Honda CR-V (2002-2005)

Considering that Honda's Accord has one of the world's best diesel engines, the rest of the range has been slow to catch up... until now.

The arrival of this fine diesel engine means there's now a CR-V to suit everyone. While the 2.2-litre oil-burner can't match the Accord unit for refinement, Honda has still created an excellent package. The launch of the i-CTDi, along with recent tweaks inside and out, make the CR-V a more attractive option than ever.

Considering that Honda's Accord has one of the world's best diesel engines under its bonnet, the rest of the range has been surprisingly slow to make the most of the class-leading technology... until now.

The next model to benefit from the oil-burner is the CR-V. Complete with its punchy 2.2-litre turbodiesel powerplant, the 4x4 could finally have what it takes to leapfrog rivals in the compact SUV sales charts.

Ushered in along with a recent facelift, the new CR-V i-CTDi has some impressive statistics. As in the Accord, its four-cylinder engine produces 138bhp at 4,000rpm, with 340Nm of torque delivered at 2,000rpm. At idle, the quality of this cutting-edge powerplant is immediately obvious, with a quiet hum in place of a diesel clatter.

And although the CR-V cannot match the lofty performance of the Accord, it still teaches its rivals - such as the Land Rover Freelander - a thing or two about engine noise levels. When cruising in the off-roader's comfortable cabin, it is the whistle from the turbocharger rather than from the powerplant itself that's most audible.

The 4x4 scores over the Accord with its gearbox, too. Unlike the five-speed unit that features in the saloon and estate, the CR-V diesel is equipped with a six-speed manual as standard.

Well spaced ratios allow the off-roader to cruise at 70mph in sixth at 2,200rpm, and the transmission itself provides a slick and accurate shift. The only downside is that there is no automatic option available.

But while the CR-V will never be regarded as a driver's car, it still offers a hearty slug of torque in every ratio. It is also got class-competitive handling and well weighted steering.

On paper, Honda claims a 0-62mph sprint time of 10.6 seconds - which is 0.5 seconds slower than the 2.0-litre petrol variant. But on the road, most people will find that the diesel model feels just as responsive.

With a £1,400 price premium over petrol variants, Honda estimates that the new i-CTDi will only make financial sense to buyers who cover more than 20,000 miles per year. Nevertheless, the oil-burner returns a class-leading 42.2mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions of 177g/km mean it complies with Euro IV emissions regulations. Go for this top-spec SE Executive trim and you will pay £22,800.

So the CR-V has suddenly become a genuine contender for class honours, and Honda predicts the addition of an oil-burning model will double annual demand for its mud-plugger. Whether it tops the sales charts or not, the Japanese company's first diesel off-roader has been well worth the wait.

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