The SUV is really going through the most basic form of evolution. The genre has been around for quite a while now and buyers like SUVs, but it seems like they’re starting to lose anything that is superfluous to their survival along the way. Many SUVs are coming out without four-wheel drive, because people seldom use it or indeed want it.
They are getting lower to the ground because most people don’t need the ground clearance. And they are getting smaller and more efficient engines because having a large one on a school run is both unnecessary and increasingly unpopular. The new CR-V is a result of this evolution. And Honda is very keen to stress that point. The CR-V could never really have been accused of being a ‘gas-guzzling’ SUV, as it was one of the original ‘soft-roaders’. It always had the high driving position and the SUV-like styling and four-wheel drive but it had a reasonably small footprint and drove like a car.
The new CR-V has taken this even further and is even more like an estate car than an SUV, and Honda is coming out of the blocks pointing out that this car has a footprint that is similar in size to that of a Ford Mondeo, has lower exhaust emissions than a Mini Cooper S, and achieved a 3-star rating for pedestrian safety in the Euro NCAP safety tests, which puts it in the top 10 percent of pedestrian-friendly cars on the road. And that is in addition to its four-star rating for occupant safety. It is certainly not news to tell you that owners of these soft roaders are attracted to the look of the vehicle and the fact that in many cases they get the versatility of an MPV without feeling ashamed of what they drive. With that in mind, Honda has concentrated on making this new CR-V feel as upmarket and as car-like to drive as possible.
Certainly, the price tag of the model I was driving would seem to suggest that Honda has big aspirations. €56,265 for the top-of-the-range diesel version puts the Honda right up there with the likes of the Volkswagen Touareg and BMW X3 in terms of price, although most buyers will probably stick with the €42,400 ES petrol version. Going on the interior alone, Honda is right to pitch this car a little higher than before. The new CR-V might be shorter, wider and lower than before but the driving position is, strangely, as high as before and the rear seats now slide, and all three can be individually lowered. The boot has a sturdy and very useful parcel shelf. Our model came with 18”alloy wheels, all-leather upholstery, heated front seats and electronic controls for the driver’s seat. It also featured a rear parking camera, DVD satellite navigation and a Bluetooth hands free phone setup. Suddenly, even the top spec model starts to feel like decent value with all this kit thrown in.
Since we were in the top-of-the-range diesel version, things were always going to feel pretty darn good. The diesel engine is well known to us and it has been an award winner in Car of the Year Awards on many occasions. It is powerful, quiet and extremely urgent. Where the CR-V really scores highly is in terms of its driving ability. The ride quality is superb and makes you feel like you are in a family saloon and not an SUV. The stability and response from the car have greatly improved and it now has a revised rear suspension setup that makes the car feel much more balanced, the CR-V feels incredibly composed. If you push the CR-V hard or if a slip is detected, the rear wheels will be called into action. The Real Time four-wheel drive is more responsive than before but many people will never even see it get called into play. Safety is a big feature on the CR-V. There are multiple airbags, ISOFIX anchor points, anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and standard Vehicle Stability Assist, which can brake individual wheels and ease off the throttle for you if things get a little hairy. Our test car, as it was the ‘bells and whistles’ model, featured Adaptive Cruise Control that retains a set distance from the car in front and also came with a Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), which will apply light braking initially and heavier braking ultimately if it senses a collision is imminent.
The Honda is going to tick a lot of boxes for anyone wanting an upmarket SUV, but there are plenty of good rivals, too. The Hyundai Santa Fe comes with seven seats and you can have the top spec model for €46,495. Land Rover’s Freelander is arguably cooler and feels more rugged. Even its top spec model with a damn fine diesel engine is cheaper than the CR-V we were driving. Toyota’s RAV4 has a great track record, too. It is hard to ignore the Toyota’s incredible reliability and residual value. A 2.2-litre diesel Sol model will cost €43,640. We like this new CR-V, though, and it certainly will cause a headache by offering yet more choice for anyone in the market for a new family SUV.
Honda CR-V 2.2 i-CTDi EX-T
Engine 2,204cc 4-cyl, 140bhp, 340Nm torque
Boot Capacity 522 litres
Acceleration 0-100km/h 10.3 seconds
Top speed 187 km/h Price €56,265
Transmission 6-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Economy 6.5 litres/100km