This is the all-new Honda CR-V, the fourth generation of the company’s family-friendly SUV.
It’s just gone on sale, which means it has arrived in time to crash the launch party of the revised Land Rover Freelander. However, the CR-V will also have to compete with the Mazda CX-5 – a car we rate very highly.
We were impressed by the new CR-V when we tried it on foreign roads earlier this year, but this is our first test in the UK.
What’s the 2012 Honda CR-V like to drive?
The CR-V is designed primarily for on- rather than off-road use, with the emphasis very much on comfort.
This concept pays off reasonably well around town; the ride is decent most of the time because the CR-V soaks up bigger bumps well, although the whole car does shimmy around on patched-up road surfaces, and it tends to thump over potholes.
The CR-V puts comfort and refinement ahead of off-road ability
That high-sided body means the Honda leans quite dramatically on twisty roads, although the body never lurches about.
The 2.2-litre diesel engine is essentially carried over from the previous CR-V. It runs out off puff at about 4000rpm, but is pretty strong below that.
Perhaps the biggest improvement is how much quieter it is inside the new car. Previously you could hear no end of whistles and whooshes from under the bonnet, now there's just a deep growl under hard acceleration to remind you the engine is fuelled by diesel.
Honda has improved engine refinement for the new CR-V
The 148bhp 2.0-litre petrol isn’t quite so muscular, but it's still reasonably flexible. Power delivery is smooth and it settles down to a quiet hum at steady speeds.
Road noise is significantly reduced compared with the previous car, however wind noise remains a problem. This is largely due to its tall body, square door mirrors and vast windscreen.
Both the petrol and the diesel have a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while an automatic gearbox – available on four-wheel-drive models – adds between £1500 and £1640 to the price, depending on engine choice.
The auto gearbox does feel a bit antiquated. Changes are far from snappy and there are only five gears, so the gaps between them are relatively big and the engine can drop out of its sweet spot at times.
On the upside, the CR-V is easy to drive in stop-start traffic.
What’s it like inside?
Both the overall height of the car and the seats inside have been lowered by 38mm compared with the previous CR-V, but you still get that elevated view of the road that SUV buyers love.
Six-footers will be comfortable in the front and the rear
There's lots of head- and legroom in both the front and the back, making the CR-V a spacious five-seater – there's no intrusive transmission tunnel in the back.
Access is brilliant, too, thanks to rear doors that open to almost 90 degrees. This, combined with the fact there's very little rear wheelarch intrusion, makes it simplicity itself to get small children into and out of the rear seats.
The boot is immense at 589 litres with the 60/40 split rear seats in place. It’s well shaped, too, with a shallow lip and surprisingly light tailgate (automatically operated on EX trim).
What's more, if you pull one of the levers mounted on either side of the boot, the corresponding rear seat flips down in true 'hey-presto' style.
There is a slight slope in the boot floor when the seats are down, but loadspace increases to a mammoth 1648 litres. There’s no split-level boot floor, however, and side-storage netting is minimal.
The CR-V’s dash looks quite high tech, but it's also quite complicated. There are lots of buttons and switches to find your way around, while the steering wheel adds loads more and the labelling could be clearer.
The CR-V's huge boot boosts practicality
There are lots of hard plastics around the cabin, but everything feels very solid; the panel gaps are minuscule and the slick switches operate slickly.
Should I buy one?
There’s certainly a lot to recommend the new CR-V. It’s one of the most practical compact SUVs, is decent enough to drive and some versions are reasonably priced – although a Mazda CX-5 is better to drive and more fuel-efficient.
For now, we’d stick with the front-wheel-drive petrol version, because it represents the best value for money.
The 2.2 diesel isn’t a bad choice, either, but because it’s only available with four-wheel drive, it is quite pricey. If you’re lucky enough to have close to £30k to spend, there are better alternatives.
If you need a diesel, though, don’t despair, because a cheaper 1.6-litre version arrives next summer – that will be available with front-wheel drive.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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