, parking sensors, a rear view camera, blind spot warning and a 7.0in infotainment system as standard.

Honda’s Sensing safety suite is also standard across the range, with low-speed collision avoidance, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. Unlike the petrol version, though, here there’s no option to bump the seat count up to seven.

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Should I buy one?

Anyone yet to be sold on the CR-V’s middle-of-the-road styling is unlikely to be convinced by the addition of a new engine to the range.

For those more concerned with functionality, however, Honda has priced the hybrid to make it a tempting alternative to the 1.5-litre model. Given that it promises improved fuel economy, running one for even a moderate period would make more financial sense than the petrol alternative, although the lack of a seven-seat option here could be an issue for some.

The more willing powertrain is also less intrusive than the petrol during daily driving. It’s not any more engaging but, as a practical family SUV, this CR-V largely fulfils its brief better than its range-mate.

Honda CR-V Hybrid 2.0-litre i-VTEC AWD SR specification

Where Seville, Spain Price £34,545 On sale January Engine 4 cyls, 1993cc, petrol, plus electric motor Power 181bhp (total output) Torque 232lb ft (electric motor) Gearbox Single-speed automatic Kerb weight 1672kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 9.2sec Fuel economy 51.4mpg CO2 126g/km Rivals Volkswagen Tiguan, Skoda Kodiaq

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Comments
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xxxx 19 November 2018

Give and Take

Sounds a bargin at first Top-spec, quickish, 4wd, SUV, Auto, Hybrid, 7 seater Honda then you realise they've had to take 2 seats out put in a tiny battery.   Another thing that makes it sound like a bargin at first is the tiny £800 step down to the ICE version but then that has 7 seats so the price difference is more like £2000 going by normal mark ups.

All of a sudden Hybrids are so cheap 

 

The Apprentice 19 November 2018

xxxx wrote:

xxxx wrote:

Sounds a bargin at first Top-spec, quickish, 4wd, SUV, Auto, Hybrid, 7 seater Honda then you realise they've had to take 2 seats out put in a tiny battery.   Another thing that makes it sound like a bargin at first is the tiny £800 step down to the ICE version but then that has 7 seats so the price difference is more like £2000 going by normal mark ups.

All of a sudden Hybrids are so cheap 

 

It is pricey, £35K for 4wd SR which seems to be the sweetspot to me (although spec levels are pretty high from base model up). If you forget 7 seats and compare to its real competition larger 5 seat diesel SUV's it does OK

A Tiguan 5 seat diesel 190bhp 4wd auto SEL spec model with options to match a CR-V SR is £37K

 

xxxx 19 November 2018

missed the n't

The Apprentice wrote:

xxxx wrote:

....

All of a sudden Hybrids are so cheap 

It is pricey, £35K for 4wd SR which seems to be the sweetspot to me (although spec levels are pretty high from base model up). If you forget 7 seats and compare to its real competition larger 5 seat diesel SUV's it does OK

A Tiguan 5 seat diesel 190bhp 4wd auto SEL spec model with options to match a CR-V SR is £37K

...Should have been aren't so cheap.

Will86 18 November 2018

@The Appentice

Thanks for the explanations, both interesting and helpful. I wonder how efficient this is on a long motorway cruise; though if the electric motor provides a bit of extra shove uphill maybe it'll work fine. A group text with other hybrid SUVs would be good along with a long term test. I also wonder how scalable this system is and whether it will fit in the Civic and HRV without too much compromise.

The Apprentice 19 November 2018

Will86 wrote:

Will86 wrote:

Thanks for the explanations, both interesting and helpful. I wonder how efficient this is on a long motorway cruise; though if the electric motor provides a bit of extra shove uphill maybe it'll work fine. A group text with other hybrid SUVs would be good along with a long term test. I also wonder how scalable this system is and whether it will fit in the Civic and HRV without too much compromise.

Actually I think a group test with other diesel SUV's would be good, as Honda have dropped diesels from the CR-V completely. If this system can in the real world compete for economy a diesel X-trail, Q5, Sportage, Tiguan,  etc then it really is a diesel killer, petrol around my way is up to 10p a gallon cheaper so even if it comes close its a winner.

typos1 17 November 2018

Would be much better if they

Would be much better if they used the 1.6 diesel instead of the 2 litre petrol - more efficient, lower mpg, lower CO2, better at charging batteries.

The Apprentice 17 November 2018

typos1 wrote:

typos1 wrote:

Would be much better if they used the 1.6 diesel instead of the 2 litre petrol - more efficient, lower mpg, lower CO2, better at charging batteries.

you would think so,

But diesels are more difficult due to the limited rev range, you would either have to only clutch it in at a higher speed (meaning more double energy conversion running time) or limit top speed a lot more - or fit a gearbox which would be a huge complication and weight gain.

Plus with the hybrid gear as well as an engine your running short on space for all the bits and pieces with the diesel filters, as it is the CRV hybrid loses some boot space to get it all in. The bonus here is the CR-V hybrid is barely compromised at all, 80 litres less boot but its still big.

Also the diesel is quite a bit heavier, with the hybrid bits would make the car too heavy to be as efficient as it is.

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