The Honda CR-V has finally joined the big leagues – it now offers an onboard plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant, sharper styling and a larger overall footprint compared to its predecessor.
But how does it compare to its successful and already well-established German and French PHEV rivals?
Reasons to buy:
Competent plug-in hybrid system
Full of tech
Everything is placed where it should be, and the plush leather seats welcome you with open arms.
Directly in front of the driver is a perfectly sized chunky steering wheel that’s covered in controls that are straightforward to use, and aren't those fussy haptic ones found in certain new cars.
Included is a heating function button located at the bottom of the wheel to keep your hands toasty if you’re driving in the winter months, which pairs nicely with heated front seats.
Behind this is a large driver’s display that shows everything you could possibly want while driving including your speed, mpg, fuel, battery charge level, and mileage.
You can also change the displays inside the rev counter and speedometer to your liking to show how the PHEV system is working or check out which song you’re listening to.
Other tech inside the new CR-V includes a large 9.0-inch central infotainment screen running Honda’s easy-to-use latest CONNECT system.
Despite Honda spending thousands of pounds on this system to work well, we’d imagine most people will just connect their phone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which – in top-spec models – is wireless.
Once you’ve connected, you can charge your smartphone on the go using a wireless charging pad or USB-A and USB-C ports below the physical heating and A/C controls.
Below these are all the main touch points and controls to use the car which are very tactile and legible.
There’s a simple switch and button to select the drive mode including ‘B’ mode, which engages regenerative braking.
Everything is well-placed and easy to reach from your chosen driving position. The overall feel of the car is high quality, thanks to a range of soft-touch materials and incredibly comfortable seats.
There’s plenty of knee, head and foot space for up to three rear-seat passengers, which they can enjoy while underneath the large panoramic sunroof.
To match the generous seating space is a huge amount of interior storage options that make daily family life much easier.
You get two deep door bins, a small cubby next to the wireless charging pad, two large cupholders, and a very deep centre console with a wide armrest that’s big enough for travel snacks, phone cables and even small bottles.
If you need to do a long journey in the new CR-V then you won’t be short of space or comfort – which is where this near two-tonne SUV shines.
A feature that is very handy on all journeys is Honda’s Sensing 360 technology, which all models get.
This uses sonar, radar and cameras to build a 360-degree view of the world around the car to help its driver assistance systems such as lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance.
It also gets other safety features like whiplash-lessening headrests, unintended acceleration mitigation, a traffic jam assistant and road departure mitigation.
If you need to do a long journey in the new CR-V then you won’t be short of space or comfort
The new CR-V is the first plug-in hybrid Honda has ever made for the European market, and while we're surprised it’s taken so long, we’re excited it’s finally here – and it's impressive too.
There are two versions of the new car – one called the e:HEV (hybrid) and the other – the model we tested – called the e:PHEV (plug-in hybrid).
Both are powered by the same 178hp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with help from an electric motor setup.
The difference is that the e:HEV comes with four-wheel drive, while the e:PHEV has a much larger 17.7kWh battery and is front-wheel drive.
The standard hybrid model would be enough for most people, but if you live in a city or want to benefit from a larger battery then the e:PHEV is the one to go for.
It’s more expensive but means you can drive on electric power alone for 50 miles.
When both work together, you can see a 0-62mph time of 9.4 seconds, which isn’t fast by any means, but whether you’re joining the motorway or roundabout, you'll have plenty of low-end torque to make the manoeuvre thanks to its instant electric motors.
There’s a choice of five drive modes you can select: Sport, Normal, Econ, Snow and Tow.
Most people will leave it in Normal and occasionally switch to Econ to save battery, and we’d recommend doing exactly that.
If you do want to try out Sport mode then prepare for a fake exhaust note pumped through the cabin and minor performance gains, because this is, after all, a heavy SUV.
The second thing to consider after engine performance is comfort and ride quality, which concerns suspension and handling.
Being a large land yacht, the levels of comfort you get from this new car are superb. Not only do the seats play a major role in this, but the car’s suspension manages to iron out the bumps in the road while also being firm enough to avoid too much wobble.
