In Hybrid form, Honda's fifth generation CR-V mid-sized SUV aims to reach a wider audience than the previous generation model's diesel engines ever did. This petrol/electric powerplant is quieter and greener - and it shares all the improvements of more conventional MK5 CR-V variants. Honda hopes that as a result, you'll find this a hard car not to like.
The Hybrid version of this Honda arguably represents a more complete CR-V package than its conventional 1.5-litre petrol stablemate, if you can afford the significant price premium necessary for it. Thanks to a combination of electrification and a larger-capacity 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol engine which together produce 315Nm of torque, progress in this model is more relaxed. Something further aided by the fact that the non-negotiable auto gearbox you have to have with hybrids in this case ditches a CVT 'rubber band' transmission for a proper fixed-gear set-up that allows a direct connection between the moving parts. For the time being, Honda hasn't used its 'i-MMD' Hybrid tech to deliver a Plug-in package to CR-V Hybrid buyers, but it's a pretty sophisticated set-up nonetheless, the combustion powerplant aided by two electric motors, one for propulsion and another for generating electricity that gets stored in a lithium-ion battery.
Depending on road conditions and the way you want to drive, the powertrain switches between three modes - 'Hybrid', 'EV' and 'Engine'. Only in the least efficient 'Engine' drive mode is the petrol motor connected directly to the wheels - which is the setting you'd be in if you were to replicate this variant's claimed rest to 62mph sprint time of around 9s or the top speed of 112mph. For far more of the time though, you'll be using electric assistance to a lesser or greater extent. In 'Hybrid' drive, the engine's there to supply power to the generator, which in turn provides it to the propulsion motor. Finally, in its 'EV' setting, this Honda will be fully electric, though your operational range under milk float mobility when the battery is fully charged will be only 1.2-miles. You can also use paddles provided behind the steering wheel to maximise engine braking energy regeneration, so charging up the battery faster and increasing the amount of time the system can switch away from petrol power.
When it comes to automotive design, the more people you have to please, the less distinctive the end result is likely to be. This, apparently, is 'the world's favourite SUV', so a lot of people are going to have an opinion on how this fifth generation version looks. Most should be satisfied. There's plenty of chrome to please the Transatlantic crowd, while wider arches and larger wheels pushed closer to the car's extremities help in delivering a little more kerbside presence. Overall though, there's nothing too controversial here. Perhaps that's as it should be. This car's visual appeal has always been low key and you sense that's exactly the way loyal customers like it.
Inside, many of the fixtures and fittings are borrowed from the brand's tenth generation Civic - including the instrument binnacle you view through the three-spoke wheel. It's one of those combination digital and analogue affairs, with stylised analogue temperature and fuel gauges flanking a central TFT-LCD screen. The back seat's pretty spacious. But you can't have the 7-seat options that's available to buyers of more conventional 1.5-litre petrol CR0-V models. And the 561-litre boot capacity you'd get in those models falls to 497-litres in this petrol/electric version (and 1,694-litres with the rear bench folded).
This is as sensible as family segment lifestyle-orientated SUV motoring gets. A car for people who look at what a vehicle can do for them rather than what it says about them. End use you see, has been the over-riding design parameter here, not cutting edge styling, clever gadgetry, irrelevant pin-sharp handling or pointlessly powerful engines. As a result, a CR-V Hybrid is an extremely easy thing to live with, the kind of car you'll own, then wonder how you managed without. That may not be a recipe for media headlines but it's an approach that other brands could certainly learn from, explaining why so many CR-Vs are bought by folk who previously owned one.
In summary, we can see why so many global customers will accept nothing less than Honda's interpretation of what an SUV of this kind should be. And what's on offer with this petrol/electric version is a model that could conceivably interest many more of them. Ultimately, it remains distinctively different, distinctively... CR-V. Which ultimately, might very well be all you need.Click here to find out more about our Honda CR-V Hybrid range