Honda CR-V (2011-2017) Review

The Honda CR-V is a large family SUV that’s a breeze to drive and is very comfortable, but alternatives have bigger boots and better infotainment systems

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expert reviewers
With nearly 60 years of experience between them, carwow’s expert reviewers thoroughly test every car on sale on carwow, and so are perfectly placed to present you the facts and help you make that exciting decision
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Roomy back seats
  • Easy to drive
  • Comfortable

What's not so good

  • Dated design
  • Alternatives are more practical
  • Frustrating infotainment system

Honda CR-V (2011-2017): what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

The Honda CR-V is a large family SUV that’s reasonably roomy and more comfortable than a VW Tiguan. You can get it with petrol and diesel engines, two or four-wheel drive and either a manual or automatic gearbox.

The current Honda CR-V was launched in 2012 and refreshed in 2016. This latest model has been made more comfortable, comes with subtly restyled bumpers and a new (but not all that impressive) seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

Unfortunately, little was done to perk up the rather subdued Honda CR-V interior. It’s by no means boring – and there are loads of soft-touch plastics on the dashboard and doors – but both the VW Tiguan and Toyota RAV4 come with more eye-catching cabins.

Thankfully, the CR-V’s comfortable seats help it claw back some points. Every Honda CR-V gets height adjustment and backache-reducing lumbar support for the driver as standard and there’s loads of head and legroom.

The back seats are pretty spacious, too. There isn’t quite as much legroom as you get in a Tiguan but the Honda’s wide central seat, flat floor and plentiful shoulder room mean it’s better for carrying three abreast.

Sadly, the Honda CR-V can’t match the VW in terms of boot space. Its 589-litre capacity lags behind the Tiguan by just over 25 litres but there’s still enough space to carry a large baby stroller and a few soft bags. Need to carry some long luggage and a rear passenger at once? The back seats fold down in a two-way (60:40) split using some handy levers in the boot.

With both back seats folded you can carry 1,627 litres of luggage. The almost-completely-flat boot floor makes it easy to pack full of large boxes and there’s just enough space to carry a bike without removing its wheels.

The CR-V’s styling makes it look a bit like a Jazz that’s been stung by a bee and suffered anaphylactic shock

Mat Watson
carwow expert

You can get the Honda CR-V with one petrol and two diesel engines. Pick the 2.0-litre petrol if you spend most time around town – it’s smoother than the rattly diesels and it’ll return around 30mpg compared to Honda’s claimed 39.2mpg.

You can get the 1.6-litre diesel with either 120hp or 160hp. The former’s more economical but the latter is fast enough to keep up with fast-moving traffic on motorways and will still return around 45mpg in normal driving conditions.

Where the Honda CR-V stands out is on bumpy roads. It’s much more comfortable than both the Tiguan and RAV4 and it’s reasonably quiet on motorways. It leans quite a lot on twisty roads but it’s a breeze to see out of and its light steering makes it easy to thread through town. All but entry-level models get parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard, too.

The Honda CR-V received a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating back in 2013, but you should bear in mind that these tests have been made significantly stricter since then. As a result, newer five-star-rated cars such as the VW Tiguan will offer more protection in a crash.

The Honda CR-V is well worth considering if you prefer your large practical family cars comfortable rather than sporty.

Take a look ay the latest Honda CR-V deals.

How practical is it?

The Honda CR-V feels spacious up front and its back seat can carry three adults comfortably. The boot is also large if not the biggest you’ll find in a car this size

The Honda CR-V is no spring chicken but it’s still fundamentally a very practical family car

Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
589 litres
Boot (seats down)
1,627 - 1,669 litres

The Honda CR-V’s rather drab front seats are at least very comfortable. The driver’s seat comes with height adjustment as standard and you even get electrically adjustable lumbar support to help stave off backache on long journeys.

The seats in the back aren’t quite as comfortable but there’s plenty of head and leg room so adults over six-foot tall will have no problem getting comfy. A VW Tiguan is slightly more spacious (and, unlike the Honda CR-V, comes with sliding and reclining rear seats) but the Honda’s softer central seat, flat floor and wider cabin means it’s better for carrying three adults abreast.

Pick an EX car and you get a panoramic glass roof as standard that’ll make the back seats feel as airy as possible. It does cut into the rear headroom ever so slightly but only your tallest passengers will notice the difference.

The back doors open to nearly 90 degrees so there’s plenty of room to lift in a child seat. Fitting the seat base takes a lot of fiddling (the Isofix anchor points are hidden behind the seat padding) but once everything’s securely fastened down there’s loads of headroom to lean in and strap in a child.

You’ll find plenty of handy cubby holes dotted around the Honda CR-V interior but a VW Tiguan can squirrel away just that little bit more. The Honda’s front door bins are large enough to hold a 1.5-litre bottle while those in the back can carry an even larger 2.0-litre bottle. The glovebox is reasonably roomy and there’s a deep cubby under the folding central armrest. There’s even space to squeeze three cups into the storage tray between the front seats.

