The changes are obvious from the first corner
Honda adds a small diesel engine to the CR-V to increase its appeal to the European market.
Overall rating: 3/5 stars
Honda drops four-wheel drive and adds a smaller diesel engine for big mpg figures and tax-friendly CO2 in the CR-V, but with mixed results.
In the Metal: 3 / 5 stars
Nothing outwardly signals that this is Honda's lesser of its now two diesel offerings, the 1.6 i-DTEC retaining the bold looks of its bigger-engined siblings. Standing out in the compact SUV class, the CR-V is a stylish machine, the prominent grille up front a particularly assertive feature.
The CR-V is a stylish machine, the prominent grille up front [is] a particularly assertive feature.
Inside, it's all a bit more conventional, the dashboard and cabin layout being neat and functional, if somewhat forgettable. Some of the materials do feel a touch insubstantial, the door trims shaking when you close them for instance, though otherwise the fit and finish is as you'd expect from Honda. Space is excellent, all seats offering plenty of room (though the front seats are a touch short on under-thigh support) while the boot is vast.
Driving it: 3 / 5 stars
With the CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC it's all about the numbers. The new 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine returns 62.8mpg on the official combined economy cycle, while emitting just 119g/km of CO2. That's been achieved by developing an engine that's got internal frictional losses comparable to a petrol unit, is some 47kg lighter than its 2.2-litre relation and the binning of the CR-V's four-wheel drive system for a front-wheel drive set up.
The weight losses combined equate to around 116kg, Honda using this to the 1.6 i-DTEC's advantage by recalibrating the suspension for a sharper, more assured drive. The rear suspension has been stiffened laterally and via a thicker anti-roll bar, while the front suspension features softer springs but stiffer dampers. That benefits traction, but also turn-in and high-speed stability, and the changes are obvious from the first corner.
The steering is nicely weighted and accurate; and there's even a decent amount of feel at the wheel's rim. The ride is slightly less able to soak up smaller ripples and bumps, but the overall increase in stability and control are worth the small penalty in low-speed comfort. That makes the CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC immediately more appealing to drive, though it also highlights the shortcomings of the new engine's character.
Space is excellent, all seats offering plenty of room ... while the boot is vast.
Honda's diesels feel different to those of its European and Japanese rivals. More petrol-like in its delivery, the 1.6 i-DTEC lacks the sizeable mid-range punch offered by its contemporaries, its mid-range feeling flat in comparison. That means you're kept busy with the six-speed manual gearbox, though even searching for revs does little to increase the pace. More revs only add greater volume, the 1.6-litre unit rather noisy when pushed. It's not an unpleasant noise admittedly, but its presence is obvious, more so as it's not backed up with any significant swell in performance.
Take it a bit easier and the 1.6 is able enough, and more likely to get close to the claimed economy figures, but load it up - as many will - and it's only going to feel slower.
What you get for your Money: 3 / 5 stars
Honda has yet to confirm pricing, but the CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC will be offered in S, SE and SR trims - largely aping the spec of its other engine lines - with prices anticipated to start at £22,000 to £23,000.
The Japanese firm might claim that it didn't bother benchmarking its new 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine against any rivals as it would have aimed too low if it had, but it should have taken a look at Mazda's offering. The CX-5 can be had with the same 119g/km CO2 output, much the same economy, but with a two-second quicker 0-62mph time and easier performance thanks to 150hp and 80Nm more torque on tap.
That makes the CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC immediately more appealing to drive
Looked at on numbers alone the Honda CR-V makes an impressive case for itself, especially if you've an eye on your company car tax bill. Spacious and sharper to drive than before, it's a shame the engine doesn't have the punch to exploit its new-found agility. It's also difficult to ignore that Mazda, which comes in at the same price, offers so much more performance.