Honda CR-V has a versatile cabin with loads of luggage space.

Honda CR-V has a versatile cabin with loads of luggage space.

When Honda launched its CR-V way back in the day (1997), its main rival was the Toyota RAV4. Fast forward two decades and the carmaker's fourth generation model competes in a flooded market. Yet this practical, family-friendly car has become one of the most popular compact SUVs sold around the world. Continuing QUBE/just-auto's review of interior design and technology trends, we take a closer look inside to see what makes it so appealing.

Four trims are available on CR-V, namely the S, rising up to the SE Plus, SR and then EX. Our British-built EX features a panoramic sunroof, electric front seats and powered tailgate that can be operated via the key. The functional interior has been realised with the reshaped chrome-effect inlay running the width of the dash. A sliding armrest and soft-touch plastic driver knee rest are most welcome, too.

Dropping the 60/40 rear seats is simplicity itself. The CR-V features a one tug action of a handle to fold flat the rear seat system, providing luggage space galore, or 1,648 litres to be precise. With the rear seats upright, tall passengers are well accommodated and middle seat occupants appreciate the absence of a transmission tunnel.

The seven-inch touchscreen allows you to pinch, swipe and tap through the Honda Connect in-car audio and information system. This includes DAB and internet radio, phone interface and Bluetooth connectivity, rearview parking camera with dynamic guidelines; and a range of vehicle information, such as trip meter, fuel economy and journey time. Honda Connect is also MirrorLink-enabled, allowing the driver to mirror their smartphone display to the touchscreen. We also found the Garmin sat-nav particularly user-friendly.

The commanding seating position that comes with SUVs is good although rear visibility is hampered by the C-pillars. But that's where the rearview camera display comes into its own.

Rearview camera

While rearview cameras are commonplace in SUVs in Europe, they are mandatory in North America. In 2014, the US Department of Transport and its subsidiary, NHTSA approved a final mandate requiring all vehicles under 10,000 pounds, including buses and trucks, manufactured on or after 1 May 2018, to come equipped with rear visibility technology. This tech expands the field of view to enable the driver to detect areas behind the vehicle in order to reduce death and injury resulting from backover incidents.

Until this ruling there were a number of carmakers offering back-up cameras, including Honda. Over 94 per cent of Honda's 2013 North American model line-up were equipped with rearview cameras, with 100 per cent of Honda's truck line-up (Crosstour, CR-V, Odyssey, Pilot, Ridgeline) as well as CR-Z, Accord and Crosstour providing rearview cameras as standard equipment.

Honda Sensing

The CR-V incorporates a number of active and passive technologies, which includes 'Honda Sensing'. This combines camera and radar technology, allowing for advancements to its collision mitigation braking system and adaptive cruise control systems.

Last April, Honda announced that US sales of vehicles equipped with the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety and driver-assistive technologies has reached the one-million mark. The carmaker also will have standard Honda Sensing across the entire line-up by the 2022 model year. It adds that the Honda Sensing application rate has more than doubled from 2016 to 2017 to more than 50,000 vehicles per month in the past year, and now is applied on 69 percent of 2018 model-year vehicles. The full suite of Honda Sensing technologies, include:

  • Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) – can apply brake pressure when an unavoidable collision is predicted.
  • Forward Collision Warning (FCW) – can detect the presence of vehicles in front, activating audio and visual alerts to warn the driver if they are at risk of collision.
  • Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS) – can help bring the vehicle back to the centre of a detected lane when unindicated lane drift is determined.
  • Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) – can adjust steering and braking if you cross detected lanes without signalling.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) – can maintain a set following interval behind detected vehicles as well as maintain a set speed

In addition to the CR-V, Honda Sensing is standard equipment on the 2018 Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, 2018 Clarity Fuel Cell, 2017 Clarity Electric, 2018 Accord, 2018 Accord Hybrid, and will be standard on the 2019 Insight hybrid sedan, slated for introduction later this year. The technology is also available on the 2018 Honda Fit, Civic Sedan, Coupe and Hatchback, Odyssey minivan and Ridgeline pickup.

If that isn't enough, the Mk4 CR-V also incorporates the carmaker's Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (i-ACC). It is capable of predicting and automatically reacting to other vehicles 'cutting-in' to the car's lane, based on real-world research of typical European driving styles. Using a camera and a radar to sense the position of other vehicles on the road, it applies an algorithm to predict the likelihood of vehicles in neighbouring lanes cutting-in, enabling the equipped vehicle to react appropriately.

On the road

The model that we took out for a spin this week was powered by a 1.6-litre diesel engine mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox gem. The 160 PS 1.6 litre i-DTEC four-cylinder unit emanates from Honda's Earth Dreams Technology series, first seen in 2013. It is quite frugal, too. On paper, Honda states its diesel variant will achieve 55.4 mpg combined yet our 460 mile drive averaged an agreeable 45 mpg.

Out and about, it pulls well when required from 2000rpm thanks to a twin-turbo fitted to the diesel unit that feeds from two exhaust gas inlets, one activated at low pressure and the other at high pressure. The high-pressure turbo is responsible for air flow to the engine at low engine speeds, while the low-pressure turbo operates at high engine speeds. At mid-range engine speeds, both turbos work in tandem to optimise air flow to the engine. The high-pressure turbo is controlled by a variable geometry turbine to ensure optimal throttle response and reduce energy losses at low engine speeds. The low-pressure turbo is controlled by a conventional waste gate.

The ride is smooth and forgiving along country roads thanks to some new front suspension bushes, dampers, revised lower-arm knuckle geometry and rear tracking arms. The front and rear track have been increased by 15 mm, and camber angle is up by half a degree to further aid stability. The diesel powertrain reduces weight over the front wheels, increasing cornering agility and handling. The steering also feels more responsive due to the fact that the steering ratio has been increased by eight per cent, reducing reaction delays when swerving around some of Britain's potholed roads.

The cabin feels relatively quiet and civilised due to a number of NVH management measures. These include a doubling in the thickness of the door seals, changes to the floor carpet, and optimisation or enlargement of sound absorption materials in the dash, doors and pillars. Further measures taken include the sealing of the front end of the hood to reduce wind noise. As a result of these and other measures, the CR-V's cabin is six per cent quieter than its predecessor.

Some reports indicate that Honda defines CR-V as 'Comfortable Runabout Vehicle' while others define it as 'Compact Recreational Vehicle'. Whatever the meaning, the CR-V won't set pulses racing but it can be relied on as a practical, family-friendly car. While the perceived quality of the cabin is lacking is some respects, the overall interior design is easy on the eye. Since the first generation appeared in the mid-1990s, Honda has stuck to its winning crossover-SUV formula with each version. While the Mk4 is not a fashion statement, its no-nonsense shape and robust interior make it the perfect family runabout.