Honda’s CR-V is by no means a performance car, and it would be ludicrous to think it’s inherited the sporty and precise handling nature of the Civic Type-R, for example, but it does a pretty good job.
It’s not going to be able to rival BMW’s offering when it comes to the relationship between its suspension and handling, but you do get a car that’s easy and smooth to drive.
The main selling point of this car is how smooth it is, not least because of its size.
Unlike the previous model, which had a questionable CVT automatic gearbox that was slower changing gear than your nan in her Honda Jazz, the 2023 model gets not one but two gearboxes that work in unison with one another.
This two-stage automatic gearbox is effectively a two-speed 'box with a high and low gear to ensure it doesn’t rev too high when accelerating – something the old car suffered with.
This, partnered with the electric motors, means you barely hear the engine when cruising around town or overtaking on the motorway.
Mind you, if you’re driving around town, you probably won’t hear the engine strike up at all thanks to its extensive 50-mile electric range, which helps it achieve a claimed 353mpg figure.
It's worth noting that you’d have to mostly be driving on electricity to achieve this.
You also benefit from a nifty feature that Honda’s fitted to the end of each stalk behind the steering wheel to help you navigate tight streets.
Click the left one and a camera shows your blind spot underneath the left side mirror, and the right one opens the camera system to get a better view around the car.
It’s a small thing, but it makes a world of difference around city streets or in car parks.
Aside from interior comfort, most people will want to buy a large SUV to benefit from its practicality, and the CR-V doesn’t disappoint.
We touched on the cabin practicality above, but it doesn’t stop there. The rear-seat space is particularly well-suited to families, offering plenty of space to lift in and out of child seats.
It's easy to get into too, which is perfect for children or elderly passengers. It’s a shame the new CR-V doesn’t have a seven-seat option like the old model, but there’s still plenty of space for up to five people.
But the real magic can be found at the rear, with its massive 635-litre boot, which is actually larger in the PHEV than the standard hybrid.
This is because the batteries sit under the rear seats as opposed to under the boot floor, giving the e-HEV 596 litres.
This makes the e:PHEV the better option for those needing extra boot space, with enough underfloor space for bulky charging cables and plenty of room on top for large suitcases or even a dog, as we proved in our video review.
However, none of the above matters if you’re frightened by the purchase price. The new CR-V starts at £45,895, with the plug-in hybrid Advanced Tech model we tested costing £54,000.
This is a lot of money, especially when compared to some of its rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan and Kia Sportage, but then again, you do get more for your money in the way of tech and space, which justifies the price somewhat.
There are, of course, car finance deals that help spread the cost, and if you’re really patient then waiting until this model reaches the used car market could land you huge savings for the initial purchase cost.
But once you’ve bought the car, there are a few other associated costs to consider, like with any car.
The first is charging, which is a relatively low cost because you’re only charging up a smaller battery instead of one in a full-blown electric car.
This means you can plug it in at a 7kW fast charger and get from 0-100% in just 2.5 hours, costing between £5 and £10 depending on your electricity rates.
Other standard costs include fuel and insurance. Fuelling this car up shouldn’t be too bad thanks to its 46.5-litre (57-litre in non-PHEV models) fuel tank aided by an electric motor.
It’s unclear which insurance group this brand-new model will sit in, but the previous generation sat between 22 and 25, and we’d expect this to be similar.
Every new Honda comes with a standard three-year/90,000-mile warranty, but even when this runs out and you buy a used model, you could opt for a service such as cinchCare to extend the protection on your vehicle.
This just helps with your peace of mind when buying a used car, even if it is a Honda with a strong history of reliable models.
Still looking for the one?
Use our comparison tool to find the car for you
Overall, the 2023 Honda CR-V is a fine large family SUV that does everything it says on the tin. It’s spacious, has copious amounts of storage space and is pleasant to drive.
The only thing that may get in the way is its rather hefty price tag, but once you’ve realised just how much you get for the money, it’s a pill easier to swallow – even if it is £10,000 more than the equivalent Kia.
We’d recommend getting the plug-in hybrid model if your budget allows it simply because you benefit from emission-free city driving (providing you remember to charge the battery).
This review was