Driving Torque

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Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC – Driven and Reviewed

Civic certainly couldn't be mistaken for anything else

Civic certainly couldn’t be mistaken for anything else

Within the last decade, Honda‘s ever-so-popular Civic has gone through something of a transformation, particularly in the identity department. It wasn’t so long ago that the Civic moniker was seemingly plonked on just about any size or shape of Honda, as if they’d actually exhausted the world’s supply of car names. Seriously – just Google ‘1990s Honda Civic‘ and the range of images that appear is strangely reminiscent of a bag of pick and mix – they may all be sweets, but no two are the same.

Not any more though. The modern-day Civic is definitely a mid-size hatchback in the Focus/Golf/Astra mould, which means it’s picking some pretty brave fights with some serious competition. This particular Civic is equipped with Honda’s much-lauded new 1.6 litre Diesel engine, dropping it right in the middle of what must surely be the bloodiest of fights, as families and businessmen alike strive to achieve as much bang for their buck as possible, either on the forecourt or in the tax office.

Exaggerated wheel- arches and hidden rear door handles add a certain sportiness

Exaggerated wheel- arches and hidden rear door handles add a certain sportiness

This generation of Civics has been with us for a while now and yet it still manages to stand out as something a little bit different. It could be said that it’s styling was deemed a little controversial upon launch and some of the previous generation’s charm had been sacrificed in favour of a flurry of awkward angles and design features. Personally, I find the Civic’s quasi-futuristic appearance and apparently absent rear door handles increasingly appealing, especially when set against the backdrop of some of its competition, many of which seem to be morphing into the same, staple shape.

Dual level instruments offer a slightly unusual sensation

Dual level instruments offer a slightly unusual driving experience

The theme continues inside the Civic with a multitude of eye-catching shapes and features that set the car apart from, well, anything else. Sit in the driver’s seat and the first detail of note is the two-stage digital dashboard, adorned with near day-glo illumination. This dual-height approach to the information one requires when driving could initially be described as a little unnerving; just as the perfect driving position is achieved and one feels very much ‘in’ the car, rather than ‘on’ it, a glance at the lowermost dials completely alters one’s perspective, encouraging more fettling of the seat and steering wheel to feel less upright. The answer is to overcome this urge to modify and stick with it, it doesn’t take long for the whole experience to feel completely natural with an engaging driving position.

Multimedia buttons are small and plentiful - strangely reminiscent of a Casio Calculator Watch

Multimedia buttons are small and plentiful – strangely reminiscent of a Casio Calculator Watch

An easy trap to fall into with the Civic’s interior, in particular it’s slightly lairy dashboard and Casio-calculator-watch-esque multimedia system, is to start wishing that the whole thing were a little more, well, German. This fondness for the subtle, understated approach to things, that certain manufacturers such as Audi have adopted is entirely understandable, if a tad unfair. Honda are proud to be Japanese and are quite rightly doing things their way. It’s good to see this approach every now and again as life would be so boring without individuality. I say – if you want a car with a Germanic approach to interior fittings, buy a German car.

This class of car simply wouldn’t work if its interior space were significantly inferior to the competition and this possibly explains the Civic’s expansion over the previous model. I felt comfortable and well accommodated in every seat, my only slight wish would be for a touch more headroom in the rear for long journeys.

Rear light cluster may look pretty but it does nothing to aid visibility

Rear light cluster may look pretty but it does nothing to aid visibility

Sit in the driver’s seat of the Civic and a glance in the rear view mirror presents something of a fly in the car’s ointment – a large bar dissecting your view of what’s being left behind. It may look pretty from the outside but the truth is that this dual-screen effect which Honda are so keen on utilising does, in reality, irritate. All but the lowest spec Civics come complete with a rear view camera and I’d say it’s almost essential to assist when reversing. Our top of the range EX test car was also blessed with parking sensors, I’d tick this option every time to counteract the compromised view and hopefully save a few trips to the bodyshop.

Civic is covered in fins - here's a sharky one.......

