Honda rounds off the edges of its fourth-generation CR-V to make its best family SUV yet
Since the 1995 inception of its CR-V, Honda has sold over five million examples worldwide, with just over 190,000 of those in the UK. So to say it's an important car for the brand is a bit of an understatement. And for that reason it's not particularly revolutionary; in fact it's hard to get very excited it. To leave it there would be doing it a disservice though, as this latest CR-V is not only the best yet, but one of the best family-orientated all-rounders on the market.
This car is particularly colour and angle sensitive. From one viewpoint to another the new CR-V can look either dull or striking; and we'd have to recommend one of the brighter hues. These European cars are slightly different to those already seen in other markets with a redesigned front end to take into account our higher road speeds and LED lighting front and rear.
...the boot's massive as well, boasting a class-leading and usefully shaped 589 litres of space...
It's 30mm lower than the previous model and 5mm shorter, but that doesn't impact on the cabin space. In fact that's the most impressive aspect of the CR-V, with plenty of room front and rear - the latter helped by the flat floor. The boot's massive as well, boasting a class-leading and usefully shaped 589 litres of space, easily extended with the one-touch system for folding the rear bench. Only the slightly uninspiring, but otherwise high quality, dashboard lets the car down.
We managed to get behind the wheels of both automatic and manual 2.2i-DTEC diesel models, and we can only recommend that you steer clear of the former. It's a five-speed unit, and though the changes are smooth enough they're not as quick as we'd like, its slow-witted action masking the otherwise excellent engine.
Smooth, refined and with genuine mid-range punch the 2.2-litre diesel is a bit of a gem - and it feels much livelier with the six-speed manual gearbox, which boasts a short, light and quick action. All diesels come with the firm's part-time four-wheel drive, which only sends power to both axles when needed. Honda's engineers say it's half as noisy as the outgoing model, and save for some tyre roar this seems to be borne out on the road. The electric power steering is probably the least appealing aspect of the CR-V, with little feel and a too-light weighting.
Smooth, refined and with genuine mid-range punch, the 2.2-litre diesel is a bit of a gem.
Still, the rest of the chassis works well, with decent body control and ride comfort. It's not what we'd call fun to drive, but it certainly doesn't feel like a big lumbering SUV. The Lane Keep Assist is one of the most sensitive and active we've ever used, literally steering the car between lanes rather than simply nudging the wheel. We're less keen on the tightening seatbelts when cornering - their grabbing a strange sensation.
The stop-start system is said to save up to 5g/km of CO2 emissions and works smoothly and quickly - more so than in the Mazda CX-5 for example. There's also an ECO mode, which on petrol models alters the throttle mapping - though the diesel is so efficient already the only changes made are to the climate control.
Prices have yet to be confirmed, but you can expect the new model to be only slightly more expensive than the current CR-V. The petrol front-wheel drive version will offer a new entry-level price point for the car, allowing it to cover 78 per cent rather than only 40 per cent of the SUV market.
Expect to be blown away by this new Honda CR-V...
The range will span S, SE, SR and EX, though Honda expects to sell the majority of CR-Vs in top-level EX trim with manual gearboxes and the diesel engine. All are well-equipped, and EX brings with it keyless entry, electric leather seats, power tailgate, HDD satnav and a panoramic glass roof.
Honda is also offering this CR-V in front-wheel drive for the first time, but only with the petrol engine. It's a great unit, with a willing punch throughout the rev-range as well as a subtly sporty soundtrack. In fact, performance is very good, but though it's more economical than the four-wheel drive model the differences are marginal. We can't help feeling Honda has missed a trick by not making a front-wheel drive diesel option available with the possibility of even higher economy and lower CO2 emissions.
Expect to be blown away by this new Honda CR-V and you'll be disappointed. It's a car bought with the head rather than the heart, but then that's the market it's aimed at. Sensible to the max, it's a flexible, practical, good-looking, efficient and decent driving family SUV that historically has also proved reliable and incredibly satisfying to own.