Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC 4WD Review- Reliable and Well-Built, but Uninspiring

2.2 diesel superb, utterly reliable, well built all-round

Interior dull, car lacks any type of character or soul

Honda CR-V?

Landing on the scene in 1995, the Honda CR-V has been an unmitigated success in terms of sales. Its always been a good one to go for if you want four-wheel-drive in something a bigger than an estate but no so huge as a full-on 4×4, and it was one of the original small SUV’s available, alongside the Toyota Rav4. We were sent a 2012 2.2 i-DTEC SE 4WD to review, and a week to put some miles under its belt…

Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?

Honda CR-V 4WD

Right – before I start with the exterior, here is a word of advice. Do not buy the CR-V in the Alabaster Silver Metallic. You know people say a colour a can make a car, well, it’s true here. The silver just absolute takes away from the CR-V’s decent design. It makes for an average-looking vehicle that’ll blend into a park lot quicker than you can say ‘where’d I leave the flippin’ car?’. Certainly, I had that trouble more than once.

Instead, the CR-V’s exterior design really benefits from one of the other colours, such as Passion Red (why do you think all Honda’s CR-V images are in that colour, eh). The CR-V design has improved with each model, and this current fourth generation is certainly the best looking. It’s more assertive than is used to be, and has bolder and more muscular lines too.

I quite liked the front of the CR-V, as it’s got just enough about it to be interesting, without it being too fussy. A decent balance. In my opinion, it’s more engaging than the Toyota Rav4, less classy than the Volvo XC60, slightly tougher than the Mazda CX-5 and less cool than the Volkswagen Tiguan.

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The SE model had front fog lamps which add a little more to the look, and the LED daytime running lights add a level of class. The rear three-quarter angle is probably the best view of the CR-V, as the angular design of the rear boot-area windows go with the C-pillar – which, coincidentally is shaped like a ‘C’ – which is also mimicked by the rear light clusters. The boot lid itself is nicely designed too, and its pronounced shape adds character to the CR-V’s overall look.

Honda CR-V

The designers have got the space between the 17″ alloy wheels and the flared arches looking just right. Any more space and the wheels start to look like castors, much less and you’d loose the look of an SUV. All said, the CR-V isn’t a bad looker – just don’t get it in silver!

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Opening the door and climbing into the CR-V SE, I’m afraid to say that boredom instantaneously set in. Black, or very dark grey seems to be the theme on this particular model. Black upper and lower dash, all-black door cards, black centre console between the seats, and you guessed it, the seats were in black cloth too. Even the dials are black, f’goodness sake!

Honda CR-V interior

There is the very occasional splash of silver here and there, like the strip running the full width of the dash and surrounding the gearstick, and also a V shape in the steering wheel, plus the door handles. Apart from that, it’s a sea of darkness. Oh, the headlining was and inner A-pillars were cream, and it’s good they are too, as otherwise it would feel almost claustrophobic – the opposite of light and airy. There’s something very annoying too. Although there’s plenty of headroom in the CR-V, there was more than a few occasions where I got in and felt it needed a sunroof, but here’s the thing, there’s no option for one. Eh? Yup, only the highest-grade EX model comes with a panoramic glass roof, and that’s a £5,000 – £6,000 difference between the SE and EX.

Honda CR-V interior

Although the swathes of dark colours may have a lot to do with the dullness, that’s not entirely why. Indeed, you can actually spec a cream-coloured interior at no extra cost to brighten things up. However, the fact remains it is very much devoid of any character, with little to no design flair. It is lacklustre. Here’s the thing, although it is all of the above the interior is not bad, indeed it’s good in many ways, so let’s talk about those.

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Firstly the layout of the dash and centre-console is very driver-orientated. Every control is laid out well within easy reach, and they are all clearly marked too. The uncomplicated dials make for easy reading, while the display in the centre is simplistic but informative, with plenty of stats and data of your journey. Press the ECON mode button, and either side of the speedometer thin coloured lines appear, which glow either green or white depending on how economically (or aggressively) you drive. A rather cool touch, but I did find myself glancing down more often than I should have to see how bright they were.