Civic is covered in fins – here’s a sharky one…….

So, that’s the living space covered, what about the oily bits? Honda’s new 1.6 Diesel engine has been received with much fanfare and is destined to find its way into as many Honda products as is reasonably possible. So what’s all the fuss about? Cold start-ups – traditionally the leveller of oil-burners due to unrefined rattles, present very little in the way of noise or vibration, even on the outside. Once thoroughly warmed however, you’d be hard pressed to hear which fuel you were burning, the noisiest aspect at civilised revs being the car’s air-conditioning fans.

The manual ‘box in the Civic is a joy and seems so well suited to the torquey nature of this Diesel lump. Changing gear can become something of a novelty, as the engine’s 300NM of torque pulls the car along across the entire rev-range with little complaint, even at lower revs where one might usually expect some labouring.

.........here's a not so sharky one

………here’s a not so sharky one

Honda claim that the Civic, when mated to the 1.6 Diesel will achieve 78.5mpg and 94g/km, making it VED exempt. These economy claims are sometimes unattainable though and history has taught us to take them with a sizable pinch of salt. Apparently not so in the Civic though; when brimmed with Diesel, the range is a predicted 650 miles. After two days of care-free driving with little thought for conserving fuel, the needle on the Civic’s fuel gauge was still stubbornly clinging onto ‘Full’ like a long, thin limpet, the range had also somehow crept UP to 850 miles. Have Honda secretly achieved perpetual motion? Hmmmmm…..

Handling in the Civic is civilised and reassuringly predictable. It flows through corners with constant communication through the steering wheel so that any understeer is expected and easily corrected. The power steering is massively assisted though, so don’t expect handling to be quite up to the standards of the eminently impressive Focus.

The engineering expertise that Honda are so renowned for simply screams out of the Civic in a way that belies its sub £20K starting prices. Driving one is a pleasure, with a sensation of quality that would put many, far more expensive products coming out of Bavaria to shame. All this, mated to Honda’s  excellent new engine and the usual extras found as standard, results in a package that’s very hard to argue against.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX, Transmission –  manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 120ps, Torque – 300Nm, Emissions – 94g/km CO2Economy – 78.5 mpg combined, Acceleration – 10.5s 0-62mph, Price – £23,175 OTR, £23,675 as tested.

Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC SR – Driven and Reviewed

Honda CRV front sideWay back in October 2012, Driving Torque went on a first date. It was set on the beautiful shores of Loch Lomond with the dramatic peaks of the Trossachs providing a backdrop and the prospective partner in question was Honda‘s new CR-V. All went well, both parties seemed to get on and looked forward to meeting again. Last week, we did.

The venue this time was the, only slightly less pretty town of Macclesfield, complete with its very own forest. This was never going to be a holiday, however, both the CR-V and I were going to see how much we’d blossom under the strains of real life, kids ‘n all.

This 4th Generation CR-V was, by its very nature, always going to be best suited to a more torquey Diesel engine than a petrol and the particular model we have on test here is sporting Honda’s i-DTEC – it just makes more sense. This 2.2l unit may well become a rare sight on our roads though, as Honda start rolling the CR-V out, equipped with their much-lauded 1.6 lump under the bonnet. This superb little engine is tasked with pushing the relatively hefty CR-V’s CO2 emissions under 120g/km and subsequently its owner’s tax and fuel bills down a notch or two, whilst still serving up a delicious 300NM torque.

Honda CR-V rear sideAll that’s in the future however, so back to the future as they say. One thing that’s unlikely to change when the new engine’s available is the CR-V’s appearance, and personally, I think that’s a good thing. I was quite taken with it on launch and the more of them I see on the roads, the more I feel Honda’s styling department deserve a pat on the back for their rather gutsy approach.

