The new Honda CR-V is the latest addition to our long-term test fleet.
Benchmarks for this type of family transport have moved way beyond the raised driving position and chunky looks that made the class so popular in the first place – and the latest Honda CR-V is designed to live up to these higher expectations. We'll be seeing if it succeeds over the coming months.
This fourth-generation CR-V gets an uprated cabin, greater refinement and, Honda claims, better interior practicality. To back up this claim, we rate the new car highly enough to award it four stars.
Mind you, the competition is tough. The CR-V's prices ranges from £21k to more than £30k, so it has to take on new talent such as the Mazda CX-5 (also on our long-term fleet), and the latest Land Rover Freelander – as well as the Audi Q3 and the BMW X3.
There are just two engine options in the CR-V range – a petrol and a diesel. The petrol motor is a 2.0-litre with 148bhp; it can be ordered with front- or four-wheel drive, and if you choose the two-wheel-drive version, it emits just 168g/km of CO2.
The diesel is Honda's 153bhp 2.2-litre unit. It comes with four-wheel-drive only, although there will be a cleaner, front-wheel-drive 1.6-litre diesel engine in 2013.
As one of What Car?'s staff photographers, I cover plenty of miles, so long-distance cruising and ease of use are important to me. That pointed me towards the automatic diesel, even though it emits more CO2 than the manual version.
CR-Vs come in four trims: S, SE, SR and EX. Even the most modest of the four has dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloys, USB connectivity, cruise control and electrically adjustable heated side mirrors.
However, Honda was keen for us to try the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink specification, so our CR-V comes in EX trim. Sure enough, the standard equipment list is impressive; sat-nav, keyless entry, heated leather seats, powered tailgate, panoramic glass roof, 18-inch alloys, an upgraded stereo with DAB, Bluetooth hands-free telephone connection, auto lights and wipers, and privacy glass are all included.
Then again, you'd want a few toys on an EX, because it doesn't come cheap. Our 2.2-litre turbodiesel, complete with automatic transmission, costs a hefty £32,650. Throw in pearlescent paint – 'White Orchid', according to the brochure – and you've got a £33,150 SUV.
That sort of cash could buy you a 2.0-litre automatic diesel version of our favourite SUV, the BMW X3 – albeit more sparsely trimmed. However, the CR-V does work out around £7000 cheaper than our Range Rover Evoque – and the Honda should be far more capable of coping with everyday life.
It's going to be a hard life, though; as a staff photographer, I have loads of camera kit that I like to keep tucked away (and out of sight) – so even at 589 litres, the CR-V's boot will be tested to its limits.
First impressions? I'm a huge fan of the cabin, which is a refined space in which to spend time, and hugely practical with it. There's bags of room for luggage and four adults on board – even the rear passengers won't complain about legroom. The electric boot lid has come in handy, too; it offers terrific shelter from winter showers, for me and the camera, and it can be raised remotely as I approach the vehicle.
Early gripes? I'm struggling to learn what all the steering wheel buttons do, the on-board infotainment system has a few too many sub-menus, and there's a limited amount of adjustment on the steering wheel position.
Still, it's made a pretty solid start. It'll be interesting to see if the CR-V continues to elevate itself above 'merely good' as the miles pile on.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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