Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC 9-speed Auto Review

Let’s get the negative bit out of the way first: the Honda CR-V isn’t desperately exciting.

There’s no redline-dwelling, tyre-shredding Type R variant, it’s not been styled to look like a training shoe, and the company hasn’t spent its time tweaking and tuning the thing to tackle the Nurburgring. Thank God.

Instead, the Honda CR-V is a totally bullshit-free zone. And all the better for it.

You see, sometimes in life, you find yourself needing to squeeze out all the noise and just get on with the job in hand, and it’s at times like that when you need less of a party animal and more of a faithful companion.

The CR-V has always been full of practical little touches, the kind of features that don’t get mentioned in the brochure but make life with a car that much easier: the wide-opening doors, the flat rear floor, the sill extensions that are attached to the doors so you don’t get mud on your trousers when you get out, the countless hooks and cubby holes in the boot and, of course, those clever ‘one motion’ folding rear seats.

All of that is still present and correct in the 2015 CR-V.

But what has changed is the styling, with Honda giving the car a slightly edgier appearance at the front – most notably with new LED running lights – plus a couple of new designs of alloy wheel.

The interior is CR-V business as usual, and that’s a good thing because this has always been a supremely comfortable place to spend time.

New for this year, however, is the Android-based Honda Connect system, and depending on which model you choose, it offers a web browser, internet music streaming, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a Garmin app-based navigation system.

For the most part, it all works efficiently, with an interface based around familiar smartphone principles of pinching and swiping, although compared to systems such as Mazda’s MZD Connect it can feel a little disjointed.

That’s because its interface design lacks consistency, with the switch from the main menu to the Garmin navigation app being particularly jarring, and there are some sections within the menus that cause you to drop out to a generic Android screen that looks even more out of place. It’s also a shame the system isn’t more unified: it can’t pipe navigation instructions into the instrument cluster, for instance.

Under the bonnet, there’s the option of a new 1.6-litre diesel with 160PS and 350Nm of torque, replacing the previous 2.2-litre unit. Unlike the 120PS version, it’s mated to Honda’s intelligent four-wheel-drive system, and while this normally spells disaster for CO2 emissions, the CR-V achieves a remarkably low 129 g/km for manual models and economy of up to 57 mpg.

Also new is a nine-speed automatic transmission which registers a mere 5 g/km and 2 mpg impact on the emissions and economy figures.

Off the line, the new nine-speeder ratchets its way up the ratios pretty quickly, and although the diesel engine shares the familiar muted clatter with its low-power brother, once up to speed it all settles down quite nicely, with the new gearbox generally going about its business smoothly and calmly.

There are, however, a couple of issues with it.

Firstly, if you use the paddles to downshift to gain engine braking for a hill descent, the gearbox will quickly drop down two gears without any problem.

However, if you ask it to drop down three gears – and you might, because it’s got nine of them to choose from, remember – it becomes flustered and disengages drive altogether for a few seconds while it regains its composure. This, of course, leaves you coasting down the hill and picking up speed towards the car in front, unless you’re ready with the brakes.

A second issue is in stop/start traffic. Occasionally the transmission would briefly change into a higher gear when lifting off the accelerator, and because of the engine’s ample torque, this had the effect of propelling the Honda towards the car in front when the intention was to slow down.

And while we’re nit-picking, we should report that on more than one occasion when the stop/start system had restarted the engine, the transmission engaged first gear a touch too abruptly, leading to an uncomfortable jolt when pulling away.

But these are likely to be teething troubles, and we’ve reported them to Honda so that hopefully they can be easily addressed via a software update.

Away from the oily bits up front, Honda have also had a fiddle with the CR-V’s chassis: it now rides on a wider track, with revised geometry, new suspension bushes and beefier dampers, and the result is a noticeable improvement in ride quality, a greater feeling of stability, and – thanks to a slightly quicker steering ratio – it’s also a touch more responsive.

Honda have also doubled the thickness of the door seals, increased the use of sound damping materials, and subtly revised a number of other details that all add up to a quieter cabin.

The CR-V was already a remarkably refined motorway cruiser, but after spending almost an entire day trudging up and down our motorway network, it’s clear that these modest-sounding changes have elevated that level of refinement still further.

In fact, there are few conveyances more comfortable than this to transport your family and a boot-full of luggage hundreds of miles. And even fewer, I suspect, as efficient, with our car notching up a 46.7 mpg average over the course of a week’s testing.

Prices for the new CR-V start at £22,345 for a 2WD petrol model, with the 4WD 1.6-litre diesel starting at £27,570.

So while the Honda CR-V might not set your hair on fire, it continues to represent one of the most compelling options for family transport on the market today.

Entry-level Price£22,345Price as tested£34,670
Engine4-cyl diesel, 1597ccTransmission9-speed auto
Power160ps @ 4,000rpmTorque350Nm @ 2,000rpm
0-6010.6 secsTop speed122 mph
Economy55.3 mpgCO2139 g/km
Dimensions4605 x 1820 x 1650 (LWH)Kerb Weight1718 kg