The rear door bins are even roomier than those in the front and you get a folding rear armrest with two cupholders as standard, too.

The Honda CR-V’s 589-litre boot capacity (with all five seats in place) isn’t quite on par with the 615 litres you get in a VW Tiguan but it’s more than big enough to carry a large baby stroller and some soft bags. There’s a slight load lip, but it won’t cause you too much trouble unless you’re loading very heavy items.

More annoying are the large bulbous wheel arches that cut into the boot’s sides. As a result, it’s not quite as square as the load bays in a Tiguan or RAV4 so it’s a little more difficult to pack full of large boxes.

You get a few handy tether points, some shopping hooks, a small netted cubby and a 12V socket as standard but there’s barely any room under the boot floor for hiding valuables out of sight.

You can fold the back seats in a handy two-way (60:40) split so you can carry some long luggage in the boot and a passenger in the back at once. Flip both seats down (using the levers in the boot) and you’ll open up a 1,627-litre load bay that’s only just shy of the Tiguan’s 1,655-litre capacity.

The Honda CR-V’s nearly flat floor makes it relatively easy to slide heavy boxes up behind the front seats and there’s a handy slot behind the boot lip for storing the luggage cover neatly out of the way, too.

What's it like to drive?

The Honda CR-V copes with potholes and bumps better than most large family SUVs but it’s a little roly-poly in the corners and diesel models grumble when you accelerate hard

The Honda CR-V looks a bit like the before photo in a family car diet plan – it’s far from the most sprightly SUV out there and entry-level diesel models are sluggish at best

Mat Watson
carwow expert

You can get the Honda CR-V with one diesel and two petrol engines and with either a manual or automatic gearbox. You can also get it with four-wheel drive (for a little more grip) if you’re happy to pay extra.

A 2.0-litre petrol model with two-wheel drive will be your best bet if you do plenty of town driving. It’s smoother than the 1.6-litre diesel versions and grumbles less when you accelerate. It’s not particularly frugal, however – it’ll return around 30mpg compared to Honda’s claimed 39.2mpg.

The 120hp 1.6-litre diesel is a touch more efficient (it’ll return around 55mpg in real-world conditions) but it’s very sluggish. If you do lots of motorway miles, you’ll be much better off with the 160hp version. It’s perky enough to keep up with fast moving traffic and will return approximately 45mpg in normal driving conditions.

You get four-wheel drive as standard on 2.0-litre petrol models fitted with an automatic gearbox and it’s available on 160hp diesel models for an extra £2,000. It’ll give you a little extra grip in slippery conditions – handy if you plan to tow a trailer – but the more efficient two-wheel-drive models are more than surefooted enough for most situations.

The optional nine-speed auto offered on Honda CR-V diesel cars is smoother and feels much more responsive than the five-speed automatic. It’s not quite as quick at changing gears as the dual-clutch automatic available in the VW Tiguan but it’s smoother at slow speeds.

The Honda CR-V’s raised driving position gives you a good view of the road ahead. It might be a large car, but its light steering helps make it reasonably easy to manoeuvre around town and the pillars between the front doors and the windscreen don’t create any particularly large blindspots.

All but entry-level S cars come with front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera too, so it’s relatively easy to squeeze the big Honda into fairly tight parking spaces.

The Honda CR-V’s suspension does a very good job of smoothing out bumps in the road – especially S and SE models fitted with smaller 17-inch alloy wheels. It’s more comfortable than both the Toyota RAV4 and VW Tiguan on rutted roads and is fairly quiet at motorway speeds. You’ll hear a slight wind noise (coming from the Honda CR-V’s giant wing mirrors) but tyre noise is mostly muted.

Unfortunately, the Honda CR-V leans quite a lot in tight corners and its light steering feels only vaguely connected to the front wheels. As a result, the Honda feels like a much larger car than the VW Tiguan, especially on a twisty country road.

All models come with automatic emergency city braking which helped the CR-V achieve a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating back in 2013. It’s worth noting that recent tests are much stricter, so newer five-star-rated cars (such as the VW Tiguan) will provide more protection in a crash.

For extra peace of mind you should consider the optional Driver Assistance Safety pack. It’ll set you back between £560 and £700 (depending on which model you pick) but it comes with traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning and a system that’ll warn you if there’s an obstacle in the road ahead. Top-spec Honda CR-V EX cars even come with the option of a Sensing pack (for £900) that includes adaptive cruise control that can match the speed of the car in front before returning to a preset cruising speed when the road is clear.

What's it like inside?

The Honda CR-V interior feels well built and comes with a fair amount of kit as standard, but it doesn’t look quite as smart as the RAV4 or Tiguan’s more modern interiors

Next Read full interior review
Buy a new or used Honda CR-V (2011-2017) at a price you’ll love
We take the hassle and haggle out of car buying by finding you great deals from local and national dealers
RRP £22,250 - £37,690
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