It’s always nice when you receive an early Christmas present – and that’s particularly true when the surprise gift comes in Honda CR-V-shaped wrapping.
The British-built off-roader will be the second compact SUV to grace the Gibson driveway, as it replaces the excellent Audi Q3. However, while the CR-V can’t match its German rival for upmarket appeal, it has something more important to me: space.
With two young children and Christmas presents of various shapes and sizes needing to be transported over the festive period, the much roomier Honda comes as a welcome change from the somewhat cramped Q3.
For instance, the vast boot will swallow 589 litres of luggage, while the low loading lip and wide opening take the strain out of carrying my camera gear. Better still, when you pull one of the handles in the boot, the rear seat folds flat in one easy motion.
Keep the rear seats in place and there’s more than enough room for three adults, while the lack of a transmission tunnel lets my passengers stretch their legs out.
Up front, the dashboard is reasonably well laid out, but the materials feel a bit cheap and cheerful compared to those used in the Audi. However, what our range-topping EX model lacks in ultimate premium appeal, it makes up for with standard equipment.
I’ve got all the toys you could possibly need, including Bluetooth, a DAB radio, leather seat trim, a panoramic glass roof and keyless entry. While some of the buttons on the standard sat-nav are a little fiddly, it’s easy to program and has proven invaluable for guiding me to photo locations all over the country.
I’m also a fan of the new car’s looks. It’s much more aggressive than its predecessor and shares more of its design DNA with the brand’s distinctive Civic hatchback. Our EX car also benefits from eye-catching polished 18-inch alloy wheels and an optional £500 Alabaster Silver metallic paint finish.
On the move, the 2.2-litre diesel engine still feels a bit tight, but it’s smooth, refined and a perfect match for the CR-V’s slick five-speed automatic gearbox. There’s also a special ECON setting that promises to slash fuel bills. As far as I can tell, it illuminates the dials green and alters the throttle response. Only time will tell if it actually has any effect on fuel economy.
I’m also looking forward to heading off-road in the Honda. With its electronically controlled four-wheel drive and standard hill-descent control, the CR-V should be a very capable mud-plugger. It should also help me shrug off the annual sprinkling of snow that brings the rest of the UK to a complete standstill.
In its recent road test debut, this model finished in a disappointing third place. Our testers had no complaints about the car’s abilities, but said its high price held it back.
Over the next 12 months I hope to find out if the CR-V is actually worth paying extra for. If it keeps me full of Christmas cheer for the year, the Honda could be a winner after all.
“It’s not the most exciting car to drive, but the Honda’s refined engine, smooth auto and high driving position make it a relaxing choice.”
James Disdale, Road test editor
“When I first saw the CR-V, I confused it for the new Hyundai Santa Fe. These two SUVs look uncannily similar when they’re parked side-by-side.”
Rob McSorley, via www.autoexpress.co.uk