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2023 Honda CR-V First Drive (2023 - )

The Honda CR-V is the Japanese marque’s best-selling model – and now the new one is here with a makeover that promises to take it to the next level.

Starting price:
from £45,895 (self-charging hybrid) | from £53,995 (plug-in

Why we love it:
  • Colossal boot and spacious, comfortable cabin
  • Economical, especially the plug-in hybrid
  • Very well-equipped, even at entry-level
Where it could be better:
  • Expensive compared with some rivals
  • Only a five-seater despite its size
  • Bog-standard three-year warranty
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Introduction

Honda CR-V

First impressions are positive, with completely transformed looks that make it even more tempting for would-be customers.

Two powertrains (2.0-litre four-cylinder hybrids) and three trims are offered, with the all-wheel drive self-charging hybrid, e:HEV, available in Elegance and Advance trims.

The top-of-the-range trim, Advance Tech, is only front-wheel drive and only available as a plug-in hybrid, called e:PHEV.

Both produce 184PS, although the e:PHEV offers a tow-driving mode, which means it can pull up to 1,500kg.

There is no seven-seater option offered, though, which is disappointing considering it feels massive inside and is 80mm longer than the previous CR-V.

It is unusual to find an all-wheel drive car in which the plug-in hybrid version downgrades to front-wheel drive. If anything, usually it’s the other way round, but then Honda has never marketed the CR-V as a purist’s 4x4.

If you go the self-charging route, even at entry-level, you'll get 18-inch alloy wheels and a nine-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Honda Connect. A digital radio, satellite navigation and a 10.2-inch digital instrument cluster are also included.

Moreover, a panoramic glass roof, automatic boot opening, leather seats, heated leather steering wheel, keyless entry/start and wireless phone charger are all standard.

Advance trim adds a head-up display, heated front seats, powered memory driver’s seat, a Bose premium audio system and a multi-view camera.

If you opt for the plug-in, the Advance Tech trim gets black wheels (still 18-inches), MyHonda+, which enables remote control of various smartphone app functions, and Honda Parking Pilot, which will autonomously seek out a space and park the vehicle for you.

Honda CR-V

The CR-V’s front now features an Audi-esque hexagonal grille and thinned-out LED lights, with a horizontal light bar at the top and sculpted bodywork lower down, giving it a far more menacing appearance.

The car is much less rounded than the old model, with the front and rear now more squared-off than before.

At the sides, the windows have chrome borders, while the rear features a triple pattern of LED lights on each side.

Inside, the styling is lovely, with shades of black, grey and brushed aluminium brightening things up, giving it a sleek, modern and sophisticated feel.

While it’s not on BMW’s level, the fresh CR-V narrows the gap considerably.

Tech-wise, Honda has always sought to impress, so the CR-V comes packed with gadgets, many of which are accessed through the infotainment system. Its menus are clear and reasonably easy to navigate.

The screen, which pops up from the top of the dashboard's centre, comes with crisp graphics and looks appealing, although there’s no controller to make things more convenient while driving.

There are shortcut buttons to control some of its functions, while physical air conditioning controls are retained beneath the screen.

The digital instrument cluster is equally clear and informative, but some foes offer more options and designs regarding what kind of information is displayed.

Being an automatic (actually, a CVT transmission, so it has only one gear), there’s nothing as last-century as a gear lever, with gear-selector buttons replacing it.

Behind that, there’s a space for the wireless phone charger.

Overall, the interior screams quality, which will undoubtedly generate widespread appeal.

On The Road

Honda CR-V

Handling & Performance

Despite the e:HEV being all-wheel drive and the e:PHEV being front-wheel drive, there's surprisingly little to choose between in terms of performance or handling.

Both have 184PS. Both have 0-62mph times of 9.4 seconds, although the acceleration feels quite fierce, so it seems a tad pacier in practice, especially in the e: PHEV.

It gets its power down reasonably well, making light work of overtaking on a motorway. At the same time, the suspension does a fine job of balancing the delicate contrast between soft-and-springy and agile handling.

No large-ish SUV will behave like a sports car, but the CR-V isn't bad, although push too hard into a bend, and you'll get plenty of understeer and quite a bit of body roll.

Take things steady, and it's not bad at all, but I wouldn't call it fun to drive. However, when you consider the ride is very comfortable and cushions you impressively well against potholes and ridges, Honda has the balance spot on.

The e:HEV will appeal to those who need all-wheel drive, while the e:PHEV will attract  those who need a company car and want to save money thanks to the generous tax discounts for eco-friendliness.

A problem only arises if you need both.

Honda CR-V

Space & Practicality

The inside of the CR-V is very spacious, so it’s easy to get comfortable even if you’re very tall. And even if you’re not, you’ll still feel like you’re sitting relatively high up.

The Advance and Advance Tech trims get powered seat adjustment, saving your driving position for easy recall later.

Given the longer length compared with the former CR-V, most of the benefit is felt in the rear, which will accommodate three adults.

579 litres of boot space is on offer in the e:HEV, while Honda has gone against the norm by offering more (617 litres), rather than less, in the e:PHEV.

The rear seats fold down in a 60:40 configuration rather than the more versatile 40:20:40, but if you need any more space, I'd advise looking at a van instead.

The rear seats slide and recline, which can increase and decrease the available boot space, headroom and legroom.

Ownership

Honda CR-V

Running Costs

Honda claims the CR-V e:HEV will manage 42mpg, producing 151g/km of CO2, while the e: PHEV returns a massive 353mpg, reducing CO2 emissions to just 18g/km.

The latter is the one to go for if you want a company car, as its low emissions will attract a far more reasonable Benefit In Kind tax rate.

If you opt for the plug-in, you'll get a 17.7kwh battery, which will provide up to 50 miles of engineless driving.

However, a charging speed limited to 6.8kW means it'll take two-and-a-half hours to charge from 0-100% with a home wall box, yet it'll be no quicker if you plug it into an ultra-fast charger at a motorway service station, for example.

Best grab another overpriced coffee, then!

The consolation is that if you do so on a freezing winter’s night, you can use the MyHonda+ app to remotely turn on the heated seats and steering wheel, ensuring the cabin is toasty again before you get back in.

As a brand, Honda is well regarded for reliability, but still only offers a three-year warranty, limited to 90,000 miles.

Honda CR-V

Safety & Security

Euro NCAP safety rating

2023 yet to be tested.

Despite no rating for this spanking-new CR-V, Honda is renowned for safety, and its previous record is excellent. The 2023 model features Honda Sensing 360, which monitors blind spots and cross traffic from all angles. It also features lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, parking sensors and a rear-view camera.

Verdict

Honda CR-V

Overall, the 2023 Honda CR-V is a highly impressive car with lots to offer – including a large and attractive cabin with plenty of cargo space.

You will struggle to need much more practicality, plus it’s very well equipped as standard, offering lots of impressive technology to keep you safe and suitably entertained.

The Honda is frugal, too, especially in plug-in hybrid form. And although it's not particularly exciting to drive, the new CR-V offers impressive ride comfort without ruining the handling.

True - it is on the expensive side, although most of its rivals can’t match it for equipment levels.

And, although it's still got a way to go to match the German premium brands, 2023’s CR-V bridges the gap between the outgoing model and the likes of the BMW X3.

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By Tim Barnes-Clay
Sep 19, 2023

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