This is an easy section to write, because there’s only one engine available. It’s a 1.5-litre petrol, turbocharged to give out a reasonable 171bhp when hooked up to the six-speed manual gearbox. Curiously, if you choose the CVT auto ’box, this is boosted to 190bhp, with a bit more torque to boot.
In either form, it’ll get the big CR-V from 0-62mph in just under 10 seconds (according to our sources at Honda) and it’s peppy enough. Keep the revs above 2000rpm and it’ll pull you along reasonably well, even in forth and fifth gears and, between 3000rpm and its limiter, it builds speed progressively. Ultimately, its pace is roughly on a par with a 1.4 TSI 150 Skoda Kodiaq or Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, but there are plenty of quicker large SUVs out there.
Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that so far we have driven on mainly flat roads with a maximum of two people in the car; there’s every chance that, with seven-up and a hill to climb, you’ll be cursing the lack of added mid-range whoosh that a diesel option would’ve offered. Yes, that’s right – we say ‘would’ve’, because there will be no diesel engine offered in the CR-V. However, expect to see a petrol hybrid join the range come early 2019.
Ride quality in our early drives is a mixed bag. The two-wheel-drive model, featuring 18in alloy wheels, lacks body composure over small undulations and, as a result, wobbles from side to side annoyingly. It’s not particularly smooth over more abrupt indentations, either.
But we’ll have to see whether that’s a trait of CR-Vs generally or a problem specific to our test car, because the four-wheel-drive version - with exactly the same wheels and supposedly the same suspension settings – feels better. Firmer, yes, but not noticeably harsher over the sharper stuff, yet demonstrably better damped, and therefore calmer, the rest of the time. Mind you, on the evidence we have so far, the CR-V is unlikely to match the comfort offered by the best-riding versions of the Tiguan, Kodiaq or Peugeot 5008.
This class has ‘large’ in the title – an adjective not normally associated with nimble things. Yet while SUVs don’t generally handle as well as low-riding cars, there are some tidy-handling offerings in this class, most notably the Mazda CX-5, but also the 5008 and Tiguan.
The CR-V isn’t in that company. Where the CX-5 feels eager to tuck in to turns (for a large SUV), the CR-V - with its slower steering off-centre and conspicuous body lean - is less lithe and less keen to change direction. It’s grippy, mind, and the steering improves the more lock you apply, getting quicker as well as heftier.
Rev the little 1.5-litre petrol engine hard and it sounds like a dog that’s had its tail trodden on; at times it barks like sports car rather than a wafty SUV, and at points in the rev range it’s also whiny and coarse. That said, keep the revs low and the accelerator merely tickled and it’s perfectly acceptable.
The extra power and torque you get with the automatic model helps to keep the revs from flaring most of the time – something that’s often an annoying attribute of CVT gearboxes.
Of course, you can control the revs more easily with the manual gearbox, but then you’d have to put up with its notchy, recalcitrant change. The clutch operates innately, though, and the brakes on all versions are strong yet progressive.
Sadly, road noise is also strong, even at moderate speeds, while wind noise picks up when you hit the motorway.
We’ve only driven left-hand-drive models so far but, as long as the conversion to right-hand drive doesn’t ruin the well-aligned pedals, seat and steering wheel combo, the driving position will be fine.
The steering wheel, for instance, has a good range of height and reach adjustment, and the driver’s seat comes with height and four-way lumbar adjustment. Having a lever to adjust the backrest angle is annoying, though, because it leaves you with a set number of positions, none of which seems to include the ideal one. Electric seats will be available and cure that issue, but most likely on only the most expensive trim.
Honda uses the same digital dashboard for the CR-V that the Civic has. It works well, displaying all the important information very clearly. A head-up display is also available. The rest of the dashboard’s controls – at least the things you’ll be fiddling with regularly, such as lights and climate control– are clear and grouped together well.
The windscreen pillars of the CR-V are unusually thin for a large SUV, making seeing out the front an easy task, while the deep front side windows and large door mirrors make it easy to see out the sides, too. Yet, crane your neck to look behind you and the tapering rear window line does hide what’s lurking at each corner.
Parking sensors and a rear-view camera will be available, although we don’t yet know from which trim level.
Let’s not pull any punches here: the CR-V’s infotainment system is the same as the one in the cheaper Civic and it’s poor. In the large SUV class, which features cars with brilliant systems such as BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI, it’s even less competitive.
So, what’s the problem? Well, the 7.0in touchscreen is conveniently positioned on the dashboard but disappointingly low in resolution. Worse still, the menus are complicated and the screen is often sluggish to respond. Mercifully, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring are available, so you can in effect bypass Honda's own operating system and use the touchscreen to control your phone instead.
Compared with previous generations of the CR-V, the current model has received a worthy uplift in quality. There are soft-touch plastics on the upper areas, stitched leather on the door trims, gloss black panels and silver highlights.
That said, the number of materials used, including the naff-looking fake wood veneers, make it feel like the stylists just couldn’t stop styling the car; its German rivals, including the Volkswagen Tiguan, and even the cheaper Skoda Kodiaq, have more cohesive and appealing designs.