Honda CRV headlightThe most eye-catching detail on the CR-V is undoubtedly that shiny grill and the way it cleverly morphs into those over-size, eagle-eye headlights. Subtle it ain’t and I can understand how that whole nose section may spoil the rest of the car for some as it is a rather Marmite feature, but I’m inclined to feel that it offers just enough shoutiness for the stereotypical SUV owner, without going over the top. The CR-V has been the victim of some relatively unpleasant criticism regarding it’s looks but look at the competition; the Qashqai is suddenly looking dated, Toyota‘s styling department have all been fired if the new RAV4 is anything to go by and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Hyundai are extremely complimentary with their  Santa Fe.

Honda CR-V eco lights

It’s actually pretty easy, being green

The cabin on our SR spec test car reeks of quality on an almost Germanic level, it’s such a step up from previous generations in terms of feel and ergonomics that it deserves special mention. Features such as the 3-D, stepped nature of the instrument binnacle and its ‘floating’ speedometer needle really reflect on the effort that’s obviously been put into updating the CR-V’s interior.  It may be a little plain, but it’s difficult to argue with an all black approach rather than the half cream effect that’s also available, especially with some tasteful swathes of brushed aluminium to add a touch of class. The half leather, half Alcantara seats did take quite a bit of fiddling with to get into an optimum position but, once there, they’re comfortable enough, if a little flat.

Honda CRV top viewWhere the CR-V’s interior really shines, though, is towards the rear. Whilst ferrying some friends to the airport, the 589 litre boot happily swallowed all of their luggage due to it’s rather helpful, unobtrusive shape, whilst the rear seats have enough head and leg room to keep even the tallest passengers happy. I showed the CR-V to the owner of a Nissan X-Trail and the owner of a Volvo XC60 and they agreed in unison that they could only dream of such a roomy living space – high praise indeed.

If the upcoming 1.6 litre engine aspires to knock its big brother off it’s perch, one thing it’s got to be is quiet. Honda’s Diesel engines of the past had a reputation for a lack of refinement and subtlety – not this one. Even when cold, this 150ps unit melts into the background admirably on the exterior and is almost inaudible inside the cabin. On the go, the story’s very similar and a smattering of Diesel rattle is only detectable if you push really hard.

On the road, the CR-V is so compliant and easy to drive that you get a general impression that it’s trying to be helpful. The manual gearbox in our test car probably isn’t the sportiest ‘box you’ll ever use but it’s feather light and slips between ratios effortlessly. I sampled a CR-V with an auto ‘box on it’s launch and, unless it’s absolutely essential, I’d opt for a third pedal and changing gear oneself every time.

Having 350Nm torque on tap is always going to prove helpful and it really shows in everyday life, noticeably minimising the requirement to slip down a gear. The usability of this engine proved itself undeniably whilst cruising along the motorway in sixth gear, the traffic temporarily slowed down to 40mph and when things started moving again, the CR-V pulled all the way back up to 70mph without so much as a stutter. Very reassuring.

Honda CRV off roadOff the motorway and onto the twisty stuff, the CR-V belies its height and weight well. The chassis may not be quite up to the awesome standards set by Ford’s Kuga but the difference isn’t startling. If pushed, the CR-V is fairly planted with little body roll – no mean feat when the nature of a SUV is to achieve ground clearance and comfort. Our SR spec CR-V came equipped with some eye-catching 18” alloys but the pay-off for these wheels is when the surface becomes less than perfect and the ride can become a little skittish. I can’t emphasise enough that if you cherish comfort over looks, insist on your CR-V being equipped with 17” rims – it may only be an inch but it is noticeable!

So, after a whole week together, did the initial spark survive? Did Driving Torque and CR-V get on? Absolutely! This car does many things well and does very little wrong, especially for those with an active lifestyle and even more active offspring. This SR spec car with its more luxurious touched, could prove a little expensive at £28k though, and unless you’re in a huge rush, it may be worth waiting for this great all-rounder to be equipped with Honda’s new 1.6l Diesel.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda CR-V 2.2l i-DTEC SR, Transmission – manual, Layout – Front engine, 4wd, Power – 150ps @ 4000rpm, Torque – 350Nm @ 2000rpm, Emissions – 149g/km CO2, Economy – 50.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 9.7s 0-62mph, Price – £28,540 OTR

Honda Jazz Si – Driven and Reviewed

Honda Jazz Si - complete with sporty bumpers and air intakes.

