Honda CR-V 2.0i 4WD Hybrid EX

Specifications: Honda CR-V 2.0i 4WD Hybrid EX

  • Run by: David Ross since May 2023
  • Price when new: £41,045 (£41,720 including options)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre petrol hybrid
  • Power: 145PS (+184PS electric motor)
  • Torque: 175Nm (+310Nm electric motor)
  • Claimed economy: 39.2mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 163g/km
  • 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds

Report 1: We welcome our new arrival - the Honda CR-V Hybrid

After saying goodbye to the Audi Q4 e-tron, we're saying hello to another family SUV, but this time a hybrid. So why have we chosen a Honda CR-V?

Date: 11 May 2023 | Current mileage: 6441 miles | Claimed economy: 39.2mpg | Actual economy: 38.6mpg

After saying goodbye to our all our electric Audi Q4 e-tron, which served us admirably for a few months, it's time for a slight change as we switch to a Honda CR-V Hybrid for summer. 

Sales of self charging hybrids (like our Honda CR-V) are on the up and last year increased by more than 25% while plug-in hybrid sales actually dropped by 11%. No surprise then that while Honda offered a petrol CR-V when the model was first launched in 2018, it soon dropped it and switched to a hybrid-only offering.

And as this generation of Honda CR-V comes to the end of its life, to be replaced by an all-new model later in 2023, it's a good chance for us to see whether the Honda CR-V is still a good choice as a family car.

One thing that move to hybrid-only did mean was the loss of the seven-seat option in the Honda CR-V. Unfortunately the room needed for the hybrid batteries means there was no space to accomodate the extra seats in the boot.

For many buyers, that was a real shame, with seven seats being a big factor for many families, our own included. It's why we have an Audi Q7 as our own family car.

As we've discovered in many cars, trying to squeeze a 9, 8 and nearly 2 year old in the back of most cars (plus all their stuff) is a squeeze. It's fine for a 20 minute trip to the grandparents but not for a family holiday to France...

On the plus side, the Honda CR-V does have lots of room in the back, even with the front seats adjusted as far back as they'll go. At 6ft2 that's pretty much my default driving position for most cars.

Choosing a Honda CR-V is a refreshingly simple affair. As there's just one engine, the only thing to decide is whether to pay extra for 4WD (as we did). There are only two trim levels - SR and EX.

The EX costs £4300 more than the SR but does add plenty of extras including a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a panoramic glass roof, electric tailgate and a head-up display plus electric driver's seat and wireless charging.

With the Cosmic Blue Metallic paint at £675, our EX car comes to £41,720 on the road. About what you'd pay for a high-spec Ford Kuga PHEV or a similar Kia Sportage mild hybrid.

Over the next few months we'll be finding out whether the Honda CR-V is still a match for its SUV rivals.

Report 2: How does the Honda CR-V compare to its predecessor?

10 years ago David ran a Honda CR-V, so how has Honda's family SUV changed over that time?

Date: 1 June 2023 | Current mileage: 6712 | Claimed economy: 39.2mpg | Actual economy: 38.8mpg

It certainly doesn't feel it, but it's been 10 years since I ran a Honda CR-V, one of my favourite long termers. It was a white 2.2 i-DTEC manual EX - back then the only other choice was a 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol. I remember it being practical and comfortable - it was also quick thanks to that great 2.2-litre diesel engine.

So how does the latest incarnation of the Honda CR-V compare? Well the first thing is that there's no longer a diesel available. The CR-V is now hybrid only, with the standard petrol and diesel versions dropped from the range a few years ago.

The hybrid is smooth enough but it's certainly not as quick nor as enjoyable to drive as the 2.2 i-DTEC manual I ran. That's not helped by the CVT gearbox which does everything it can to put you off accelerating with any purpose. Indeed, put your foot down and you're met with constant engine noise. It's fine when you're up to motorway speeds, but on B-roads, the CR-V is often frustrating to drive.

One thing that hasn't changed is how frustrating Honda's touchscreen infotainment system is. It's improved somewhat since I last pointed out how poor it was but it's still not very user-friendly.

Luckily there's Apple CarPlay fitted so I can bypass the system, but it's amazing that Honda still can't seem to develop a better infotainment system. Compared to the competition, it's well of the pace.

The quality of the interior remains though. The previous Honda CR-V always felt a well finished car and it's the same with this one. It's a shame the design is a bit pedestrian, Honda seems to have lost the interior design flair it had with the 2006 Honda Civic.

