Honda takes green

road with CR-V

Hybrid

Honda CR-V Hybrid front
Honda CR-V Hybrid front action
Honda CR-V Hybrid head on
Honda CR-V Hybrid rear threequarters
Honda CR-V Hybrid rear action
Honda CR-V Hybrid boot
Honda CR-V Hybrid badge
Honda CR-V Hybrid cockpit
Honda CR-V Hybrid fascia
Honda CR-V Hybrid digital display

TO hybrid or not to hybrid? That's the question facing an increasing number of drivers as pressure grows to go down a greener road when choosing a new car.

Hybrids have been around for some time now and their numbers are growing. The latest on the scene comes from Honda in the shape of the new CR-V Hybrid.

The latest - and much improved - CR-V now gives you the choice of pure petrol power in the shape of a 1.5 litre, 170bhp turbocharged engine or greener hybrid propulsion, with a two litre 143bhp petrol engine combined with two electric motors - one for power and one to regenerate the battery.

Hybrid models come with exactly the same trim levels and the choice of two or all-wheel-drive. But the latest technology costs, and there's a substantial premium to pay for the new, greener, hybrid versions of the CR-V.

So can you actually save money by investing extra hard-earned in a hybrid? I put both petrol and Hybrid versions of the new CR-V through a real-world, mixed driving test in an attempt to find out.

You'll pay £31,015 for the two wheel drive Hybrid SE model, compared with £27,855 for the petrol only manual version with the same trim - a premium of £3,160.

Over a 40 mile route taking in motorway, A-roads, rural lanes and town and village centres the Hybrid returned 51.7mpg compared with 41.5mpg for the petrol-engined CR-V, itself pretty impressive.

So what kind of a saving will that give you over 12,000 miles a year? According to my calculations you'll need to buy 290 gallons a year, costing £1,580.50 at today's price of around £1.20 a litre (£5.45 a gallon), for the petrol-powered model. Using the same calculation the Hybrid will burn 232 gallons over 12 months at a cost of £1,264.40 - a saving of just over £316 over 12 months.

The comparison is, perhaps, slightly skewed by the fact that the 2WD petrol model is only available with a six speed manual box while the Hybrid comes with CVT auto but, even so, at around £300 a year, it's going to take a long time to get any pay-back on the initial price difference.

But, if going greener is more a matter of conscience than cash, the new CR-V Hybrid is an impressive piece of kit.

Honda has developed a system called Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive. It offers three different modes which cleverly switch automatically between fully electric, hybrid - combining power from the electric motor and the two litre petrol engine - and, lastly, engine drive which uses petrol power only.

Electric drive will happily take you through town centres for just over a mile on battery power only and it's so quiet in action that there's an acoustic warning system to alert pedestrians should they stray into your path.

Out on the open road the system will shuttle seamlessly between hybrid and engine power, but at motorway speeds you'll mainly be using petrol power. That also applies if you need rapid mid-range acceleration - and the CR-V Hybrid has that in spades - although putting the pedal to the metal results in a significant increase in noise levels from the engine and CVT transmission system.

Visually there's no difference between the Hybrid and petrol versions of the CR-V other than discreet Hybrid badges on the wings and tailgate. Inside, however, the Hybrid has a remodelled fascia, with centre-console mounted selector switches for electric, economy and sport modes and for the auto transmission - there's no shift stick, just switches for Drive, Reverse, Neutral and Park.

The Hybrid also gets its own bespoke digital instrument cluster which features a graphic of the current power flow, indicating the vehicle's power source at any given moment, a battery charge status indicator and even an ‘ECO Guide' to suggest more efficient driving techniques.

It's all clever stuff, but for the rest the Hybrid shares all the plus-points of the latest generation CR-V. For that read an extremely spacious and beautifully-trimmed up-market interior, a host of clever comfort, convenience and safety features, excellent handling and a pliant and comfortable ride.

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