Episode 53 : So Easy - Special Edition - Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX Manual Review

THe wonderfully capable Honda CR-V

THe wonderfully capable Honda CR-V

The SUV sector is the biggest growing niche for manufacturers. Everyone is coming out with their own version. We at the Motoring Podcast wanted to know what the fuss is all about and why are they so popular. We choose one of the biggest sellers, the Honda CR-V, to find out more.
This is the second car to be loaned to the podcast, for which we would like to thank Honda for their kindness.
To be clear the car was given a comprehensive testing by the Cracked Windscreen horde. It performed typical family duties as well as trip away to Suffolk. A wet, very wet Suffolk as it turned out.

THE Car

The car in question is a CR-V 1.6 iDTEC EX. So it’s a diesel, with a manual gearbox and top of the range.
The OTR price is £33,060, with the actual model I drove coming in at £35,110 due to the Polished Metallic Paint, which is Honda-speak for metallic grey (£550 option) and the Honda SENSING pack (£1500 option) - more on that later.
That translates to £299/month, with solid paint, not the metallic Andrew had but includes a £3000 Honda contribution.

Honda was one of the originators of the SUV niche, when it introduced the first-generation CR-V soft-roader to Europe in 1997 (they were called soft-roaders back then - a bit of history for all the kids out there!)
As every car maker either has an SUV or is developing one for their range Honda cannot rest on any laurels. To continue being one of the main choices it has to make a compelling case for itself.

The Looks

As this is an SUV there’s going to be a certain amount of ‘boxiness’ to the shape, unless the designers go down the daft coupé / 4x4 blend, which Honda thankfully haven’t.
That’s not to say it’s a brick on wheels. The front end has lots of angles and lines all leading from the car and merging with the front grill and bumper, from a variety of heights. This ensures it’s distinctive, but with the chrome trims on the one Andrew had it was a tad fussy for his liking.

Honda has managed to lessen the impression of boxiness towards the rear by tapering the top window line, into the rear quarter lights. This doesn’t involve the roofline doing so, therefore the cabin is not compromised.
The tailgate is angled back into the car - again helping with the impression of a sloped roof. But don’t worry, this is only above the line of the luggage cover so, again, internal space is not compromised.

Clever design towards the rear helps hide the shape

Clever design towards the rear helps hide the shape

As with the Civic, tested earlier in the year, the LED day-time running lights are a thin strip surrounding the headlights. Andrew likes this as he feels larger LEDs, as found on some cars that emphasise the individual bulbs, looks cheap. 

As you would hope from an SUV the visibility is very good thanks to the large windscreen and decently sized passenger windows.
For the driver, the windscreen was kept clear by the excellently sized wipers. Impressively, they clear nearly the entire area, without the need for clever mechanisms. 

Andrew was particularly impressed with the wing mirror design. No style over substance here. Form follows function with the nice big, square mirrors allowing for excellent visibility. They can be electronically folded too, so there’s no fear of them being dinged after parking up.  

The rear is quite conventional, with access to the boot via a top-hinged door. This creates a large, square opening, with a fairly low lip meaning it’s quite easy to load up.

Passenger doors are decently sized and open nearly to 90 degrees, allowing for easy access by children and for adults to buckle them up.
It’s a small detail, but such an important one when you have small kids. Shows thought has gone into how will the car be used and by whom.

The sculpted lines on the rest of the car are all subtly handled and neatly executed. The results are a car that is not overly endowed with slashes and swoops but neither is it a slab of metal. Andrew thought Honda’s Polished Metal Metallic suited the car well. I also think the Twilight Blue Metallic and Passion Red Pearl are also good choices, having seen them on the road.

Overall there is little to object to with the CR-V’s looks, it’s not exciting but there are nice touches, such as how well they’ve hidden the size of the car in profile.

The Inside

Having experienced Honda cars before Andrew's expectations were already set for build quality. The CR-V was in a similar vein.  
As he has children, Andrew started with the rear passenger area. Any parents out there will know how this area is as important as where you sit in the front, sometimes more so!

After getting in the back via the wide opening doors you are met with a rear bench that comfortably seats three, in our case including a car seat, booster seat andstill plenty of space for the third child.
The floor is flat, which means all the seats can be accessed even if they get in the other door. Also, this means the middle seat can be used comfortably by an adult without the need to straddle a transmission tunnel.
There is a decent amount of storage in the back, with pockets on the front seats and door bins.
Another feature we found useful were the vents at the end of the front arm rest/cubby hole, allowing the rear passengers control where the air con should be directed.   