That car stood out from the competition and the interior was different from anything else on the market. Sadly, the Honda CR-V feels pretty much like any other family SUV on the market.

The likes of the Hyundai Tucson and DS 7 do a better job of creating a more modern and slick cabin. It may only be five years old, but this generation is already showing its age.

Perhaps the biggest change between the two, however, is price. 10 years ago the Honda CR-V EX 2.2 i-DTEC we ran cost £30,995. Today, our equivalent Honda CR-V EX Hybrid costs £41,045. That's an increase of more than 30% - in line with the Office for National Statistics composite price index. A pound today only buys 68% of what it could buy back then.

Report 3: Long distance fuel economy from the Honda CR-V

A long motorway run gives us the chance to check out the Honda's long distance fuel economy over several hundred miles.

Date: 19 June 2023 | Current mileage: 7012 | Claimed economy: 39.2mpg | Actual economy: 38.6mpg

Since we've had the Honda CR-V, our driving has mainly been school runs and days out with the kids. But a recent weekend trip to Gloucestershire gave us the chance to cover a few hundred motor miles for the first time. 

Rather than tackle the M25, if we're heading west from our home on Bedfordshire we usually go up the M1 and cut across past Coventry and onto the M5. It's a longer route but usually quicker. Indeed, it was a surprisingly quiet and stress free drive there on a Saturday morning. 

While these kind of distances would traditionally be diesel car territory, the move away from diesel by the vast majority of manufacturers means hybrid and petrol economy is now under the spotlight.

To be fair, the general thinking is that motorways are not the ideal environment for hybrids. The petrol engine is doing the majority of the work and you don't get the benefit of the electric motor as you do at low speeds and around town.

This goes some way to explaining the official WLTP fuel economy figure of 39.2mpg for the Honda CR-V Hybrid, although our experience with Honda is that their official figures are very close to what you'll actually see. Unlike the bad old days of the NEDC economy tests.

Over our 300 miles round trip, which did include 10 minutes if stationary traffic on the M1 on our return, the Honda CR-V Hybrid averaged 38.6mpg, which is very close to the claimed figures.

That may not seem that impressive a figure compared to the old diesel 2.2 i-DTEC Honda CR-V that claimed close to 50mpg, but when we ran that car in 2013, we only ever saw 39mpg at best.

Indeed, now we're back to the usual school run and local driving, the long term average economy has increased once again to 38.8mpg. So are hybrids suited to motorways? The figures would suggest the Honda CR-V is actually spot on for long distances.

Report 4: Out with the old in with the new Honda CR-V

Honda has revealed the next generation Honda CR-V which will go on sale at the end of 2023. So what improvements will we see over the current model?

Date: 10 July 2023 | Current mileage: 7355 | Claimed economy: 39.2mpg | Actual economy: 38.4mpg

For the past few years Honda's line-up has been pretty small. Since the disappearance of models like the Accord and CR-Z, Honda has focussed on models like the Honda Jazz and the Civic while 2020 did see all electric Honda e introduced.

However, that's now changing with the launch of the new Honda ZR-V and the unveiling of the Honda e:Ny1, Honda's second electric car. So among all that, news of a new Honda CR-V has gone somewhat under the radar.

Yet given this is Honda's second most popular seller in the UK (after the Jazz), the launch of a new Honda CR-V is big news. So what improvements will we see over the current model, which having been around since 2018, is starting to show its age?

Well the big change is the addition of a plug-in hybrid model alongsde the regular hybrid. The CR-V e:PHEV uses the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder non-turbo petrol engine but with an impressive electric-only range of 51 miles. Meanwhile, the new Honda CR-V e:HEV hybrid carries on as before, albeit with an ever so slightly bigger battery, to improve the EV-only range.

But the big difference is size. With the arrival of the Honda ZR-V, Honda has been able to make the CR-V bigger, more in line with the likes of the Mazda CX-60 and popular Skoda Kodiaq.

Sadly that does also mean an increase in price. Predictions are that it will cost from £40,000 (with the plug-in hybrid another £5000), whereas the current model starts at £33,000. 

It does bring a completely new interior though which looks sleeker and more modern, echoing the Honda Civic. The infotainment is the latest Honda system, which is much clearer and easier to use than the setup on our CR-V. Thank goodness.

Elsewhere, there's more rear passenger room thanks to a longer wheelbase and a much larger boot too. The new Honda CR-V e:HEV gets a 587-litre boot, while the e:PHEV actually has a bigger 617 litre capacity. The plug-in’s boot is larger as the bigger battery is mounted beneath the floor, rather than within the boot itself.

