Have you ever noticed how many Honda CR-Vs are on the roads?
During the course of a week with the newest CR-V, its predecessors seemed to be everywhere. With a strong reputation for reliability, high levels of practicality and all-weather security, perhaps that isnt surprising.
The question is - does the latest version offer more of the same? Read on to find out.
After initial concerns that the CR-V had taken an aesthetic step backwards from the previous model, we ended up respecting, if not falling for, the cars design.
Its no catwalk model, but nor are there any details likely to offend. The front end is probably its most successful aspect, with a large, chrome-detailed three-bar grille which exudes confidence. Headlight units are neatly wrapped around the edges of the grille, and a dark-grey chin spoiler breaks up what might otherwise be a rather large expanse of plastic.
From the side it isnt dissimilar to the previous car, but the roofline falls away less abruptly, to the benefit of interior packaging. Its now a little more utilitarian in profile, but a chrome strip around the windows succeeds in adding a bit of class. Surprisingly, the roof is actually 30mm lower than before, but it looks taller in isolation.
The rear end is least successful, with most of the details seemingly crammed into the upper half of the bodywork, leaving a large slab of metal below. Still, its dull at the very worst, rather than ugly.
Just as with the exterior, what the CR-V lacks in visual flair, it makes up in robustness, quality and practicality.
The driving position was spot on for this tester, with seats that never felt any less than comfortable and supportive, even over longer drives. Even the surprisingly old-school velour-esque trim felt great, and somehow endowed the interior with a warmth that leather or regular cloth do not.
Theres a quality feel to everything you regularly touch, and build quality is never in doubt. Controls and switches all have that precision, well-oiled feel you might expect from something German, only with even less likelihood of going wrong a few years down the line.
Honda has apparently worked hard to reduce interior noise on the new CR-V, and theyve succeeded - its among the quieter cars weve driven this year. Tyre roar is the most audible noise, but its rarely intrusive. Passengers get to enjoy space as well as silence, and theres a useful 589 litres of boot space. It could be more, but the wheel arches do intrude a little into the load space.
With a raised driving position, all-wheel drive and all-season tyres, the CR-V makes an ideal winter partner. No doubt it would be great in the summer too, but grimy, icy roads, endless spray from other vehicles and poor weather always seems a little less unpleasant from the raised perch of a small 4x4.
The CR-V remained predictable in all conditions, with good grip and accurate controls to inspire confidence. Even on an icy road - driving for the conditions - it remained sure-footed, and the extra pair of driven wheels and the stability control system kept everything pointing the right direction. On dry roads the car proved more than competent, even if youd never call it fun.
Visibility is also fairly good, and a rear-view camera helps with reversing.
Weve plenty of praise for the ride quality, too. The CR-V is happy to deal with ripples and ridges, and winters ubiquitous potholes dont phase it. It doesnt isolate the road surface completely and youll still notice particularly bad roads, but in general the CR-V should prove a comfortable place for you and your family.
Will it go off road? Further than the average car, perhaps. It happily handled moderately flooded sections of road and bumpy, muddy car parks, but we suspect a Land Rover Freelander could venture deeper into the wild.
Under the bonnet is a 2.2-litre, 148-horsepower turbodiesel. Its seen service in several previous Hondas, but after continual refinement its better than ever before.
Accelerate hard and the diesel grumble cant be hidden, but change up when the gearshift indicator suggests (typically around 2,000rpm) and you may genuinely struggle to tell what fuel is powering you along - well, apart from the fact that youve access to plenty of torque from low revs. Fuel consumption may give the game away too - we averaged between 45-46 mpg (indicated), against an official figure of 50.4 mpg.
The CR-V rarely feels short of performance for the type of car. 9.7 seconds to 62 mph is both respectable and believable, and the engine has plenty of urge in-gear. Theres also useful performance in reserve at motorway speeds, where the CR-V proves a great mile-muncher.
The cars final party piece is an excellent gearshift. Its a little notchy when cold, but when warmed through, the six-speed manual transmission is a joy to use.
Value for money
CR-Vs start from 21,395 on the road, which gets you a 2.0-litre petrol, with two-wheel drive and S trim. Our car, a diesel, 4WD SE, came in at 26,105, with an extra 500 of silver metallic paint.
Thats around the same as a Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI SE (26,205), a little cheaper than a Land Rover Freelander 2.2 TD4 GS (27,025) and a little dearer than a Kia Sportage CRDi KX-3 (24,405). Given the relative brand kudos of each of these (and other rivals), the CR-V in SE trim is priced just about right. Only at higher trim levels does the CR-Vs appeal fall down - the lofty prices asked veer uncomfortably close to vehicles with BMW and Audi badges.
Theres plenty of equipment to enhance the value too - SE models include, as standard, fog lights, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth hands-free telephone, parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, an alarm, a leather steering wheel, and extra tweeters for the stereo. Thats on top of standard cruise control, USB input and a stop-go system to improve economy.
The diesel, 4WD manual sits in road tax band F, for a bill of 135 per year.
It would be easy to criticise the CR-V for not moving the game along significantly in its class. Some other reviewers have, but we think thats unfair. As we stated at the top, CR-Vs seem incredibly popular, and reports suggest theyre reliable and robust, too.
The new CR-V gives us no reason to doubt it would be any different, and as such it can be judged a success. Yes, you may find more excitement or more touchy-feely interior trim elsewhere, but if you want practicality and dependability over more superficial talents, then the CR-V could be the car for you.
What the press think
Reviews of the new CR-V are generally positive. Some mark the car down for being bland, and others feel the high-end models are a little expensive. Most commend the refined engine however, and all appreciate the high equipment levels and well-built interior.
For more information, check out our full summary of the Honda CR-V alongside reviews, stats, photos and videos.