Honda Jazz Si – complete with sporty bumpers and air intakes.

When the UK was first introduced to the Honda Jazz in 2002, it was seen as a quirky little hatch with big ambitions and some clever ideas to match. It was marketed as a little family car that would stand out from the crowd, setting you apart from the swathes of Fiestas, Corsas and Clios. In the following eleven years, with a little help from a few face-lifts, it’s still a popular sight on our roads; albeit with an, ahem, more senior driver stereotypically at the helm.

According to Honda themselves, late 2013 will see an all new Jazz (named ‘Fit‘ in Japan) being unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, complete with far sportier aspirations than the outgoing model. It will be built on an all new scalable platform which will allow Honda to spawn all manner of spin-offs, most likely starting with a small SUV to compete with the likes of Nissan’s Juke.

Honda Jazz Si rear three quarter

Rear air outlets may only be for show, but they add a certain something

What we have on test here then is the current model Jazz in its sportiest guise – the Si. I felt it would be appropriate to get ‘hands on’ with Honda‘s little warm-hatch to possibly gauge just how much work is required to make the all-new Jazz a serious contender. I’m fairly confident that I’ve never seen this model on the road before, which is hardly surprising considering the typical customer the Jazz attracts – grandparents and mothers of small children. Neither of which are renowned for gathering in Tesco’s car park to impress their mates with a handbrake turn.

First impressions of the Si, I have to say, are rather good. They may be applied more for form than function but this Jazz has its own natty little air scoops and wings that, combined with its black on silver alloys, really make it stand out from the crowd. I parked the Si next to a ‘standard’ Jazz and it’s little visual highlights really shone; I parked it next to a first gen Jazz and the evolution is startling. This outgoing model Jazz has come a long way since it’s predecessor which bore certain resemblances to a proper Japanese ‘K’ car.


Jazz Si Interior is usual Honda quality, if a little uninspiring

Inside the Si, things aren’t quite so dramatic. It’s usual Honda fare in here with some quality touches including the semi-sporty seats. There’s definitely that reassuring feeling that this Jazz has been screwed together properly, as with most Hondas, but I was a little let down by the grade of some plastics, especially the highly visible ones that are always in view on the ultra-deep dashboard. Items such as the dial binnacle are also showing their age now, but with an all new model on the horizon, it’s hardly surprising that certain items won’t be cutting edge.

This car has always sold in high numbers due to the clever nature of its cabin space and, there’s no getting away from it, a good idea continues to be a good idea. The Tardis like proportions are a wonder to behold, with ample head and leg room in every seat. Couple this with a cavernous boot and the Jazz’ trademark Swiss Army Knife-esque rear seats which fold, contort and move in all manner of directions to suit one’s particular needs, and you genuinely couldn’t ask for any more from such a compact package. Honda have obviously gone to great lengths to make visibility optimal in the Jazz by fitting it with acres of glasshousing and providing a commanding, upright driving position, just don’t expect a low-slung, hunkering racing Recaro to perch oneself on, as that’s really not going to happen.

Honda Jazz Si FrontFire the Si’s 1.4 litre unit up and the only indication that it’s ready to go will be the needle on the rev counter jumping into life. Quite conversely, this is one of the few cars I’ve tested that sports a quieter cabin when the engine’s running than when it’s not, mainly due to the various bings and bongs that every Jazz emits to warn the driver that the door’s open, or they’ve not donned their seatbelt, or it’s a Tuesday. I’m all for driver aids but the fact that the Jazz doesn’t even wait for you to set off before going into a seatbelt related panic is all a reminder of the slightly more senior nature of many Jazz drivers. I think that turning the nanny-state dial down a notch or two in the new model would be hugely appealing, please Honda.

