Honda CR-V

Latest generation is good to drive and bigger than its predecessor.

  • The steering wheel is great to hold; large boot capacity; gearbox ratios are well suited to the punchy nature of the 2.2-litre engine
  • Chair-backs don't fold flat.

Unlike VW, Honda reacted quickly to the arrival of the RAV4. Seeing the potential of a trendy, compact off-roader, it had the CR-V on UK dealer forecourts by 1996. Built in Britain at the firm’s plant in Swindon, Wiltshire, the current third-generation model was launched last year. It took a step towards being more grown-up and family friendly by expanding – at 4,530mm, it’s 73mm longer than the Tiguan. And, as with Vauxhall’s Antara, it could be considered a rival to bigger models, such as the seven-seat Hyundai Santa Fe.

The styling reflects this. It’s well proportioned, while black plastic cladding makes the lower half of the body look rugged. The upper half is much smoother than before, too, thanks in part to the curved window line.

Overall, the Honda has an upmarket look which helps to emphasise the excellent build quality. This continues inside, where the cabin is faultlessly put together, modern and well thought-out. Some of the plastics are on the shiny side, but that apart, there’s little to fault.

Visibility is excellent, and the seating position is spot-on. The high-mounted gearlever is perfectly placed and the clever L-shaped handbrake helps to make room on the centre console for a deep storage cubby.

Passenger space is excellent, too. There’s ample rear legroom and, without an intrusive transmission tunnel, the floor is completely flat, so three can sit in comfort. And even though the roof slopes down at the rear, there’s plenty of headroom.

On top of that, the Honda has the biggest boot here, making it a more practical choice than the VW. But what’s it like to drive?

Well, Honda hasn’t let the car’s versatility ruin its driver appeal. As with the Civic hatch and Jazz supermini, it blends practicality with crisp road manners. Although the CR-V isn’t as car-like as the Tiguan, there’s a real sense of fun, and body control is much better than in the Vauxhall.

The steering is communicative and sharp, while the positive turn-in inspires confidence on the entry to corners. The four-wheel-drive system doesn’t transfer power between the axles quite as efficiently as the Touran’s 4MOTION technology can, and exiting tight bends, the Honda begins to lose traction at the front. Part of the reason for that, though, is the punchy power delivery – the 2.2-litre i-CTDi diesel picks up strongly from 1,500rpm, and at 9.3 seconds the CR-V recorded the quickest 0-60mph time.

It was the best performer in-gear, too, and on the road, the Honda’s responsive nature is complemented by the fact it’s the smoothest and most refined SUV of this group. The slick six-speed gearbox is a joy to use, and despite recording a loud 72dB figure at 70mph, the Honda is impressively refined.

On the motorway, the ride is stable and composed, insulating well against surface noise. Driving on A-roads and poor surfaces, though, the firm damping performs less impressively.

Fun to drive, well built, practical and powered by what remains one of the finest diesel engines available today, the CR-V has much in its favour. Plus, despite its extended dimensions, the ES variant is £270 cheaper than the Tiguan, while standard equipment includes powered mirrors, cruise control, parking sensors and climate control. In all it’s a tempting package – but is it good enough to send the VW packing?

Details

Price: £21,780Model tested: CR-V 2.2 i-CTDi ESChart position: 1WHY: Practical, well built and powered by a refined diesel, the CR-V is a strong SUV contender.

Economy

Again, we are very impressed with the 2.2-litre Honda diesel. The cleanest and greenest engine here, we averaged a 36.4mpg return during our time with the CR-V.

Residuals

With a predicted second-hand value of £11,522 after three years, the Honda will retain 52.9 per cent of its new price. Only the VW is a safer place to put your money.

Servicing

The first three visits will cost £679, and the intervals are relatively short at 12,500 miles. But Honda dealers came second out of 32 in Driver Power 2007, so expect good service.

Tax

Honda’s engines are among the cleanest on the market, but here it shares the honours with Toyota. Top-band business users will be faced with a bill for just over £2,000.

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