This new 1.6 diesel version looks far more competitive.
Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC
The latest Honda CR-V has always fallen short of its main rivals, with its comparatively inefficient 2.2-litre diesel engine largely to blame. However, this new 1.6 diesel version looks far more competitive. It averages 62.8mpg, compared with the 2.2-litre car's 50.4mpg, while CO2 emissions are slashed from 149 to 119g/km - enough for a six-band drop in company car tax.
CO2 emissions are slashed from 149 to 119g/km - enough for a six-band drop in company car tax.
Don't expect the new engine to be anywhere near as strong as the 2.2, though. It feels flat if you let the revs drop below 1500rpm, and sounds very coarse beyond about 2500rpm. Frequent gearchanges are required to keep the revs in this narrow window, so it's just as well the six-speed manual gearbox has a slick shift action.
The engine isn't the only thing that's been changed for this new model. Honda has ditched the 2.2's four-wheel-drive system to save weight and maximise efficiency, and it has reworked the suspension in an effort to offer a sharper driving experience.
Sure enough, the 1.6 turns in to corners more eagerly than the 2.2, and resists body roll slightly better, even if it still doesn't feel quite as agile as a Mazda CX-5.
The six-speed manual gearbox has a slick shift action.
Driver and passenger comfort is a bigger concern. The CR-V has a distinctly unsettled ride and tends to jostle its occupants quite badly when passing over patched-up roads. This can get wearing on a long journey. It's a pity, because tyre roar is well suppressed, and the wind noise that enters the cabin at speed isn't overly intrusive.
The CR-V also remains one of the more practical SUVs available, with a spacious, five-seat cabin and a huge boot.
One of the more practical SUVs available, with a spacious, five-seat cabin and a huge boot.
Unless you're really desperate to have four-wheel drive, the new 1.6 diesel is the CR-V to choose, mainly because it will be much cheaper to run than the 2.2, either as a company or private car.
Honda's problem is you can buy the Skyactiv-D 150 version of Mazda's CX-5 for similar money. This has a much stronger engine and is better to drive, yet it returns identical CO2 emissions, and is every bit as frugal and practical.