So, we’ve established that the Jazz Si looks the part, but does it have the function to match the form? The engine may not emit a raucous exhaust note but that’s not what the Jazz is all about, economy and ease of use are it’s purpose in life. Ignore the change-up lights whilst keeping the loud pedal planted though, and the Jazz Si will pull smoothly round the rev range in every gear. It may not be as keen and eager to hurry to the red-line as certain sporty Hondas of the past but, again, you really have to bear in mind what the Jazz was designed for.

Honda Jazz Si Wheel

Two-tone wheels add to the Si’s more dramatic look

One aspect of the Jazz Si that’s really worth writing home about is the way it handles. It’s been fitted with a sports suspension package that’s only found on this model and I think it really shows. Considering the fairly upright nature of the body and it’s relatively short, narrow stance, this little car has the ability to surprise and delight in equal measures when navigating the twisty stuff. It may take a little while to grow confidence in the steering as it’s massively assisted for easy driving around town, but throw the Jazz Si into a tight chicane and the lack of understeer is genuinely fun and reassuring. This, coupled with brakes that feel as if they’d stop a train really stand the Si apart from its more pedestrian brethren.

Honda Jazz Si Boot

379 litre boot in a car of this size is impressive

The Honda Jazz was a fairly ingenious idea when it was released over a decade ago and what made it so popular is still valid today. It’s one of the easiest cars to drive, park and fit people into that I’ve ever experienced and anyone with a young family will doubtless agree with me that these factors do matter. Does the Si spec stand up to scrutiny next to the many warm-hatches on sale today? in truth, probably not. It’s slightly lacking in the excitement department and a lack of stop-start and a 6th gear contribute towards emissions of 129g/km which isn’t exactly market leading. One thing’s for sure though – when the new Jazz is put on display later this year, Honda have the engines, pedigree and expertise to make it as sporty, involving and economical as they bloody-well want to. Jazz Type-R, anyone?

By Ben Harrington

Specifications – Honda Jazz Si, Price – £14,760, Engine – 1.4l 4cyl, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 98bhp, Acceleration – 0-60mph – 11.1s, Maximum Speed – 113mph max, Economy – 50mpg claimed combined – 37.9mpg as tested, Emissions – 129g/km CO2

Honda CR-Z GT-T, Driven and Reviewed

Honda CR-X 1987 model

Honda CR-X 1987 model (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the 1980’s, before imagination in car design went through an age of prohibition, when Honda were producing some of the finest F1 engines ever seen, a distinctive silhouette emerged from the rising sun in the form of a quirky little fastback called the CR-X.

Although not miles apart from the omnipresent Civic (it was marketed as the Civic CR-X in some regions), it offered an air of originality and panache that simply weren’t an option on any available hot-hatch, a breed that was all-conquering at the time.

Skip forward a few decades then, and what we have here is the spiritual successor to the CR-X, in the shape of the Honda CR-Z – Honda wisely chose to leapfrog the CR-Y model, for obvious reasons.

The 2013 Honda CR-Z

The 2013 Honda CR-Z

The styling is unmistakably similar. With its characteristic roof-line flowing seamlessly into the, near horizontal rear hatch before deviating dramatically south to form part of the flat rear end. There are yet more familiar styling cues elsewhere, in particular, the sweeping nose and long bonnet which share nearly the same gradient as the windscreen, cutting through any annoyingly resistant air like the proverbial hot knife through butter.

So, the family lineage is undeniable, they even both sport a fairly uncommon 1.5 litre engine, so can we assume that the CR-Z is simply another retro reproduction? I delved further in, to find out.

Love it or loathe it, the styling of the CR-Z is impossible to ignore. With its squat stance and more lines and folds than an origami swan, it gets attention wherever it goes. initial reaction from people I asked was roughly 50/50 for the love/loathe camps but this swung heavily towards love once the ‘Energetic Yellow’ aspect of our test car was hypothetically removed. I’m inclined to agree.