In a few areas, you’ll also find some sharp edges and large panel gaps, and the CR-V is less robust-feeling than its rivals in places as well. For example, give the front door handle a firm pull and it flexes in your hand.
We have no complaints here. Extend the front seats all the way back and you’ll have to be a lofty soul to struggle with either head or leg room. And even with the panoramic sunroof fitted, you won’t be smearing hair gel on the rooflining.
The interior is suitably wide as well, with a decent-sized centre armrest in between you and your passenger. Underneath that is a vast cubby with a slidable tray; this offers various storage options, including enough space for a laptop if you remove the tray entirely.
On the downside, the door bins are a little narrow and the glovebox isn’t huge.
Were we reviewing solely the five-seat CR-V, this would be a five-star section. First of all, the wide-opening doors and low sills give great access, and it’s massive inside, with head and leg room to match the very best in the class, as well as loads of foot space under the front seats. And, like the front, and unlike rivals such as the Peugeot 5008, you can have a panoramic roof fitted and still not struggle for head room.
It’s also good for three across the rear bench, thanks to the wide interior and an insignificant central tunnel, meaning the middle passenger has nothing to straddle.
Here’s the but. Order a seven-seat model and you get sliding and reclining rear seats that are normally a good thing (the five-seater has a fixed rear bench), but the mechanism raises the rear seats to such an extent that, if you’re tall, you will struggle for head room. For the central passenger, this is even more of an issue, because the middle seat is even higher.
As for the two foldout third-row seats, they are tiny. In fact, they are so small that they’re only really fit for small kids. You can fit adults in the rearmost seats of a 5008, while the Kia Sorento is the best car in this class if you want a spacious seven-seater.
Of the cars we’ve tried so far, none had front passenger seat height or lumbar adjustment; however, expect that to be available at least for higher-spec trims with electric front seats.
The rear seats split 60/40, rather than the more useful 40/20/40 arrangement that you get in a Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, while sliding and reclining rear seats are available only with seven-seat models.
Again, this depends on whether you have a five or seven-seat model. Five-seaters have a decent, if not class-leading, boot – look at the Sorento if you need a truly colossal load-lugger – but, at 561 litres, it’s competitive with a Tiguan Allspace or Skoda Kodiaq.
It’ll certainly fit large buggies with ease or enough suitcases for a family holiday. You also get a variable-height boot floor. In the lowest setting, it gives you a really tall boot; in the upper setting, it creates extra storage and brings the floor flush with the tailgate opening, making it easier to slide in heavy items. When you fold down the rear seats (using the convenient handles on the sides), the raised floor also means there’s no step in the extended boot floor.
However, for the seven-seat versions, Honda has basically bolted the two rearmost seats to the boot floor rather than integrating them into it, as they are on all of its rivals. This means boot size is reduced considerably and there’s even a step in the boot floor unless you raise the (now small) height-adjustable floor to its higher setting. Even then, there’s a gap between the edge of the floor and the seats just big enough for your dog’s paw to slip into.
We having nothing concrete to write here, other than a heads-up from Honda that the CR-V will cost about 5% more than the outgoing model.
On that basis, expect the entry-level model with a manual gearbox and two-wheel drive to be competitive with a Skoda Kodiaq of equivalent spec.
If it’s anything like the outgoing car, expect strong resale values, partly due to the less generous discounts that Honda dealers offer.
Officially, the 1.5-litre manual will average 38.2mpg, and we managed 39mpg on the test car with some fairly considered driving. A Kodiaq 1.4 TSI 150 is claimed to manage nearer 45mpg, but offers identical CO2 emissions of 143g/km.
The fact that there won’t be diesel CR-Vs means that if you need something more economical because you do loads of miles, you should go for a rival with a diesel engine or wait until 2019 for the petrol hybrid.
Use our True MPG calculator and see what your car really does to the gallon
At this early stage, we’ve been led to believe that the new CR-V will offer broadly the same trims as the outgoing car.
From that, we can deduce that S is likely to have 17in wheels, climate control, electric windows and adaptive cruise control as standard, while the more recommendable SE trim will get trinkets such as privacy glass, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
The priciest trims will get bigger alloy wheels, electrically operated and heated leather seats, keyless entry and a powered tailgate.
Honda has one of the better reliability records, finishing sixth out of 32 manufacturers in our most recent survey.
That’s on a manufacturer level, but the previous CR-V was less credible in its own right, with a fairly average 38 faults per 100 vehicles; the Mazda CX-5 had 28 and a Mitsubishi Outlander just nine. Hopefully, this new version will improve on that.
Honda’s default warranty is three years/90,000-miles, including breakdown assistance.
Honda is confident that it has engineered the new CR-V well enough that it’ll get a five-star Euro NCAP rating. We’ll let you know if that’s the case as soon as it is crash tested.
Automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, blindspot monitoring, traffic sign assist and rear cross traffic alert are all standard.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here