After a 2015 makeover, is the Honda CR-V still the forward-looking car it was when it was launched 20 years ago? Adam Hurrell investigates
The Honda CR-V was first launched back in 1995 and has proved to be a continuing success for the brand. It was by no means the first compact SUV, but what it did do was provide a recipe that offered less on-road compromises than its competitors. The CR-V rose to prominence at a time when the main car market was generally dominated by hatchbacks and saloons and 20 years later, the model continues to be a global top-seller. Now in its fourth generation, the CR-V has received another facelift to ensure the legacy continues.
The most obvious change for 2015 is the redesigned front end, with rather snazzy-looking swooping headlights – although the chrome surround is a little garish for my tastes. Halogen headlights are fitted as standard, but HID set-ups are available on the EX and EX-Leather models. The daytime running lights are LED, as are the rear taillights.
Although passengers lose an inch of headroom in the 2015 model, the interior looks remarkably roomy and, unlike many of its direct competitors, it’s still possible to seat three adults on the rear bench comfortably. The 60/40 folding rear seats certainly add to this sense of spaciousness and with the seats down, the load capacity is quite impressive. Where the CR-V does fall down slightly is interior design. Dominated by drab, grey plastic, it’s not exactly the most aesthetically pleasing of cabins you’re going to come across. Slotted into the central dash is the main display screen and it is here that the very clever optional extra, Honda LaneWatch, shows a wide-angled view of the passenger side of the car. This is a smart piece of technology that will surely help to reduce the number of blind-spot near misses on Muscat’s roads.
In terms of power, the DOHC i-VTEC 2.4L four-cylinder petrol engine makes a reappearance for 2015, but a few tweaks have been made to improve performance. Horsepower remains the same at 185, but there has been a 10 per cent improvement on torque output.
Available in two or four-wheel drive, the CR-V makes an interesting family purchase in so much as it has a broader market appeal than its SUV looks would suggest. If you’re hunting for a slightly taller family hatchback, then you will struggle to do better. And for those who need that little extra bit of traction when things get rough, the four-wheel drive CR-V has proven itself to be more than capable at basic off-roading on numerous occasions in the past.
A common problem for cars like this is that they are built for crossover appeal, which leads to inherent compromises. In terms of handling, they don’t excel on or off road; rather they are adequate at both.
But the CR-V is different in that it is a decent drive on the tarmac. Body roll and flex have been improved over previous incarnations and the new weighted electronic power steering, which is now standard across the range, offers plenty of feedback.
I have to admit that I have a natural aversion to a CVT transmission, but the CR-V could persuade me otherwise. Changes are slick and quick and come without any noticeable or uncomfortable jerking. But having said that, I don’t see this as an achievement. Buyers should expect transmission changes to be seamless and smooth as standard, rather than as a surprise.
When it was new, the CR-V was an exciting car offering a package never seen before. Now, however, you have to ask whether the CR-V is still a groundbreaking and exciting option. To be honest, the answer is probably not. It’s very good, but with top-end versions priced very close to the BMW X3 and with the likes of the excellent Kia Sportage in the ring, Honda needs to up its game a little to remain competitive.
2015 Honda CR-V
Engine: 2.4L petrol in-line 4 cylinder i-VTEC
Dual zone climate control
Push button start
Multi-angle rearview camera
Daytime running lights
“The most efficient CR-V yet”
“No longer the market leader”