Superhero has landed to take on top rivals
If the CR-V is the first glimpse of Honda's bold new design world, things are looking good for the future.
The new streamlined CR-V is light years away from the 1996 original. That was a very boxy affair, despite pioneering the compact car-like SUVs that have become one of the biggest sectors of the car world.
The new model is a far more daring affair boasting a muscular American boldness to the front end, balanced with a dynamic European-sized profile featuring a sloping roofline.
This CR-V is actually 5mm shorter and a significant 30mm lower, which gives it a far more racy profile and a lot more road presence.
The new model is a far more daring affair boasting a muscular American boldness to the front end...
I like the dominant, thick, three-bar grille and the sleek headlights. LED running lights add to the stylishly aggressive face. At the rear, Honda have accentuated the long, horizontal tail-lights and added more curves to make it more pleasing on the eye. The interior also moves the game along significantly.
But Honda also needed to keep up with a host of new rivals such as the Kia Sportage and Range Rover Evoque.
The dashboard and centre console have a much cleaner and crisper design, with all the main dials easy to see, while the quality of the plastics and the leather trim on high-end models has a more premium feel.
But the best bit is how much more versatile and user-friendly Honda have made the interior, especially the fold-flat rear seats which work simply by pulling two cords. Boot space has increased by 148 litres to 589 with the rear seats in place, and jumps to a cavernous 1,648 litres with them folded.
The interior also moves the game along significantly.
That's enough to take three mountain bikes or four sets of golf clubs for energetic owners, or simply lots of suitcases and clobber for a big family.
The other neat trick is that despite being 30mm lower, Honda's engineers have created more space in the rear by lowering the seats to give more leg and headroom. It's now among the best in the class.
All the seats are big on comfort, making the CR-V an ideal long-distance cruiser.
The other major new addition is that the CR-V comes with the option of two-wheel drive for the first time. As this now accounts for 51 per cent of class sales, that's a vital new element. The two-wheel drive option will also allow Honda to get the entry price to between £20,000 and £22,000.
But four-wheel drive is expected to remain a big seller in the UK, especially after the winters we've experienced recently.
At motorway speeds both the petrol and diesel are whisper-quiet...
There will be the option of the current 2litre petrol and 2.2litre diesel engines at launch next month but both units have improved CO2 emissions and fuel economy. A 1.6 diesel will follow next year. The petrol returns just under 40mpg and the diesel close to 50mpg, and both have a useful turn of speed. But the biggest improvement is a big reduction of engine noise inside the CR-V.
At motorway speeds both the petrol and diesel are whisper-quiet, making the CR-V an effortlessly relaxing drive. I was less impressed with the six-speed manual gearbox. It lacked the slickness of some of its rivals, although Honda say our test vehicles were pre-production cars and they are working on improvements.
That said, the automatic was a very smooth option that a growing number of buyers will take up.
Prices are expected to start around £20,000 and rise to £35,000. I'd go for a model in the mid-twenties, which is good value. You now get a lot more car for your money and Honda's renowned reliability - they have been the No1 manufacturer for the past seven years.
But the high-spec versions over £30,000 put the CR-V up against the Range Rover Evoque - and that's a battle it can't win, despite its many improvements.