The 2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid SUV… A hybrid SUV doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. The combination of two power units working as one is automotive weight gain in an era where the maxims of efficiency, lightweight and low emissions is placed above all else. A Diesel SUV makes sense, it’s more economical (but those damn diesel toxins). Is the human race is being forced… no, coerced into buying hybrid SUVs because somewhere over the rainbow there are unicorns running windfarms? A diesel SUV is the only SUV you should consider buying because it offers the best real-world economy right?
The Honda CR-V was first launched in 1995, the fifth-generation launched in the UK in 2018. And it is new, from the ground up new. New chassis, higher grade steel new. Clever construction means it’s actually lighter than the previous generation. Generation 5 2019 Honda CR-V is actually based on Honda’s all-new global platform, initially developed for the Civic.
The fifth-generation CR-V exterior design uses the process of evolution to distill a smart, slightly gym-toned look. It’s also longer and wider and can also be configured with third-row seats. Overall the exterior design looks like a confident and bold step forward.
The 2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid is available either as a petrol-only model or as a Hybrid. Honda has killed off the diesel engine and you can blame Volkswagen’s cheating and lying for that. But let’s not go over well-trodden ground.
The Hybrid CR-V is available in 4 model trim levels S, SE, SR and EX. I had the top-of-the-range EX so it came fully loaded with all manner of equipment and toys and driver assists technologies. Dependent on spec or personal selection the CR-V is offered in 2WD and 4WD models with manual and automatic.
The interior is roomy and comfortable up front, nice driver’s position with plenty of adjustment for small, big, tall individuals. In top-spec EX trim everything is covered in terms of equipment levels. Leather interior, heads up display, 7-inch infotainment system as opposed to 5-inch on entry-level models. You also get Lane/Driver assist, blind-spot warning assist, USB ports even an HDMI port but curiously no wireless phone charger.
The infotainment system is adequately usable but feels a bit clunky to operate and hasn’t really changed since the last generation CR-V. And it could do with a graphical and user interface update and a faster CPU. It can be a bit slow to pick up a Bluetooth connection. Certainly, patience is preferable when using the system.
The interior dash area is fairly simple and uncluttered, quick access buttons for the heating which can also be controlled via the infotainment screen. For the Hybrid model, the gear lever has been abandoned in favour of buttons.
Rear seated passengers are equally accommodated. Third-row seats are either an optional extra or standard dependent on model trim. Boot space is huge with the seats up and massive with the seats folded down flat.
The Honda interior is well built and uses a mix of soft-touch materials mainly for the upper section of the front cabin and hard plastics for the lower sections. The faux stitching on the dash adds to the perception of luxury.
The CR-V interior isn’t as solidly built as say the VW Tiguan, however, the differences in build quality are marginal these days. And we do have a Tiguan long-termer and I can say the CR-V has significantly better-perceived quality. That is to say the Honda CR-V feels like a better quality vehicle compared to the Tiguan.
The Hybrid CR-V on test is powered by a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder engine and two electric motors. One electric motor provides propulsion, the other is purely a generator motor. The petrol engine also acts as a generator to recharge the batteries, usually during a motorway cruise. Regenerative braking provides additional kinetic energy. All of these technologies combine to feed a constant supply of electric power.
The Hybrid’s 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor combine to produce 184bhp and 315Nm of torque which is all accessed by a CVT gearbox. Power is delivered at the top end while the electric motor effectively acts as an assist to momentarily provide a boost from a standstill. I have never been a big fan of CVTs, they only tend to work best in V8’s for some reason. And when a CVT Transmission is called upon to muster overtake acceleration the engine emits a monosyllabic drone. CVT’s provide a different sensation under acceleration. Often acceleration feels airy as if you are floating forward, its characteristic of CVTs in general.
I am sure you know by now how a Hybrid vehicle works. Magic happens between the petrol engine and electric motor. And that combined magic translates to around 1.5 – maybe 2.0 miles – of pure electric travel… that’s it. The computer will mostly decide when to deploy electric power.
Of course, you have three drive modes. Electric Drive, Hybrid Drive and Engine Drive. Confusingly the mode buttons on the dash read EV Mode, Economy and Sport. It’s best to leave it in Hybrid Drive and let the computer do the work for you.
Any Hybrid vehicle works best within an urban setting. For example when you are driving in a town or city environment and lift off the accelerator and regenerative braking effectively acts as a brake. So you don’t need to brake as often or as normally as you would in a non-hybrid. This is partly how you build up a reserve of electric power.
If you lift and coast the computer will decide when to engage full-electric power until you apply the throttle, then depending on how much electric power is in reserve the engine will take over. You will never notice the switch from electric drive to the petrol engine because it is so seamless.
Sometimes the electric motor will take over the drive, the highest speed I got from purely electric drive was around 50mph. But this is driving within the confines of an urban, town environment. And the terrain was relatively flat. I couldn’t really decide if either of the drive modes were less or more economical than the other.
But the Hybrid CR-V did prove to be economical. I thought it would eat fuel like a caterpillar eats foliage. But to my surprise, it actually turned out to be as efficient as a diesel SUV.
Let’s take a 10-mile round trip, bit of dual carriageway, urban street, town center, and back home again. The CR-V Hybrid was returning 50mpg. But the real surprise came when I was driving on the motorway (Freeway) A 100 mile round trip to Birmingham Airport returned 65mpg. That’s better than a fully-loaded diesel VW Tiguan 4×4, DSG.
I initially thought the 65mpg reading was false. Admittedly I ignored the trip computer reading believing it to be wrong. But then I noticed I was averaging 50-55mpg on short journeys and medium journeys and realised the readings were too consistent to be wrong.
Driving the CR-V isn’t the first world in handling dynamics. An SUV with the handling characteristics of a sports car really isn’t that important except maybe to motoring journalists. Yes, the CR-V pitches and leans into corners, but it isn’t excessively disagreeable.
While the steering is progressive and gives a reassuring feel the CR-V isn’t going to dart into corners “like it’s on rails”. But the 2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid is comfortable over a long journey, sure-footed and with 4×4 it offers plenty of grip. And I am totally OK with that.
I initially believed the Hybrid SUV to be conceptually wrong, it isn’t as economical as a diesel SUV of the same class. However it’s my thinking that is conceptually wrong, the 2019 Honda CR-V Hybrid isn’t wrong conceptually or in reality. Diesel SUV? What’s a diesel SUV?