2012 Honda CR-V revealed

* New 2012 Honda CR-V * Sleeker styling; 2WD drive models * On sale in October 2012...

2012 Honda CR-V revealed

The 2012 Honda CR-V goes on sale in October and promises to appeal to a wider audience than ever.

Entry-level prices could drop, thanks to the addition of front-wheel-drive models, while a new smaller diesel engine will help cut running costs to make the CR-V more competitive against rivals such as the new Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5. Honda is also hoping to lure buyers away from premium-badge cars such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, with the promise of more high-tech kit and improved interior quality.

These are the first pictures of the European production version: the US version made its debut at the 2011 LA motor show, while a 'concept' version of the European car was revealed at the 2012 Geneva motor show.

The all-new CR-V has a sleeker look than the current model, partly thanks to a 3cm lower roofline. Otherwise, the dimensions are little changed the new CR-V is 5mm shorter than the car it replaces and has an identical wheelbase.

From launch, the CR-V will be available with an updated version of the current car's 2.2-litre diesel engine, which comes with four-wheel drive as standard. Efficiency improvements (including the addition of an engine stop-start system) have reduced CO2 emissions from 171g/km to 153g/km for manual models.

An electronically activated four-wheel-drive system has been introduced for the 2013 CR-V. Whereas the current car operates in front-wheel drive only until wheel slip is detected, the new model pulls away from standstill in four-wheel drive, but then transfers full power to the front wheels if sensors detect that it's not needed at the rear. If wheel slip is subsequently detected, four-wheel drive is re-engaged.

All-new CR-V has a sleeker look, with a slightly shorter and lower body

Honda says the new system improves traction from a standing start, yet reduces friction, weight and fuel consumption. Hill-descent control makes its debut on the CR-V, too, and will be available for models with an automatic gearbox.

The CR-V will also be available with front-wheel drive for the first time. It will be standard for the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol version, although a four-wheel-drive version will also be offered.

Front-wheel-drive models join the range; new 1.6 diesel engine is due, too

The new 1.6-litre diesel engine will be available only in front-wheel-drive form. Honda is introducing the engine to the Civic in January 2013, and it'll be available for the CR-V from next summer. In the Civic, it produces 118bhp and emits less than 100g/km of CO2.

Despite a lower, shorter body, Honda says the CR-V is more practical than the current car, thanks to improved packaging and a lower cabin floor. Boot space is up from 556 litres to 589 litres, while maximum loadspace with the seats folded is up by 148 litres to 1648 litres.

Dashboard has a classier look than current car's

A new folding rear seat design has increased versatility and load space length. Instead of the current car' system where the rear seats fold and tumble forward as one, there are now release handles that automatically flip up the seatbases and then fold the backrest forward.

Honda's claim that the new CR-V has a higher-quality interior is borne out by our first impressions of sitting in a pre-production car. There's a more cohesive look and additional soft-touch materials. Extra attention to soundproofing including new double seals for the doors is designed to make the CR-V quieter, too.

Maximum load space has increased by 148 litres to 1648 litres

New high-tech kit will include Honda's latest range of driver-assist safety systems, including lane-keeping-assist, adaptive cruise control, collision warning and automatic braking systems.

Prices and specifications for the new CR-V will be announced in September. First deliveries will be in October.

Leo Wilkinson