Honda CR-V Econ mode

Although this SE is a mid-range CR-V, it still came with dual climate control, all-round auto power windows plus a few other goodies like a reversing camera. On that note, I really liked the little Intelligent Multi-Info Display (i-MID) in the upper part of the dash. It’s well set-back, so gets very little glare on it, and the graphics, although simple, are easy to read and it’s an easy thing to navigate through the different options such as the bluetooth, phonebook, radio and speaker settings etc. The reverse camera display is also excellent.

As is the usual Honda way, almost every part is well put together, and the CR-V is built pretty solidly. There are a few suspect piece of trim and parts though, such as the steering wheel controls, which looks overly plasticy, and they’re not exactly beautiful to behold either. Really though, that sort of thing is minimal, and overall it’s of decent quality.

Honda CR-V

The front seats are comfortable, and you could definitely do a long journey with no problem. The drivers’ seat has electric lumbar support, which is good little touch and makes a lot of difference to the comfort level. The rear seating has good legroom, and they can also be reclined too. The seats either side are comfortable, but yet again this is another manufacturer who seems to think it’s acceptable to make the middle seat uncomfortable, by having the armrest sticking out too far, pushing into the back of the poor person sitting in it. Why couldn’t they have built the rest further in? It could be a comfortable 5-seater if it wasn’t for that, but it’s only that way for four people.

Honda CR-V

On a positive note, the rear seats fold down quite ingeniously. There are handles either side of the boot to do this, and a pull-strap each side of the seats too. They don’t just flop down though, but instead its a controlled, gracious laying-down into position. A nice touch, and shows the usual Honda attention to detail. On this subject, the boot is huge! 589 litres with the seats up, and a maximum of 1,669 litres with them folded, which is more than the CX-5, Tiguan and XC60. There are good little touches in the boot, such as hooks and metal rings for strapping your gear down, as well as a cargo net in the side, plus a 12-volt socket.

Honda CR-V

Engine and gearbox

We’d opted for the CR-V with the 2.2 i-DTEC turbo diesel in 6-speed manual form with 4-wheel-drive. This engine actually saved my time with the CR-V from being completely dominated by boredom, for it is unexpectedly lively, with plenty of low-down torque and it makes the CR-V actually quite quick. This is a Honda, so expect absolute attention to detail with the engineering, with every part being superbly made. If there’s one main thing Honda’s owners will point out as to why they bought their car, it’s usually this; reliability.

The all-aluminium 2.2 litre turbo-diesel puts out 148 horsepower and 258 lbs ft (350 Nm) of torque, which is easily enough to be happy with. In this form it’ll reach sixty miles-per-hour in just under 10 seconds and top out at 118 mph – which is about the same as its rivals in this category.

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There’s also a lot of clever tech and engineering gone into the engine and its parts to ensure low CO2 emissions and good fuel economy, and the manual 2.2 i-DTEC just slips into the £140 per year bracket at 149 g/km. As well as that there’s Idle Stop (stop/start) to improve things. Fuel economy stats are quoted as (mpg) urban: 43.5, extra urban: 55.4, combined: 50.4. Real world? I averaged around 45 mpg in light, flowing traffic at 30 – 40 mph with the occasional 60 mph stretch of road thrown in, and 42 miles-per-gallon on a fast motorway run. On a drive doing forty miles-per-hour with little traffic or stops, I’d say it’s definitely capable of 50 mpg plus. All said, that’s pretty good going for not only the size of the car, but the fact it still performs well too.

Pushing the ECON button will further improve economy, by, according the the owners manual ‘adjusting the performance of the transmission, climate control and cruise control‘. The only time I felt it really kicking in was after I pressed the ‘resume’ button on the cruise control, whereupon it spent approximately ten hours to go from sixty to seven miles-per-hour. Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but that’s how it felt and I ended up just pushing the accelerator to get it back up to speed in the end.

