New Honda CR-V and Civic Type R ‘Hot Hatch’

by Huw Thomas, chairman, Welsh Motoring Writers

“An all-new version of the world’s best-selling SUV” is how Honda heralded the fifth-generation CR-V. Launched in the USA at the end of 2016 it came to Europe (and Japan itself) this year and has only just arrived here.

Engine choice, until next year’s hybrid, is limited to a 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder petrol unit with 6-speed manual transmission or CVT autobox at £2,300 extra. The CVT mimics a normal auto when in ‘manual’ override mode for stepped up/down ‘gear changes’.

American models have a 2.4-litre petrol unit and the Hybrid will be a 2.0-litre with two electric motors switching automatically between electric only, combined (hybrid) or straight petrol propulsion mated again to a CVT transmission.

Power from the 1.5T (turbocharged) VTEC engine is 173ps (6- speed man) or 193ps (CVT). Regrettably there will be no Diesel although the well-regarded 1.6 i-DTEC 120ps motor is offered on the latest (2017) Civic 5-door hatch with a 6-speed manual or 9- speed conventional (torque converter) auto-box.

A manual CR-V Diesel would have worked well but Honda’s “i- MMD” hybrid system is petrol engine based. There is no demand for Diesel from the Americas or Asia-Pacific region and those are the places driving the sales figures.

‘S’ grade comes in front-wheel drive 6-speed manual form but 4WD (4×4) is optional on the ‘SE’. Both SR’ and ‘EX’ are 4WD whether manual or auto. Although front and rear parking assist sensors are for ‘SE’ and above, all have forward collision warning /brake assist, handling/vehicle and trailer stability aids, lane deviation alert, etc.

Over the years this compact SUV has grown larger and although the new model is no longer overall than its immediate predecessor the wheelbase has been extended for more cabin space and the (£1,700) option of a 7-seat (5+2) layout.

The aim clearly has been to build a refined, comfortable touring

car. The CVT in “relaxed mode” is OK but does not respond well to ‘press-on’ driving. Honda’s manual gearboxes are smooth, slick, generally well-matched and the obvious choice here.

First impressions: The CR-V is no sports car but the ride/roadholding trade-off is quite well judged – stable cornering and nicely weighted steering (although might be more communicative). It has Honda’s ‘engineering polish’ and usual solid feel to it.

Quick Facts: £36,455; 130mph (man) or 124 (CVT); 0-62mph 9.3 to 10 secs; 39.8 to 44.8 mpg (official); CO2 143 to 162g/km; Ins Grp 24E-25E; Max Braked Trailer 1.5t.

Competition: Huge choice but Skoda Kodiaq and (imminent) SEAT Taracco offer Diesel 4×4 economy, similar 5+2 spaciousness and keen asking prices.

Honda Civic Type R £31,525; Type R GT £33,525

Launched last year hot on the heels of the latest roomier Civic hatch this 5th series Type R stays front wheel drive despite a turbo-charged 320ps from its 2.0 VTEC engine: 169mph; 0-62 in 5.8secs. In this it shares the company of Renault’s Megane RS and SEAT Leon Cupra S but contrasts with VW’s Golf R, Ford Focus RS and Audi RS3 which are all 4×4. Again a lot of work has gone into the chassis dynamics especially the ‘bespoke’ front suspension set-up and steering.

Rear suspension is now multi-link independent. Although not “stripped out”, the basic car does lack the GT’s SatNav, dual-zone AirCon, Front & Rear park-sensors and some traffic alert aids. Both offer ‘Comfort’, ‘Sport’ and ‘+R’ drive modes however and prices are very keen for this seriously quick but eminently usable car.

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