Honda CR-V (2018-2020)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

5-door SUV [(1.5 petrol/ 2.0 Hybrid petrol) S, SE, SR, EX]


Honda's fifth generation CR-V, launched in 2018, evolved into a more sophisticated mid-sized SUV that was cleverer, classier and more efficient. It could certainly reach a wider audience than its predecessors, thanks to the availability of either Hybrid power or a 1.5-litre VTEC petrol unit that could be had with an optional seven seat cabin configuration. Honda hopes that as a result, used car market buyers will find this a hard car not to like.

The History

How do you right a best seller? This was Honda's answer, the fifth generation version of a mid-sized SUV soft-roading CR-V model that claims to be the world’s most popular SUV. In the past, this hasn't been a contender that's jumped out at you from the spec sheet. No. You have to drive it. Use it. Fill it with family. Many of those experienced in doing just that probably won't even look at the alternatives before replacing their second, third or fourth generation CR-Vs with this MK5 model.

It does after all, according to its maker at least, offer a depth of engineering that many other rivals just don't have – and always has, ever since the original version of this ‘Compact Recreational Vehicle’ pretty much invented its segment back in 1995, with subsequent models in 2002, 2007 and 2012 being pushed ever-more up-market. This MK5 design was launched in the US back in 2016, only making it here in the late Summer of 2018, a delay perhaps related to the fact that models for our market were by then assembled in Japan rather than, as previously, in the UK.

Needing to shore up the appeal of a car that accounts for over a quarter of its total European sales, Honda thought long and hard about the kind of crossover this MK5 model CR-V should be. As a result, some pretty fundamental decisions were taken with this MK5 design. A key one was the introduction of a seven-seat cabin configuration as an option for the very first time. That was a change enabling this car to cover both the ‘C’ and the ‘D’ segments of the SUV.

If you’re happy to stick to five seats, you might be interested in the news that with this MK5 design, Honda returned to Hybrid power – of the non-plug petrol/electric variety – a key option to keep more frugally-minded folk in the CR-V fold following the ditching of diesel. A longer wheelbase freed up more interior space, a cabin that was of much higher quality than previous CR-Vs, plus as you’d expect, there are smart looks, strong standards of safety and lots of equipment features. This MK5 CR-V sold in this form until late 2020, when the range was lightly facelifted and the conventional 1.5-litre engine options (and the 7-seat option) were dropped. The range then continued only in Hybrid form. It’s the pre-facelift 2017-2020-era versions of this model we look at here.

What You Get

This MK5 CR-V was, apparently at launch, ‘the world’s favourite SUV’, so a lot of people are going to have an opinion on how this fifth generation version looks. Most should be satisfied. There’s plenty of chrome to please the Transatlantic crowd, while wider arches and larger wheels pushed closer to the car’s extremities help in delivering a little more kerbside presence. When it’s time to take a seat behind the wheel, you’ll note the way that this car offers its driver’s seat at a very convenient hip point as you climb in. Inside, an expansive stitched panel sweeps the width of the cabin, bisected by a gloss back central section for the infotainment screen and ventilation controls which sits just above the raised gearstick placement that’s a typical CR-V touch.

On the back seat, you’ll find that, as Honda promises, it really is very spacious by class standards. If you’re struggling to justify the premium required for a CR-V over what you’d pay for a slightly cheaper SUV that’s Qashqai or Ateca-sized, here’s where you’ll do it. Instead of the relatively cramped conditions offered by models like that, there’s room to stretch out a bit here, courtesy of a 50mm increase in legroom this time round, aided further by slim seat backs and the way you can easily slide your shoes under the chair in front.

And the cargo area? Well once everything’s opened up, you’ll find that with the five-seat 1.5 VTEC model, 561-litres of capacity is offered up, a stat that’s competitive with class rivals courtesy of the largest boot ever offered in a CR-V. Once you’ve flattened everything in the five-seat model, a 1,756-litre space is freed up if you load to the ceiling. There’ll be less with the 5-door-only Hybrid version.

What To Look For

Not a lot goes wrong with any fifth generation CR-V. Buyers are, on the whole, a contented lot if customer satisfaction surveys are anything to go by. However, we did come across a few issues. One owner complained of problems with intermittent front headlight electrics. Another said his car got through front brake pads excessively quickly. Otherwise, it’s only a case of insisting on a fully stamped-up service book.

On The Road

Honda buyers tend to be a loyal lot – people with considerable faith in this engineering-led brand. And they’re going to need that kind of trust to buy into this fifth generation CR-V. The company’s told them that with this MK5 model, a little 1.5-litre petrol engine was enough to push along a 1.7-tonne mid-sized SUV. And that the diesel power belongs in the past – despite the fact that almost every rival model in this segment from this era still used it. A clever 2.0-litre petrol/electric hybrid unit was provided for CR-V buyers instead. Part of the idea behind changes of this sort was of course to broaden this model’s customer base – and as part of that, Honda knew it also had to serve up a slightly sharper dynamic recipe this time round.


In summary, we can see why so many global customers will accept nothing less than Honda’s interpretation of what an SUV of this kind should be. And what’s on offer with this MK5 CR-V is a model that could conceivably interest many more of them. Ultimately, it remains distinctively different, distinctively… CR-V. Which ultimately, might very well be all you need.