Honda CR-V

The gearbox, as mentioned, was the manual 6-speed. I couldn’t find anything really wrong with it either. The shift between gears is nicely spaced, and changes are positive and precise. There’s a light clutch so town driving is much more tolerable, plus the ratio’s were well set up, and the high-up gearstick itself is superbly placed and in the optimum position for changing. I prefer it to the traditional placing, with the exception that it’s not as comfortable to rest your hand on when you’re on motorway run not requiring much changing.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Honda say the CR-V offers ‘car-like driving dynamics‘ and ‘agile, intuitive driving dynamics‘. Yes. To an extent this is true. You’re looking at a vehicle weighing just 1,753 kilograms (3,856 lbs), so you’re not going to entirely get the dynamics of a sporty estate. However, it’s still decently stable through corners, and there’s nowhere near the roll you’d expect either. The driving position is more car-like than an SUV, so physically you do feel like you’re in something smaller.

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There’s a ton of electronic safety stuff on the CR-V to keep you on the right track, should things suddenly turn hairy. Keeping you in check is Vehicle Stability Control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist and of course ABS. If you opt for either the SR or EX models, there’s the option to have Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist plus Collision Mitigation System. Want that stuff? Depending on the model you’ll have to pay between £2,250 and £3,950 (which includes sat nav). That’s a lotta cash right there. You could just drive more alertly, that’d be the cheaper option, eh.

Honda CR-V cornering

The suspension is well set up, and the CR-V rides well over things like potholes and speed humps, and flows rather than bangs. Although it’s certainly comfortable over these, the handling isn’t compromised, and as I said earlier the roll is controlled well. The steering features Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering, which means you’ll find turning the ‘wheel while parking is feather light, and more weighty as speed increases. It isn’t hugely sharp in its feel though, and although it’s not too sloppy or hugely vague, it’s certainly not sports-tight either.

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As was talked about in the last section, the engine is one of the things that shone for me, and draws the CR-V back from being altogether monochrome. I really do think it’s a great bit of engineering. If you’re pottering along at around 2,000 rpm, for example, and there’s a sudden need or want to accelerate, the CR-V’s 2.2 diesel will suddenly liven up, giving you a sizeable dollop of torque on tap. With passengers in the CR-V, the unexpected acceleration always ended with them giving the CR-V commendation. The acceleration at motorway speeds is also excellent. If you want to get off that slip road on into the stream of traffic safely, it’ll go from 70 mph upwards remarkably quickly.

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On that note, it cruises really very well. The cabin is a quiet place to be, and the engine is utterly unstressed at higher speeds. If you wanted to go faster, the CR-V will do 100 mph without even breaking a sweat. Overall, the 2.2 i-DTEC is a sweet engine producing good torque and returning respectable-enough fuel economy, and it’s mated to a decent manual gearbox too.

AWD and off-road. Stuck or superb?

The CR-V I had, had the ‘Real Time AWD’ system. It’s improved over the last model CR-V, with a lighter set-up and quicker response time in detecting and sending power when the wheels start slipping. Let’s face it though, the Honda CR-V is never going to be – or meant to be – some rock-chewing 4×4, capable of ascending mountains with the briskness of a billy-goat, and forging through rivers like a tank. No, this is absolutely a soft-roader. I will prove it with this one sentence, taken from the owners manual; ‘If you excessively spin all four wheels and overheat the AWD system, only the front wheels receive power’. I see an immediate problem here. If you end up in boggy or icy conditions, it is very likely all four wheels will be spinning fairly regularly. The very last thing you want to happen is for it to throw a strop and go back into 2WD. That will be worse.