Near-horizontal rear windscreen is a familar CR-X trait

Near-horizontal rear windscreen is a familar CR-X trait

That said, the look of the CR-Z isn’t for everyone, but it’s great to see a car spark debate. Our roads are jam-packed with generic automobiles that are best described as ‘quite nice’. This isn’t one of them.

Assuming that you like the taste of  Honda’s Marmite car then, what else does it have to offer, apart from being a great initiator of discussion at dinner parties? Well, this is where things get a little paradoxical. If we were to judge this particular book by its cover, we could assume that it was a thrill-seeker, pure and simple, on a mission to rid the world of fossil fuels. Not true. You see, the CR-Z’s 1.5 litre petrol engine has a support band in the shape of an electric motor which throws its own 20bhp, and, perhaps more importantly, 78Nm of torque  into the equation.

2013 Honda CRZ FrontBetter still, there’s a little blue button on the steering wheel, marked S+. This stands for Plus Sport and is linked to the CR-Z’s 15KW electric motor (up from 10KW for the 2013 model). One press whilst accelerating and all of a sudden you’re Jensen Button, using his KERS facility to overtake Vettel on his way to a Grand Prix victory. It does take a while to recharge if it’s used to it’s full extent but it’s certainly more than just a gimmick and can quickly become very addictive.

There is, of course, a price to pay for the extra help the batteries provide and, as usual, it’s weight. The CR-Z does an admirable job of disguising its additional mass and rarely gets ruffled, even on rapidly altering roads. Gear-changes are neat and precise with a very satisfying ‘clunk’ between each ratio. I personally prefer a little more weight behind my ‘box but the CR-Z’s light, clinical, short-shift approach will undoubtedly appeal to many.

17'' alloys are standard on GT models

17” alloys are standard on GT models

What no car can do though, even one this clever, is totally rewrite the laws of physics; push the CR-Z hard and the electronic assistance will disappear fairly quickly, leaving the 1.5 litre engine to singlehandedly lug around a pretty-heavy coupe with no help from the now redundant, weighty batteries. When this does happen, performance suffers greatly and economy figures will rapidly tumble from Honda’s claimed 54.3 mpg combined.

Quite a distinctive view from the driver's seat

Quite a distinctive view from the driver’s seat

A very pleasant surprise in the CR-Z comes by way of its innovative interior. Japanese cars have long been dogged with a reputation for blandness and a lack of quality in this department but the CR-Z brings a whole host of new toys to the table. If, like me, you’re sick of dull grey plastics and those generic LCD clocks that have cheapened Japanese cars for years then this will surely be a breath of fresh air. With its neon bright, 3-dimensional driver’s gauges that forcefully grab one’s attention, the cabin could possibly be described as ‘busy’ and I imagine that it could become slightly irritating on a long journey. I, for one, appreciate its originality though, it reinforces that this car is a little leftfield and quirky, just like it’s CR-X ancestor.

2013 Honda CRZ BootOne aspect of the CR-Z that should be made perfectly clear is that this is no family hatch – it’s a true 2+2. The rear seats are only large enough for the youngest of children – and even then I’d recommend short journeys only. Getting aforementioned small children in and out of the rear seats will quickly prove irritating too, as the front seats don’t return to their original position after access to the rear has been gained. This, and the lack of boot space due to the position of the Lithium Ion batteries, reinforce the assumption that Honda weren’t aiming at the family market when the CR-Z was pencilled. Anyone who wants a little more in the way of practicality should possibly hang on for the return of the Civic Type-R that’s recently been announced.

