If you’re thinking about going green, the petrol–electric hybrid Honda eCR-V is the sensible way to go, writes Mark Stone.

IT’S been around since 1995, is one of the easiest SUVs to live with, it’s the best-selling vehicle of its type and remains one of the most distinctive. What is it? It’s the Honda CR-V, and we Brits can’t get enough of them, it seems.

Like all models, the CR-V has gained in girth and general size but inherently it has stayed close to its basic concept of an appealing estate car with that all-important additional ride height, along with the choice of 2WD and AWD.

But while the CR-V has never been an off-roader in the usual sense, its owners have never seemed to be overly bothered. Equally, while the CR-V does nearly everything asked of it, it’s never been a soul stirrer. If it is sprightly performance you’re looking for, combined with soul-stirring sporting handling and head-turning looks, the CR-V ain’t for you, never has been and probably never will be. That said, even though Honda has maintained their almost Dan Dare space-age looks for their latest version, it has, to a degree, been toned down ever so slightly.

Forestry Journal: 2-litre petrol is ably assisted by two electrical motors.2-litre petrol is ably assisted by two electrical motors.

From the big, bold chromed bar that emblazons itself across the grille to the striking swept-back headlights, high-cut arches that encapsulate the 18” alloys, 235/60 rubber and Honda’s latest take on independent suspension, the new CR-V is still distinctly Honda. Plentiful side protection fends off potential damage to the new light lines and more defined sharper looks, while the four sizeable doors, vast tailgate and boomerang-contoured rear lights take care of access to the spacious cabin, cargo space and rear illumination.

Interior-wise it is business as usual; comfortable seating for five, vast amounts of cubby and storage space, and between 497 and 1,697 litres of cargo capacity, dependant on rear seat positioning. The digital instrumentation is clear with emphasis on how green you’re driving, while a pronounced central protrusion houses the push-button automatic transmission selectors. Located high on the dash is the central, multi-function touchscreen that, while clear and efficient, isn’t in my own opinion especially intuitive. Based on what’s best described as Honda’s logic, you have to be in tune with how Honda think before you can develop a flawless style. That said, the music system is good, and the satnav understandable and efficient.

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Under the bonnet – while the conventional options still remain – it is the self-contained hybrid system that powered the one on test. The 2-litre petrol engine works in conjunction with one electric unit, the second electric engine acting solely as a generator. Utilising Honda’s i-MMD, or Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive, the Atkinson cycle petrol engine works in conjunction with the electric motor. They both propel the car along as one, allowing the petrol engine to run as economically and efficiently as possible. The end result is immediate throttle response as the electric motor reacts to the slightest throttle pressure, the petrol unit backing it up while the seamless push-button automatic transmission adjusts its CVT-style ratio to suit conditions.

And while all this is taking place, the second electric motor is regenerating the batteries’ electrical supply at what is actually an impressive rate. Downhill, lifting of the throttle, braking or steady accelerator pressure, the amount of electrical charge available is immediate. Over the course of 400 miles, the battery ‘fuel’ gauge was rarely if ever less than half and reading full charge within no more than a couple of minutes, the combined consumption never falling below 46 mpg.

Forestry Journal: Interior is comfortable, spacious and sensibly laid out.Interior is comfortable, spacious and sensibly laid out.

Being self-contained from the driver’s perspective there is no difference between driving the hybrid CR-V and the more conventional versions, apart from far fewer visits to the petrol pumps. Smooth even on less than well maintained surfaces, relaxing and undemanding to drive, the well-weighted power steering goes from lock to lock in just over two revolutions of the steering wheel. The handling is in the main neutral with a hint of understeer if pushed harder into corners but, as previously mentioned, CR-V owners tend not to buy them with performance driving in mind. As with previous CR-Vs it’s easy to see as to how these Hondas have become as popular as they are, with the model’s ability to fulfill virtually any demand made of it.

Forestry Journal: Transmission is a simple push-button affair.Transmission is a simple push-button affair.

Available in both 2WD and AWD, the SR specification model as tested is all yours for £36,120, or £550 less if you omit the pearlescent paint, while the entry-level 1.5 litre combustion engine CR-V starts at £26,310. But if going green is the overriding remit of your next automotive purchase then, as I’ve said on many occasions, the self-contained petrol–electric hybrid is the sensible direction to take, Honda’s eCR-V a perfect example as to why. It is sensibly priced, efficient and the technology to ensure that it takes care of the fuel type usage, leaving the driver to take care of the driving.