Honda CR-V

With a ground clearance of just 165 mm, this is enough to drive down some rough track, but don’t expect it the CR-V to do much more than that. The automatic 4WD system on the CR-V is aimed more at getting you through some bad weather, or off a muddy campsite after a downpour. Want to know how to make the CR-V much more capable in this area? Fit either winter tyres with deep tread, or some half-and-half on/off road tyres. The difference is immense.

Honda CR-V car

There are a couple of handy ‘off-road’ features on the CR-V; Hill Start Assist, which will hold the car in place for a couple of seconds to give you time to engage a gear and put your foot on the accelerator, and there’s also Hill Decent Control, but that is only available on the automatic models.

Regarding its rivals’ 4WD systems, I can’t fully say as I’ve not tested them. However, ever since the Toyota Rav4 and CR-V were available, it’s been common knowledge that the Rav4 is more capable. To back it up, check out this interesting SUV comparison review. On the whole, if you want the CR-V with 4WD for getting out an about in wintertime – while 2WD cars are stuck – or simply for more peace-of-mind, then it’s worth having.

Price

The CR-V starts at £21,500 for the two-wheel-drive version, while the range-topping EX is a snip over thirty-three grand. Plus options, of course. Compare this with the Toyota Rav4 and Mazda CX-5, and you’re looking at a similar starting price, with top spec models asking around £29,000, so they’re a little cheaper there. The VW Tiguan, again, starts at the same price, but once you’ve specced its top-end to around what you’ll get on the CR-V EX, you’re looking at £35K+. The Volvo XC60 isn’t even in the price range of any of these other mid-size SUV’s, as it starts at nearly £31K and goes to £43,500.

You get a good amount of safety tech on all the models, and the build quality and exterior design is decent too. There’s stiff competition in this bracket, as the rivals are closely specc’d and closely priced too, so it’s probably going to be as much down to your own taste as anything else when choosing.

2012 Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC SE 4Wd manual verdict & score

The Honda CR-V is for someone not really very interested in cars. I say this not in a disrespectful manner, and here’s why. The CR-V is, no doubt, absolutely reliable. It will take you on every journey with no drama or worry of something failing or breaking. You will be able to hop in it for however long you have it, and not even think about the drive to your destination.

That’s all good and right, but here’s the thing. The CR-V also has no soul, it is completely, and absolutely, devoid of any character. It’s a robot, which will do your beck and call to the very letter, but it will do it coldly, and with no heart or passion. You will never give it a name, and it’ll never be a mate or a pal that you look upon warmly each day. For me, that is the CR-V’s main negative point. So, if you want a mid-size SUV that’ll take you from A to Z unhindered, but aren’t bothered about any of the above, you’ll want to take a look at the Honda CR-V. Oh, and its 2.2 diesel engine is superb.

Do you own a 2012 onwards Honda CR-V? What’s your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  6.5
Interior (SE)  6
Engine (2.2 i-DTEC)  8
Gearbox (Man.)  7.5
Price  8
Drive  6.5
AWD & Off-road ability  4
Overall Score  6.5

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2012 Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC SE 4WD manual
Spec includes  All-round power windows, fabric upholstery, reverse camera, 17″ alloy wheels, LED running lights, hill start assist, bluetooth for music and calls, power mirrors   See spec sheet for more
Options you should spec  Passion Red paint
Price (as tested)  £26,605
Engine  2.2 litre turbo diesel, 4-cylinder, DOHC
Power, Torque, CO2  148 bhp and 258 lb ft (350 Nm) | CO2: 149 g/km (manual version)
Drive, Gears (as tested)  ‘Real Time AWD’ | 6-speed manual gearbox
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 118 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 9.7 seconds | 5-star Euro NCAP 
Fuel economy (mpg)  Urban: 43.5, Extra Urban: 55.4, Combined: 50.4
Weight (kerb)  1,753 kg (3.864 lbs)
Ground clearance  165 mm (6.5″)
Websites  Honda UK, Honda USA, Honda Australia, Honda Worldwide

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Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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