I'm looking forward to driving it when it arrives later this year. Question is, will it be better than my current favourite big SUV, the Skoda Kodiaq?

Report 5: Is the CR-V Hybrid hampered by its CVT gearbox?

Like all Honda hybrids, the CR-V is fitted with a CVT gearbox, but is this still the best choice for a hybrid car?

Date: 24 July 2023 | Current mileage: 7702 | Claimed economy: 39.2mpg | Actual economy: 38.6mpg

Like all cars, there are good and not so good things about the Honda CR-V. These are often the smaller kind of annoyances that only become apparent in the long term, rather than from a brief test drive. It's why our extended tests of cars are so useful and help us identify the same issues that owners may find.

And so after a few months with our Honda CR-V I'm starting to find out what works well and what's a little more frustrating. And the main thing is still the CVT gearbox. 

Now I understand why CVT gearboxes are fitted to hybrids and why they are more economical than a traditional gearbox or even a dual clutch, but there's just no getting away from the unpleasant driving experience you get in a CVT.

It's not too bad in smaller cars, I remember early Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight, both fitted with CVTs that droned away under hard acceleration but were fine around town.

But as a big family SUV that spends most of its time on A-roads and negotiating roundabout on the school run, the CR-V with its CVT gearbox can be very frustrating to drive.

The problem is the constant engine noise that's created as the CVT holds the revs when you accelerate. You're not even accelerating quickly and yet it's loud enough for the kids to complain. It's certainly not pleasant.

Having driven a DS 7 E-Tense recently (admittedly a plug-in hybrid rather than a standard hybrid) I have to say it's a lot more enjoyable thanks to its EAT8 gearbox - a standard torque convertor. Not only does it feel far more brisk under acceleration, but it's quieter too, making it feel more refined.

But there is a solution. Sport mode. Push the magic sport button and it transforms the Honda CR-V completely. Yes that constant engine drone is still present, but the CR-V now actually has the go to match the noise. It's far quicker to accelerate and feels like a different car. It's a shame it doesn't feel like this in the standard, more economical, setting.

On the plus side, the CVT gearbox does encourage you to drive gently. Mainly to avoid that awful noise. So I've been far more gentle with my right foot since the CR-V arrived with one eye on fuel economy, which at 38mpg is not bad at all for an SUV that spends most of its time on local roads rather than the motorway.

Report 6: We say goodbye to the trusty Honda CR-V

After a quick three months, we're saying goodbye to the Honda CR-V Hybrid which has proven to be a comfortable and trusty family SUV.

Date: 9 August 2023 | Current mileage: 8138 | Claimed economy: 39.2mpg | Actual economy: 38.7mpg

It has already been three months since our Honda CR-V Hybrid arrived and now it's time to say goodbye. Switching from an electric SUV in the shape of the Audi Q4 e-tron to a hybrid may seem like a retro step but the fact is, hybrid cars still account for a much bigger part of the car market than EVs do.

Part of that is down to cost of course, plus the fact that there are far more hybrid models to choose from compared to electric cars. But for many new buyers in 2023, a hybrid just makes a lot of sense. Those that would probably previously have chosen a diesel are switching to hybrids or PHEVs as manufacturers increasingly drop diesel engines from their model ranges.

No surprise then that as this generation of the Honda CR-V comes to the end of its life, its replacement will continue with the hybrid engine, alongside a new PHEV model. There will be no diesel of course.

There may be a new bigger and more advanced Honda CR-V, but there's still plenty to recommend the outgoing model. For us over the past few months it has proved a comfortable and easy to drive family mover. We've had no issues or problems while it's also proved reasonably economical with a claimed average of 38.7mpg, not far off the claimed figure.

It's not perfect by any means, the CVT gearbox is our biggest bugbear, but drive the Honda CR-V Hybrid gently and that's somewhat less of an issue, although joining a dual carriageway from a short slip road will have you grimacing at the din.

The interior is well built but is also starting to feel a little dated now, while the infotainment system is pretty awful in all honesty. There are also oddities like the smartphone charging tray which is so shallow, your phone will fly off when you come to a corner. Ironic then that you need a cable to connect to Apple CarPlay anyway, making it redundant.

But there are plenty of pluses. The seats are very comfortable, there's load of space and we didn't get any complaints from the kids about room. Any car that manages that is a success in our eyes. It also rides very well, which isn't always a given with hybrids.

So as we say goodbye we will miss the honesty and comfort of the Honda CR-V. The next generation model, due later in 2023, has big boots to fill...