2013 Honda CRZ BadgeSo, just what is this little car then? Is it a sports car or an eco-warrior? A ’80s throwback or a glimpse of the future? The truth is, it’s a bit of everything and Honda have admirably provided a bit of eye-catching glamour without the usual associated guilt. At nearly £25k though, this top spec GT-T model is sailing dangerously close to some tasty competition, in particular the Toyota/Subaru GT86/BRZ. Look at the cheaper Sport spec models however and for just over £20k, you could have a desirable little coupe with some very impressive numbers – 56mpg and 116g/km CO2. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda CR-Z GT-T, Price – £24,045, Engine – 1.5l petrol + 15KW Electric Motor, Layout – Front engine,  FWD, Power – 137bhp, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 9.5s, Maximum Speed – 124mphEconomy – 54.3mpg combined, Emissions – 122g/km CO2

New Honda CR-V – First Drive

2013 Honda CRV front side

Honda’s New CR-V

Let there be no confusion at all here regarding the importance of this new CR-V to Honda. If you are under any illusion, just count how many of them you see on your next car journey, they really are everywhere. Since it’s launch in 1995, its accumulated sales of over 5 million, over 3 generations and, being a Honda, most of them are still on the road today.

Having won over 140 awards worldwide during it’s career, one could say that this 4th gen CR-V is under a certain amount of pressure to perform and, from the offset, it seems to handle it very capably. A reduction in CO2 emissions of 12% across the range is always a good place to start these days and, although it may not set the pulse racing, it’s this fact that will probably prove to be a huge attraction to many potential buyers. The fact that the CR-V continues to be assembled right here on home soil, as it has since 2000, can only add to it’s pulling power as it adds a sense of patriotism to the mix, albeit with a Japanese twist.

The CR-V is offered with the familiar 2.2 i-DTEC Diesel and 2.0 i-VTEC petrol engines from launch but by providing stop-start technology, engine optimisation and coupling them to a choice of five-speed auto or the excellent six speed manual ‘box, emissions have been cut to a potential 149g/km and 168g/km respectively.

Honda CR-V 3 gens

The CR-V through the ages

One feature that’s available for the first time on the CR-V is permanent 2wd which historically has proven to be very popular on ‘soft roaders’ in this country. It’s only available on the petrol engined variant from launch which is somewhat surprising but if the demand was sufficient for the 2wd to be mated to the torquey 2.2 Diesel, surely this model could come into fruition?

Visually, this 4th gen model is full of clean angles and lines. The most prominent of which is the line starting at the front three-bar grille, following the headlights, running smoothly with the belt-line and rising to a point at the D-pillar before joining the roof line. Losing the ‘lantern-jaw with moustache’ look of the 3rd gen CR-V has resulted in a far prettier face and overall, it’s a combination of ruggedness and charm that’s fresh and appealing.

2013 Honda CR-V interior

CR-V interior – well thought out and attractive

The story continues on the inside of the car with much work obviously undertaken to keep the CR-V feeling innovative and modern. Everything is thoughtfully laid out and within easy reach, with ‘less is more’ being the order of the day. Honda have kept the switch-gear to a minimum which cleverly sidesteps that sensation of being overwhelmed by buttons. One button that is hugely enticing is the ‘Eco’ mode – it not only activates the essential ‘stop-start’ facility, but illuminates two boomerang shaped lights around the centrally positioned speedometer. I had pondered initially whether these lights would prove too ‘nanny state’ and result in my rapidly deactivating ‘Eco’ mode but far from it. I actually found the lights quite attractive and the game of keeping revs low and green lights lit is surprisingly addictive.

Honda CR-V eco lights

It’s actually pretty easy, being green

The interior quality is usual Honda fare but one huge improvement is the grade of material used. If leather seats are your thing, there’s no, near-ruched, cow-hide present anymore, it’s high-grade all the way. Visibility is excellent as you’d expect from a car with such a large glasshouse, the D-pillar is quite wide but the oversized nature of the door mirrors seems to combat this issue.

Space in the rear of the CR-V is excellent and it passed the ‘six-footer behind six-footer’ challenge with flying colours – at no point did I feel cramped when I sat behind my own driver’s seat. The relatively low belt-line would mean any children travelling in the rear should have a great view of outside and thus hopefully avoid any feelings of travel-sickness. The story continues in the boot of the CR-V where it’s actually class leading with a 589 litre capacity, easily beating the likes of Toyota‘s Rav4 and Volvo’s XC60.

