Honda’s decision to drop diesel from the CR-V’s engine line-up might yet prove to be a sound one if the incoming hybrid is good. But, until that car arrives at least, you might well wonder if a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, hooked up to a CVT, will be the right fit for this near-1700kg car.
The answer to that question seems questionable out on the road. Backing turbo petrol power delivers the CR-V some desirable qualities: it’s a mechanically refined car when cruising at low engine speeds, and it revs more smoothly and freely than a like-for-like diesel might.
But it revs – a lot. Despite its efforts to make the CR-V’s transmission behave more like a torque converter automatic or even a dual-clutch auto at times, Honda has failed to engineer out the slushy, ‘elastic band’ feel out of this car’s power delivery entirely.
If you’re happy to adopt an unhurried stride, the powertrain is very respectable; it’s smooth and fairly easy to manage. But when you either want or need the car to accelerate hard, it resorts to spinning the engine crankshaft up to 5000rpm and letting the transmission dole out the torque to the car’s four wheels as best it can.
Moreover, 179lb ft of peak pulling power isn’t a great deal to motivate a car of this size – and there are plenty of times on a typical UK journey when you’ll need all of it. Revs are the powertrain’s go-to solution.
While CVTs can behave more like conventional torque-converter autos when working with torquier engines, the CR-Vs certainly doesn’t. There is also the inherent unresponsiveness of a CVT to account for when driving on motorways and A-roads, and you have to judge how long it’s likely to be between pedal input and increased rate of acceleration. A 30-70mph time of 8.4sec isn’t a disgrace, but out in the real world it’s the transmission’s tendency to slip and the hesitancy to knuckle down that makes the car feel lazy and a little slow.
Strong real-world fuel economy would be some compensation for all that, if only the CR-V produced it. But, partly as a result of how hard you’re obliged to work the engine at times to get reasonable performance out of it, our test car averaged less than 32mpg on test – and its 37.9mpg touring economy test result isn’t likely to win it many fans, either.