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Honda CR-V 2.2i CTDI EX

Click to view picture galleryHondas CR-V is not only socially
but it manages to
  please most of the people most of
  the time. And with prices starting
  from 19,455, the CR-V can provide
  secure and affordable family
  transport during Britain
s traditionally
  treacherous winter months...

WITH WINTER NEARLY UPON US, I've been reviewing several SUVs. Best for real off-road work at the right size and at a price that is relatively affordable is still the Land Rover Freelander range. But today the market is more about 'socially acceptable' mid-range SUVs such as the new Renault Koleos and the market sales leader, the British-built Honda CR-V.

Whilst the Renault Koleos is never likely to become a major player in the SUV market it does allow Renault dealers to at least offer their faithful customers a 4x4 rather than risk losing them to another brand. Koleos prices start at 17,995 and rise to 24,695. But the Honda CR-V remains the top-selling SUV in the UK, followed by the Freelander and Toyota RAV4.

The CR-V excels really as a family car. High off the ground with seating for five, a large load area and rear seats that fold down to give even more space — between 556 and 1,500 litres — it's also capable of towing up to a braked 2,000kg. The CR-V has become the most popular because it offers the most for most people at relatively affordable prices — from 19,455 up to 28,805.

Available with either a 2.0-litre 148bhp petrol engine — which takes just over a third of CR-V sales, mainly because there is an automatic transmission option with this engine — or the better and more user-friendly 138bhp 2.2-litre i-CDTi common rail turbodiesel unit that only comes with a six-speed manual transmission.

The CR-V has an all-wheel drive system which automatically sends power to the front wheels, but when they start to slip a proportion of the drive is transferred to the rear wheels for more secure all-wheel traction.

CR-V buyers can opt for one of three trim levels and even the entry-level SE model has air conditioning, four electric windows, stereo radio/CD player, six airbags and a stability control system. Next up the line are the ES models which add alloy road wheels, dual-zone climate control, privacy glass and reversing sensors. Customers feeling like spending an extra 3,000 or so can go for the range-topping EX trim that includes leather upholstery, satellite navigation, larger wheels, a panoramic sunroof and a rear view parking camera.

On-road driveability is generally first class; the CR-V is a little heavier and not quite as nimble as, say, the VW Tiguan or the Renault Koleos but it feels solid, strong and durable. Off-road performance is limited — it certainly is no match for the Freelander; but it is enough for most family users and ideal for winter roads covered in water, mud, ice and snow.

I can see why this vehicle succeeds because it gives peace of mind when the conditions get tough and tricky. It's versatile and generally — apart from its unattractive front snout and grille — looks pretty smart. And, at 4,530mm in length, it's no longer to park than a family-sized hatchback or estate. The conservatively styled interior may be a tad too conservative for some tastes and, as already mentioned, it's not so nimble on twisting country roads. More reasons to like the CR-V include its roomy cabin, clever double-deck load space and strong fuel-efficient engine. Also, the mid-range models are affordable and they're also all well made and reliable. — David Miles

Honda CR-V 2.2i CTDI EX
| 25,130
Maximum speed: 116mph | 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Overall test MPG: 28.8mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 251lb ft
CO2 173g/km | VED Band E 170 | Insurance group 12