IT’S SOMETHING of a paradox that making something look effortless actually requires rather a lot of effort. Like the greatest sports stars, actors or leaders, they make it look easy and kid us all into thinking we could do that ourselves, no bother. In the motoring world Honda has made this something of a speciality: its cars tend to be very easy on the driver, demanding little in the way of effort to drive, to own and to maintain.
The CR-V is the best example of this too. The first generation version appeared in 1995 and was arguably the first ‘crossover’, combining as it did the comfort and ease of use of a regular hatchback with the ride height, visual toughness and driving position of an SUV – essentially the key ingredients from both sectors that most buyers really want.
Now there’s a fourth generation version and given how long it has taken the competition to switch on to the idea of a crossover SUV, the CR-V enters the ring from a position of strength. The exterior achieves the prefect transition from one generation to the next: different enough to look smart and modern but sufficiently similar so you’ll know it’s a CR-V. It’s a much sharper-looking car than before with a bold front grille and distinctive headlights that flow smoothly into the bonnet. There are strong creases down the sides too, and at the rear the window line now ends in a sharp point that gives the whole car a more modern feel. Even so it steers clear of being aggressive in the way that some SUVs can: this is not a car that will offend other road users just by its presence.
That theme continues when you step inside. Like in any good SUV you slide across into the seat thanks to the desirable high driving position, and once comfortable the most striking thing about the cabin is the uncluttered feel. The windscreen is deep with a low fascia that results in an excellent view out while all the controls and switches are grouped around the steering wheel and the centre display screen. Not only does that make it easy to get to grips with, it also adds to the feeling of space – which is why you’d want an SUV in the first place. Add the optional panoramic roof and you have a wonderful airy feeling once inside. The numbers confirm it too: boot space is 589 litres and this extends to 1,669 litres when the seats are down. The folding mechanism is a cinch to use too, adding to its practical nature.
Mechanically there are some significant changes too. The 2.0-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel units offered in the outgoing model have been improved, with small increases in power and torque but more significant are the better emissions and economy figures: down from 171g/km to 149g/km for the diesel and 192g/km to 173g/km for the petrol. Later in 2013 there will be an even more frugal 1.6-litre diesel version, and for the first time the CR-V will be available in two and four-wheel drive, itself a significant way of reducing emissions.
The most popular 2.2-litre diesel will still be the pick of the bunch however. Mated to the six-speed manual gearbox it offers the kind of easy-going nature that makes the CR-V a stress-free car to drive whatever the conditions. There’s a faint thrum to remind you that it’s a diesel but refinement is excellent, and there’s always a wodge of torque under your right foot to get ahead of the pack.
All the controls are oily smooth and accurate, with the steering offering a helpful balance of lightness and responsiveness that makes urban shuffling and high speed motorway work equally easy. The gearbox is as undemanding as you would expect from any Honda, and with impressive ride comfort and cabin refinement the CR-V really is a car that allows you to relax and simply get on with the business of getting where you are going.
And it’s practical side means you can take people and luggage with you in comfort too. Those sat in the back enjoy generous leg and headroom, and sticking with a strict five-seater layout ensures excellent space in the back – an optional electric tailgate even makes the business of loading and unloading that bit more straightforward.
The latest CR-V is a thorough and detailed improvement on the old car, improving on it in practically every single area to deliver a package that can deal with any situation and satisfy a huge range of owners. This should come as no surprise though – this is a Honda after all.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC SE, £26,105
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel unit producing 150PS and 350Nm of torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual gearbox driving all four wheels
Performance: Top speed 118mph, 0-62mph in 9.7seconds
Economy: 50.4mpg combined
Emissions: 149g/km of CO2
- Power3 (average performance)
- 0-60 mph
- Economy4 (better than average fuel economy)
- Insurance groups3 (average costs)
Motors.co.uk value verdict: