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Test drive: Honda CR-V 1.5T VTEC Turbo

It’s been a good couple of decades since the motoring world saw the launch of the first generation Honda CR-V, which became a standard-bearer for modern, urban SUVs, changing people’s perceptions of this class of vehicles.

With its Civic-derived platform enabling it to handle in a far more car-like fashion than contemporary 4x4s, and characteristic high vantage point engendering a feeling of safety and security – attractive particularly to drivers with families – the CR-V thrived in the face of the competition it inspired and went on to become the world’s best-selling compact SUV.

The 2019 Honda CR-V remains one of the more popular compact crossover SUVs, while facing robust competition from worthy rivals by Hyundai and compatriot manufacturers Subaru and Toyota.

And that’s the intro out of the way. Because for a long weekend in late August I would be experiencing first hand why this vehicle has attained this status, and why it shows no sign of losing it.

2018 CR-V 1.5 i-VTEC Turbo

To properly stretch its legs and test its practicality under different conditions, I and my companion would be driving the CR-V on a 250-mile round trip from Cambridgeshire to Brecon Beacons National Park in mid-Wales, for their largest annual music festival ‘Green Man’ for a long weekend.

While that route would take in long stretches of motorway tarmac through central England, including the M5, M40 and M50, we would eventually be arriving in and traversing some of the most remote and rugged upland terrain in Britain, including four distinct ranges of hills and mountains cut through by river valleys and glacial lakes.

But first things first, upon belated receipt of the curvaceous new vehicle outside my house from the apologetic delivery driver (it would turn out to be the wettest day of the month, causing long traffic delays for both of us) the first thing I had to take stock of after climbing into the driver’s seat was the sheer bamboozling array of buttons, switches and electronic display options, which almost reminded me of a flight simulator I used to go on as a teenager – certainly brought out that sense of tech wonder that I’d not experienced for a long time.

2018 CR-V 1.5 i-VTEC Turbo

Just perusing all the other features and options at my disposal took me a fair while before getting going: from the panoramic roof to the multi-speaker bluetooth stereo system with subwoofers – there would be more manifesting themselves later on in the journey, a voyage of discovery in every sense.

The proof is always in the pudding though, and the most important aspect, the driving, was thankfully as simple and effective as one could wish for. Once the start button is pushed and you’re off and away, it’s a smooth delight with the automatic gearbox enacting indiscernible gear shifts, combined with pleasingly weighted steering and oodles of power from the 1.5 VTEC turbocharged engine (acceleration from 0-62mph takes 9.3 seconds).

It’s not long before the benefits of Honda Sensing come into play – one of the more comprehensive suites of active safety and driver-assistive technologies in its class, combining radar and camera information to assist you at all times. These include blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and collision-mitigation braking with pedestrian detection.

Visibility is fantastic at all times, owing to the lofty vantage point and automatic wipers on what was a very wet day, making the motorway stretches a lot more comfortable than usual.

2018 CR-V 1.5 i-VTEC Turbo

Once we’d finally crossed the Welsh border into the steeper gradients and windy country roads of Brecon Beacons, the CR-V’s all-wheel drive and grip really came into its own, while the soft suspension helped to iron out most lumps and bumps encountered.

The only fleeting issues I had on the journey there and back was, firstly, taking a while to get used to the sensitive brakes – larger brakes are fitted to all four wheels compared to the previous CR-V, and are enhanced by the addition of an electric booster requiring less pedal effort. In practical terms this meant braking a lot sharper than was often intended, on more than one occasion causing my companion to lurch forwards with little warning – sorry mate!

And not being used to the electronic display and speedometer, compared to the conventional dials on my standard motor, I was a bit more prone to accidentally breaching road limits on occasion while focusing on the built-in sat nav commands.

2018 CR-V 1.5 i-VTEC Turbo

But these are just as much rookie driver errors as anything else in all honesty. I think my biggest disappointment was the fact that I’d specially made a compilation CD of all the bands that were playing at the festival we were attending, only to find that there was no CD player option in the stereo system and I didn’t have the relevant songs on my phone – oh well!

But apart from these minor niggles the CR-V was a dream to drive, and was as much an enjoyable part of the weekend as the destination. The boot was also very capacious I might add – more than enough room for our tents, camping equipment and crates of beer – and there was plenty of legroom and interior space throughout the whole vehicle.

Fuel economy-wise we did the first leg of the trip and half the return on a full tank which was extremely impressive, although it did take a short while to find the fuel cap unlocker (it was under the steering wheel!).

To conclude, then, while there is a little bit of a learning curve to it, this latest Honda CR-V quickly makes things very simple, transforming longer journeys more into something to savour than merely tolerate. For anyone in the market for a modern, sophisticated SUV it’s a truly reliable purchase that will do the business for years to come, combining the best of both worlds in comfort and practicality, and with reportedly strong resale values too to properly cement itself above its closest competitors.

2018 CR-V 1.5 i-VTEC Turbo

RATING: *****

PRICE: £36,455 for top spec CVT.

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