Honda goes hybrid

with new CR-V

Honda CR-V Hybrid, 2019, front, action
Honda CR-V Hybrid, 2019, front
Honda CR-V Hybrid, 2019, side
Honda CR-V Hybrid, 2019, rear
Honda CR-V Hybrid, 2019, interior
Honda CR-V Hybrid, 2019, rear, static
Honda CR-V Hybrid, 2019, rear, action
Honda CR-V Hybrid, 2019, boot

IN a first for a Honda SUV in Europe, the new CR-V is now available with a hybrid powertrain for those with more environmentally-friendly motoring in mind.

And Honda is expecting an awful lot of people to think that way, especially with the government-sponsored death of diesel across the UK and Europe.

The CR-V - the world's biggest-selling SUV let's not forget - no longer comes with a diesel powerplant in its latest incarnation. Instead, it's offered with 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines, and now in hybrid form.

Honda expects sales to be split 50:50 between hybrid and petrol in the UK.

Priced from £25,995 on-the-road - the same price as the entry-level petrol model - it comes in S, SE, SR and EX trims.

All are well equipped though and the hybrid is available in front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) depending on the version. As with the gasoline version, Honda still expect the top-of-the-range AWD EX to be the most popular, quite a claim when you consider it's priced from £37,305.

So, let's talk hybrid. The system uses Honda's unique intelligent Multi Mode Drive technology (i-MMD), which combines a 143bhp 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol engine and a 181bhp electric motor with torque of 315Nm.

The petrol-electric powertrain can shift the SUV from 0 to 62mph in 8.8 seconds in FWD guise, and 9.2 seconds for the AWD model. Top speed is 112mph.

The FWD CR-V Hybrid officially returns CO2 emissions of 120g/km and 53.3mpg. The AWD officially returns 126g/km and 51.4mpg. On an 80-odd mile jaunt around Sussex, involving some liberal use of the right boot, I and a colleague in the EX managed a very respectable 44.9mpg.

The software brain behind the i-MMD technology intelligently and seamlessly switches between three driving modes - EV, Hybrid and Engine - to provide the best possible efficiency.

In EV Drive, a lithium-ion battery housed under the boot supplies power to the electric motor directly. It also allows a zero-emission pure-electric range of around 1.2 miles. In Hybrid Drive, the engine supplies power to an electric generator motor, which in turn supplies it to the electric propulsion motor. Around town, the CR-V Hybrid shuffles between the two for optimum efficiency.

Engine Drive, the best for major road cruising, does exactly what it says on the tin.

Drive, Park and Neutral are chosen by buttons on the centre console, Reverse is a pull-up button. There's also a Sport mode giving a more responsive throttle input.

Now, rather than using a conventional transmission, a single fixed-gear ratio creates a direct connection between moving components. The aim is to create a smooth transfer of torque, which it certainly does.

However, like the CVT auto transmissions normally used by Honda, it is unpleasantly noisy when moderately heavy acceleration. With a £37K price tag for the EX, is that something prospective buyers will be prepared to live with?

The Hybrid also comes with paddleshifts behind the steering wheel - not for changing gear but for adjusting the car's rate of deceleration and, in turn, the amount of power regenerated through braking. Clever.

The Hybrid shares its petrol-powered sibling's new exterior design. Its slightly larger exterior proportions, 30mm longer wheelbase and wider stance means there's plenty of room for four adults and the driver to travel in comfort.

Interiors materials are soft and tactile though the wood-effect trim, applied to the door cards and lower section of the dashboard, looks intrusively naff.

The screen layout now features just one central easy-to-use touchscreen in addition to the seven-inch Driver Information Interface (DII) visible through the steering wheel.

The control knob layout has also been simplified, including a simple cluster for air-conditioning beneath the touchscreen. Scrolling and selecting the information to display in the DII is performed via thumbpad controls on the steering wheel.

Class-leading in size at 497 litres, the boot of the new CR-V is wider and deeper with a longer load bay. A new two-position boot floor enables a flat surface for loading larger items, while new single-action 60:40 split-fold second-row seat backs enable faster, easier loading.

There's also plenty of storage space in the cabin itself. The centre console is large enough for a laptop or handbag and the speakers in the door panel have been moved further up to create extra-large capacity door pockets.

As well as six airbags, the ‘Honda Sensing' suite of active safety technologies is also standard across the range. It includes a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, a lane keeping assist system, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition.

The CR-V Hybrid ticks plenty of boxes - it's efficient, ‘green', comfortable, safe, spacious and relatively refined. It's also a little dull. A soft, comfortable ride has been prioritised over handling so while it's an excellent motorway cruiser, it lacks dynamism on more winding country roads where there's plenty of grip but also a fair bit of body roll.

A tortoise rather than a hare then, but we all know who came out on top in that contest.

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