Wide doors and flat floor make access a breeze for everyone

Wide doors and flat floor make access a breeze for everyone

The car Andrew drove had kick plates with an anti-slip finish to the doorways, helping to protect the paintwork and ensuring there is firm footing when accessing the rear. Especially useful when footwear is wet and people are rushing to get out of the rain!
Again, it’s a small touch, but another example of a little thought making a difference to usability of the car. As we know Andrew particularly likes it when small details are thought through.

Privacy glass was fitted to the rear windows and rear windscreen. Even though the windows are quite large the ‘shoulder’ line is a bit high for smaller rear passengers. Combining these together could be a recipe for feeling a bit claustrophobic. However, this was not the case as our car had a panoramic roof!
As you would expect, and know if you’ve driven with one before, this allows light to flood the cabin. Makes the whole interior feel light, airy and even more spacious. If you travel decent distances with passengers who may feel queasy this is a great feature.
Oh, also children love the whole ‘sliding-roof-lining-reveals-the-sky’ event! The sounds of awe and wonder when they first experienced this were priceless.

The test car had the ability to open and shut the boot lid electronically, either via the key fob, buttons in the cabin or on the bottom of the boot door.
Andrew really enjoyed this feature. One because he is such a child, but two, when hauling the family's luggage and pressing the button would allow access without having to put bags down. Sounds lazy, but means you aren’t then transferring muck into the car.
There are sensors in the boot lid which means the door won’t shut if it notices an obstruction. Plus the shutting speed, for the final closing, is slow, there isn’t a risk of people getting hands trapped or the like. You have the ability to override the sensor and ‘slam’ the boot lid shut, if it’s just a bag sticking out, though.

The floor area of the boot is flat, as you would expect. And vast By vast, we mean as a family of five, we took what seemed like a mountain of luggage, yet the cover over went all the luggage! That’s what 589 litres of capacity will do for you!
There are simple little touches in this area too. Metal loops in the corners, which will allow for a luggage net to be fitted. A small net pocket behind one of the rear wheel arches for small items. A velcro loop to hold items upright. A 12v power socket.
Honda again demonstrated their attention to detail with two small, plastic hooks behind each rear wheel arch. This is for small amounts of shopping, such a couple of carrier bags. AND it was positioned at just the right height that the bag stood upright with the handles fully stretched out, yet the bottom of the bag rests on floor.
Andrew concedes that he may sound a little obsessed with these tiny details, but how often do you nip out to the shop to get a couple of things? If those hooks weren’t there your shopping would be all over the place. An example of not making your life more difficult than it needs to be.
Another bonus to this car is that there is a proper spare wheel, stored below the boot floor, which on a car such as this, is a good thing.

Lack of optional nerf gun-rack a missed opportunity for Honda

Lack of optional nerf gun-rack a missed opportunity for Honda

As with the rear, the doors open nice and wide to the front, enabling easy access into the leather, heated and on the driver’s side, electrically adjusted seats. With the bonus of having memory functions in case you share the driving.
Andrew was surprised that the passenger’s seat wasn’t electronically controllable, though.
He also found the side bolsters particularly cosseting in combination with the lumbar support. There were no complaints of aches or feeling tired after driving - and Andrew is a father of three so physically he's a broken man!

As you would expect in a car this size space is good. Visibility out the front and sides is excellent.
The rear screen is a smallish, which is fine on the move when you combine it with the large wing mirrors. The reversing camera and parking sensors allow you to tackle spaces you may not wish to try without. Makes using the car so much easier. This is the sort of tech I approve of.
Materials in the cabin were a mix of soft touch and harder plastics, metal trim and leather. All in all it’s a perfectly inoffensive, comfortable place to sit.

THE CONTROLS

With a reassuringly expensive sounding ‘thunk’ when shutting the door you turn your attention to the controls.
The 3-spoke steering wheel felt lovely in hand, and had buttons to interact with the infotainment system, make calls if your phone is connected, change settings to various displays as well as cruise control and lane departure safety activation.
Behind that is the conventional looking binnacle. In the centre is a large speedometer. Right in the centre of that is a digital display, one of three in the cabin, that can show you average mpg, instant mpg, cruise control settings and so on. To the left of the speedo is the rev counter, to the right are the fuel and engine temp gauges.

The gearstick is just to the left of the steering wheel, raised up, so it sits between the transmission tunnel and the bottom of the dashboard, therefore it’s easy to reach.
Above that is the climate control. SWITCHES! Honda uses switches! Other manufacturers take note. Please. No daft touch screen only here!
Climate control is split between passenger and driver. Which is handy when, say, the driver likes it about 20 degrees cooler than his front passenger! Who knew Honda were working on continued marital harmony and not just things with engines?

