Honda hits back with

CR-V Hybrid

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

DIESEL is taking a hammering right now.

Witness the recent news that Nissan had abandoned plans to build its new X-Trail in Sunderland, falling demand for what is currently an almost exclusively diesel-powered vehicle being as much the reason cited as concerns over Brexit.

In recent weeks there have been a number of car manufacturers abandoning diesel from certain vehicles in their line-ups, the new RAV4 from Toyota being one example. And here's another . . . the revamped Honda CR-V, which Honda proudly claims to be the best-selling SUV in the world.

Since the introduction of the first-generation model in 1995, the Honda CR-V has continuously improved throughout each generation.

But the most important change for this latest version is not to offer a diesel engine; the choice is now between a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol powerplant and, in a first for Honda, a hybrid version, which mates a 2.0-litre petrol engine to a lithium-ion battery-powered motor.

The 2019 CR-V has a fresh and sophisticated exterior design, with broader, muscular wheel arches, sharper contours on the bonnet and rear quarters, as well as the latest Honda family "face" with its signature headlight graphic.

There's a noticeable improvement in terms of interior quality - the car reeks of "premium" touches; the front seats, in particular, are massive and superbly comfortable; I like, too, the all-round soft-touch trim on doors and around the cockpit although the "faux" wood inserts look decidedly out of place.

A longer wheelbase and wider stance enables a bigger interior without any increase in the car's overall length. That means more space and storage, including a bigger load bay. Advanced features include single-action "dive down" rear seats and, on top-of-the-range models, a hands-free tailgate with motion sensors for easy opening.

The cabin is a pleasant place to spend some time; it's quiet and an all-new suspension system delivers a comfortable drive.

There are four trim levels: S, SE, SR and EX, with entry-levels cars delivering climate control, DAB radio with Bluetooth, dusk-sensing automatic lights, electrically-controlled and heated doors mirrors, 18-inch alloys and a five-inch touchscreen.

Moving up to SE brings dual-zone climate control, rear view camera and front and rear parking sensors, a Honda Connect system with Garmain sat nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, retractable door mirrors, halogen fog lights, auto wipers, leather steering wheel and a bigger touchscreen.

SR has heated front seats, leather interior, active cornering headlights, privacy glass and a font windscreen de-icing system.

Finally EX adds heated rear seats, an opening panoramic glass roof, heads-up display and that hands-free powered tailgate.

Perhaps the biggest news, however, is that the Honda "Sensing" safety system is standard on all models, offering a suite of safety technologies including a collision mitigation system, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and a lane-keeping assist, which helps keep the car in the middle of the current lane by detecting road markings and making small adjustments to steer the vehicle within the white lines.

There's also the extremely useful adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and something called intelligent adaptive cruise control, which predicts and automatically reacts to other vehicles "cutting-in" on multi-lane highways.

It uses a camera and radar to sense the position of other vehicles on the road and applies an algorithm to predict the likelihood of vehicles in neighbouring lanes "cutting-in" and enables the CR-V to adjust its speed automatically.

Clever stuff indeed!

Although petrol versions of the CR-V can be specified with seven seats, hybrid versions come only with five seats, but there's the choice of two or four-wheel drive.

The transmission is what's described as a "fixed gear" automatic which is claimed to offer a smoother acceleration that a conventional CVT gearbox. Interestingly, the drive selector uses a system of switches marked "D" for drive, "P" for park and "N" for neutral, rather than a conventional lever, while reverse calls for you to pull up one of the switches.

I have to say it takes some getting used, but combined with the electronic brake (and "hold" switch), it worked seamlessly on our drives. A bespoke ‘Sport' mode, which can be activated via the drive selector, enables a more responsive throttle input for the hybrid system and if there is sufficient charge in the battery, a short-range pure EV mode is also available at the touch of a button, providing a zero-emissions range of around 1.2 miles depending on the driving conditions and battery charge.

The rest of the time the petrol engines and electric motors work in tandem to offer oomph when needed, together with decent economy (53.3mpg on two-wheel drive cars; 51.4 on all-wheel drive).

This was an impressive first drive of a vehicle that will continue to battle it out at the top of the sales charts with rivals such as the Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Tiguan and Ford Kuga.

The Honda CR-V Hybrid is priced from £29,105 to £37,255. Petrol-only versions are available from £25,955.

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