Honda tackles

Dieselgate with CR-V

Hybrid

Honda CR-V Hybrid head on
Honda CR-V Hybrid front action
Honda CR-V Hybrid rear action
Honda CR-V Hybrid cockpit
Honda CR-V Hybrid boot
Honda CR-V Hybrid badge

HONDA stepped into the SUV ring early - back in 1997 - with the CR-V and it became an immediate hit, especially in Britain.

And the version that captured most sales recently was the diesel as buyers were lured by good economy allied to gutsy mid-range performance. But in the wake of Dieselgate, sales of oil burners have plummeted and when the new CR-V was launched last summer Honda axed diesel power.

Now the Japanese giant which can lay claim to being the world's biggest engine maker has launched a hybrid model which mixes electric and petrol power in an effort to blend frugality with green credentials.

Honda is no stranger to hybrid propulsion. They made the first ever model , a saloon called the Insight 20 years ago Around the same time Toyota launched the Prius. But, whereas rivals Toyota plugged away with the formula, Honda diversified and lost some of their commitment.

Nevertheless to date no fewer than 2.4million Honda hybrids have rolled off the production lines.

The CR-V Hybrid is priced from £29,105 for the entry level two-wheel-drive up to £37,255 for the top spec 4WD model, making it right on the button with more conventionally engine opposition.

The new body is both roomier and prettier than the last version with a stretched wheelbase which benefits both legroom for passengers and luggage space. The boot which has an almost flat floor is vast with a carrying capacity of 497litres before rear seats are folded.

No seven-seat option in the Hybrid however, because batteries beneath the floor take up the space for the third row of seats to fold into.

Fake wood inserts apart, the cabin is smart, serviceable and high quality with a central seven-inch touchscreen and solid, well positioned switchgear, loads of storageplaces to swallow up odds and ends and wide door pockets. There's an overall impression of space and usefulness which helps make the CR-V exceptionally easy to live with.

Lots of tech has gone into the engineering of the new power unit. But a typical owner who has no interest in what's under the bonnet - or under the floor in this case - need not be bothered by this stuff. He or she can rest assured it's easy to drive and very undemanding.

For the record, the powertrain consists of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a Hybrid Multi-mode drive. Peak power is 145ps plus an 184ps electric motor. This translates into a top speed of 112mph with acceleration to 62mph in just under nine seconds. The 4wd model is a few tenths slower.

On the economy front, the average for the 2WD is 53.3mpg and 51.4mpg for the all wheel drive. While it's not quite as frugal as a comparative diesel , it is up to 20pc better than a petrol non-hybrid.

I've driven the latest petrol CR-V at length and found it quiet and reasonably refined, but the Hybrid takes this quality a step further. Its single gear transmission and part electric power combine to make it one of the most hushed drives around - only a howling 40mph gale that swept the Midlands last week managed to disturb the peace a little.

The only fly in the ointment is that there are no ‘steps' in the one-gear transmission so you get a distant but fairly continuous drone rather than a flow and ebb of a conventional system. It's not as irritating as the continuously variable transmission used in the normal CR-V or the RAV4, but it takes a bit to adjust to.

Ride is firmish but quite compliant and the platform feels reassuringly solid, allowing decent cornering speeds with less body roll than most high riders.

Plenty of boxes ticked then for this important step by Honda to replace diesel power. Few mid-market SUVs are as easy to drive and live with as the Hybrid CR-V and its inoffensive looks are likely to add to its wide appeal.

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