Spacious, comfortable and easy to use interior and controls

Spacious, comfortable and easy to use interior and controls

Above the climate control, erm, controls, is the touch screen.
Now, if you remember the Civic review (and of course you do) you’ll know I wasn’t a fan of the touch screen and software.
However, this one was a revelation! No lag, it was responsive and everything worked as expected.
Sat nav was great, especially combined with traffic updates and automatic suggested route alternatives.
Connectivity was excellent and worked, again, as you would expect. Clarity of the speakers was tested, as we sat on the M6 in a traffic jam with AC/DC, Guns n Roses and MIA, blasting out!
Behind the screen there is even a CD player, you remember those, don’t you! But, Andrew is glad they haven’t abandoned this tech as not everyone can or wants to connect their phone to a car.

Above the touch screen is another display. This time revealing similar information as the one in the middle of the speedometer.
Below the centre console and gearstick there are two/three cupholders. Place to leave you phone. The hand break and a, frankly, massive cubby box.
The box has the connectivity/charging points for USB, HDMI and 12v cables. All your needs should be met in there!
The driver’s door houses the electric window’s controls, including switching off passenger window operation privileges. I was a bit surprised that this included the front passenger as well as the rear.
Also, the electric mirrors are controlled from here, including the electronic folding feature, as long as you remember to do it before switching off the ignition.

THE DRIVE

What’s it like to drive, you ask? Well, it’s “nice”. It’s not exciting, but not many people buying an SUV are after exciting. Everything was just easy to do.
The steering is light, if a little bit numb, but not vague or wayward.
Using the pedals and changing gear is easy, Honda haven’t felt the need to make doing so an event.

The car was surprisingly quiet on the move. Andrew expected that there would be more wind and tyre noise.
Having driven Honda’s 1.6 IDTEC engine before he already knew what to expect and was impressed with it. Once it’s above 1500 rpm it really pulls you along.
The official combined mpg is 55.4 for the manual and 55.3 for the automatic, in EX 4wd trim. This results in CO2 of 133 and 139 g/km respectively. That makes it VED Band E.
Fully laden, with the family and all the luggage that entails (you do remember the Horde took a lot of stuff don't you?) we averaged out at an indicated 43.4mpg.


There is an Eco setting which does your typical eco driving things, such as encourage a smoother style (with the warning lights), encouraging you to change up sooner than you’d think (with gear indicators on the dash) etc.
But just because it’s in eco mode, it doesn’t penalise you if you need to put your foot down, to, say, get around something. This is a modern eco system it doesn't inhibit response.

The ride was a decent mix of firm and comfortable. You can feel the worst of the road, but not so it’s an issue. You and your passengers travel in comfort.
Proper tyres will have helped with this. No silly low profile jobbies here!
Andrew was pleasantly surprised by the level of body control in the corners too. It is an SUV so there will be some wallowing but he was expecting more.

THE TECHNOLOGY

Technology is being used more and more by manufacturers, as well as being demanded of by legislation. Well, this CR-V was packed with it thanks to the £1500 optional extra Honda SENSING, mentioned earlier.
In that you get Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot info, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist and Intelligent-Adaptive Cruise Control!

We’re talking about tech that was the preserve of exec barges not so long ago, now it’s in a family car.
Andrew can attest to all of it working too, apart from the braking system as he didn’t get into a situation where it would kick in and we're all quite happy about that!
The Lane Keeping Assistance deserves a separate mention. Through rear facing sensors the car will keep itself in a motorway lane. Being thorough, Andrew tested it out, when it was safe to do so and without his family aboard, and it’s amazing. The car steered itself around bends on the motorway. It’s witchcraft!
With all that tech it made driving so much less stressful. The warning indicators and occasional noises were informative but they weren't too obtrusive. Which is a fine balance that Honda have managed.
Andrew drove 1100 odd miles, in just over a week and he didn’t feel tired. He didn’t feel stressed. AND that’s with driving his kids.

THE CONCLUSION

Having spent time with the car The Motoring Podcast can see why SUVs, and CR-Vs in particular, are so popular.
The raised sitting position, giving you a more commanding view of the road is attractive.
The feeling of extra safety, which is now backed up by the technology, is compelling.  
The ease at which it took Andrew's family around is tempting. For many people getting from A to B is the objective. They’re not after engaging dynamic driving.
For helping to get around in as safe and stress free way as is possible, with some excellent little touches that make life easier then the CR-V makes a strong case for itself.
Let’s put it this way, Mrs Cracked Windscreen didn't want to give it back. And some may say there is no higher praise than that!

Cracked Windscreen Horde sad to see the back of the CR-V

Cracked Windscreen Horde sad to see the back of the CR-V