With prices starting at £21,395 for the 2wd i-VTEC S model and rising to £32,650 for the range topping i-DTEC EX auto, we tested three models in varying guises and specs to gain a true perspective of the CR-V.

Honda are confident that petrol engines remain relevant in SUVs, a fact compounded by their reluctance to offer 2wd as an option on their Diesel variant. If petrol is resolutely your fuel of choice, the free-revving 2.0 i-VTEC on offer here does very little wrong. It’s smooth, quiet and will potentially propel its occupants from 0-62mph in just ten seconds. One area where the petrol engine does suffer is an apparent lack of torque and I found myself having to work the manual gearbox quite vigorously to maintain momentum. This can of course be avoided by opting for an automatic ‘box on 4wd variants. Doing this however, will not only make the CR-V more sluggish, but the economy, emissions and driving experience as a whole suffer to a point where the petrol engine is increasingly difficult to justify

2013 Honda CR-V frontHaving driven both, the 2.2 Diesel engine would undoubtedly by my engine of choice. Although only available as 4wd, the emissions and economy are still impressive and with the latest generation of Honda Diesel engines proving to be nearly as quiet and responsive as their petrols, it all just makes sense. The absence of Diesel rattle both in and outside the CR-V is almost eery, this coupled to some useful low-down grunt means the CR-V suits the i-DTEC engine perfectly.

If changing gear oneself isn’t your preference and you usually require an auto, I’d still give the manual a chance to shine before making a final decision. The automatic can feel lazy and sluggish in comparison and somehow doesn’t do justice to the rest of the mechanical components. When the 2.2 Diesel engine offers such impressive levels of torque, changing gear to suit a situation sometimes just isn’t required and the car will pull on through regardless.

Honda have evidently put a lot of effort into the ride quality of the new CR-V in order to achieve a more car-like quality from an SUV. They’ve utilised McPherson struts on the front and on the rear it’s multi-link suspension. I tested the ride on a particularly challenging stretch of road that runs the length of Loch Long near Glasgow. It incorporates rapid changes in camber, direction and height – oh, and it was raining too. The CR-V felt surefooted at all times, inspiring confidence. No, it’s not going to get from point to point as rapidly as, say, an Impreza but then, no-one ever said it was.  To eliminate body roll as well as Honda have here whilst maintaining comfort is quite admirable.

2013 Honda CR-V

2013 Honda CR-V

When considering which spec to kit your CR-V out in, there are four levels to choose from – S, SE, SR and EX, with EX representing the top of the range. With features such as dual zone climate control and vehicle stability assist provided as standard across the range, there really isn’t a requirement to overspend here. As pleasant as heated, electric leather seats can be, I found the SE spec to be the perfect compromise of kit versus cost, especially when any higher spec incorporates upgrading from 17” to 18” wheels. Doesn’t sound like much, I know but I felt that that extra inch had a negative effect on an otherwise compliant ride.

Overall, I’d say that this 4th gen CR-V represents a huge step forward for Honda in terms of desirability that should continue the model’s enduring popularity. If you’re in the market for an SUV but find Toyota’s new Rav4 anonymous and the Freelander’s reputation for unreliability worrying, the CR-V ticks many, many boxes.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; 2.0l i-VTEC S, Layout – Front engine, fwd, Power – 155ps @ 6500rpm, Torque – 192Nm @ 4300rpm, Emissions – 168g/km CO2, Economy – 39.2mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 10.0s 0-62mph, Price – £21,395 OTR

2.0l i-VTEC EX, Transmission –  manual, Layout – Front Engine, 4wd, Power – 155ps @ 6500rpm, Torque – 192Nm @ 5300rpm, Emissions – 177g/km CO2, Economy – 37.2 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 10.2s 0-62mph, Price – £28,900 OTR

OUR CHOICE  2.2l i-DTEC SE, Transmission – manual, Layout – 4wd, Power – 150ps @ 4000rpm, Torque – 350Nm @ 2000rpm, Emissions – 149g/km CO2, Economy – 50.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 9.7s 0-62mph, Price – £26,105 OTR

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