Like most Japanese marques, Honda are relative newcomers to diesel engines. The domestic market wasn’t big on diesel, their most important export market – the USA – definitely wasn’t keen on diesel (except for commercials). Only Europe really demanded it.
So, being late-comers to the diesel party, it’s perhaps it is not surprising that the Honda C-RV 2.2i DTEC EX is the first diesel Honda that I have ever driven.
Not that you would really know it is a diesel. The engine is so subdued and refined that, unless you are standing beside it at tickover, you soon forget it is a compression-ignition engine.
Unfortunately, some other things about the CR-V are not so quiet. Open the door and, every time, your ears are assailed by a discordant, simultaneous beep and chime. This irritating cacophony is like ‘crying wolf’ – when you actually do need to heed a warning you will not take notice.
Where the Honda C-RV appeals strongly is in terms of practicality. It offers comfortable accommodation for four, occasionally five, passengers, along with good load-carrying ability. Like most Hondas it also feels pretty bullet-proof in build quality, you get the impression it will go on for ever.
With the current really harsh winter weather in the UK, the CR-V has another strong and very practical appeal. Like most 4x4s, it will keep you going when other cars are grinding to a halt in a flurry of snow and spinning wheels.
Not that the Honda CR-V is a full-blown off-roader. It has no low-ratio gearboxes, diff-locks or hill-descent controls, so something like the Land Rover Freelander could probably drive circles round it off-road, perhaps even quite literally. That said, the CR-V waded, very capably, through quite tall heather on the tracks of my off-road course.
If this road test stopped there, many of the CR-V’s potential buyers would already be convinced enough to make a bee-line to their Honda dealership.
Put it this way, the Honda CR-V is like a pair of sensible walking shoes. Comfortable, capable and practical, with quality that should ensure they will last for many years. Its road manners, too, come in the sensible bracket. You can just sit behind the wheel as the CR-V eats up the miles with ease and reasonable refinement, apart from slightly intrusive road noise at motorway speeds.
But, like a pair of sensible shoes, while many will rate them as ideal, a few will wish for something that has more presence and offers the driver a bit more excitement.
I’m not smitten with the CR-V’s rather self-conscious front-end styling and some potential buyers will be put off by its lack of sporty dynamics. This is not a vehicle where you are going to search out favourite driving roads to enjoy. But, equally, with its sensible handling, a twisty road should hold no fears.
The performance from the 2.2-litre diesel is reasonable, rather than sparkling. Acceleration from 0-62 mph is quoted at 9.6 seconds. Fuel consumption, as you would expect from a diesel, is good. The combined consumption figure is 43.5 mpg and carbon dioxide emissions are 171 g/km, putting this CR-V in band H for UK road tax. The price ticket is a competitive £28,280.
If you want a good, practical 4x4 that is comfortable, refined and capable – if possibly a little bit unexciting – then the CR-V may well suit you. If you want something more stylish, or with a more macho off-road image, you will probably go elsewhere.
But, I suspect Honda will be quite happy with their market position. Just look how many CR-Vs you see on the road. That says a lot.