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Honda CR-V 2.0 i-VTEC EX 4WD

Click to view picture gallery“For some reason (actually there are
  lots of good ones), a lot of people
  like Honda
s SUV the CR-V.
  Perhaps because throughout each
  of its incarnations
the recent fourth
  generation is now here
its core
  character has always been its
  effortless multi-role driveability...


WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT, cars are a bit like robots — although they're machines, some have 'characters' humans can easily identify, and even bond, with: think WALL-E, R2-D2 and C-3PO to name just a few. Which explains why many drivers christen their cars with names such as Toots, Emily, Arkle, and Genevieve. And I'm guessing that of all those CR-Vs sold (five million since 1995), the majority of them are known to their owners not as a number but by a name.


Broadening the latest CR-V's appeal is the introduction, for the first time in Europe, of two-wheel drive models — but only on petrol-engined versions and not the diesels. However, as welcome as a few miles per gallon more is, if you need 4WD even just once or twice a year to get you through weather conditions that would leave a 2WD vehicle stranded, then a few quid shaved off your annual fuel costs is not so important.

“The instant you need
extra grip or traction —
winter weather aside,
say in a sudden
cloudburst or on silage-
slippery country lanes —
it’s there without you
ever having to think
about it.
..”
For the record, the manual 2WD 2.0-litre petrol returns an official 31.7; manual transmission 4WD versions 31.1-31.4mpg). Later this year a 2WD-only 1.6-litre CR-V will join the range — capable of an impressive 62.8mpg.

Besides, the CR-V's 4x4 system only comes into play when it's needed, so much of the time you're running in two-wheel drive (the front pair) anyway.

Go for the slightly more expensive (1,100) 4WD model and the difference is that the instant you need extra grip or traction — winter weather aside, say in a sudden cloudburst or on silage-slippery country lanes — it's there without you ever having to think about it.

Honda's Real Time electronically-activated AWD system automatically engages the rear wheels whenever tricky road conditions demand. And while the CR-V is not a hardcore mud-slugger it will, if needs must, faithfully oblige off-road.

Honda appears to have followed VW's (Golf) DMWF lead: Don't Mess (well, not much) with a Winning Formula. Which is why, to a casual observer, the latest CR-V may not look that much different from its predecessor. However, it's deeply sculpted body is undeniably smarter, with sweeping deep-set headlights bracketing a bolder, three-bar-grille nose that visually toughens up its dual-role image. At the tail, the tall LED rear light units following the line of the C-pillars are equally eye-catching.

Step inside though and the design is impressively improved. There's a comprehensive but easy-to-take-in instrument-cum-driver information set supported by a secondary information display inset top dead centre of the fascia above the built-in SatNav (an especially good unit with A1 traffic information that, helpfully, offers a jump link to show on the map if required). All key info can be accessed in a quick glance. Cubbyholes and storage bins are well sited and real-world sized.

All prime switchgear and controls are within easy reach of the leather steering wheel. Four large dash-mounted air vents keep you cool in summer and cosy in winter — not only is coverage good, but the blower runs quietly. Keyless access along with drive-away central locking, a padded sliding centre armrest and a perfectly-positioned traditional pull-up handbrake all help make life more satisfying for the CR-V driver.

“The top-of-the-range
CR-V costs 29K,
which puts it firmly in
Audi and BMW territory.
However, for that
you’ll be specced to the
max and, kit-wise,
you really won’t want
for a thing.
..”
The top-of-the-range CR-V we've just tested — EX spec — costs 29K, which puts it firmly in Audi and BMW territory. However, for that you'll be specced to the max and, kit-wise, you really won't want for a thing.

But you can become a CR-V owner for just 21K — that's the price of the 2.0 S and even this entry-level model comes well equipped with alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, a 5-inch Multi-Information Display, power lumbar support for the driver, one-touch folding rear seats, USB and Aux sockets, Vehicle Stability Assist, Trailer Stability Assist, Hill Start Assist, a full complement of airbags, idle stop-start, electric adjustable heated door mirrors, four electric windows, and steering wheel audio controls. And lots of space. Make no mistake, this new CR-V is a big car.

Naturally, given its near-30K price tag, the range-topper EX will be judged against premium brand SUVs such as BMW's X3, the Audi Q5, Land Rover's Freelander, and the impressive XC60 from Volvo.

A tough call, but the CR-V's obviously good fit and finish and cabin ambience passes muster, helped by a large glasshouse that not only provides first class visibility for the driver but also a light and airy cabin for passengers and makes Honda's SUV a pleasant and satisfying place to hang out. And a powered blind for the full-length glass roof means you won't need to wear sunblock in the summer.

The rear passenger compartment is luxuriously spacious for two, separated by a padded centre armrest with built-in cupholders. Adjustable backrests boost the comfort rating. Three's more than just doable, and middle rear seat passengers will appreciate the plentiful foot room (there's no restrictive transmission tunnel). Wherever you sit, you'll be ensconced in soft leather. And whichever door you shut, it will close with that solid thunk that says 'quality build'.

Despite its size, the CR-V is unexpectedly wieldy to drive; bodyroll is well controlled around corners and through bends, and the electric power-steering is accurate and makes for keener manoeuvrability.

“The 2.0-litre petrol
engine is smooth and
quiet and moves the
CR-V along nicely.
Officially the petrol-
drinker averages 37.2mpg
— at the end of a hard
week’s testing we’d averaged 36.2mpg.
..”
Built in the UK at Swindon, the torsionally stiffer CR-V's McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension has been tuned for improved ride comfort and high-speed stability on European roads.

The CR-V's raised driving position and 8-way power adjustable supportive seat (with two memory settings) and a footwell large enough for driving in boots benefits from good physical harmonics with the pedals, steering wheel and high-mounted gear lever and although you're riding tall in this SUV's saddle, the feel is very much car-like. On the move it's secure and sure-footed.

As it should, being packed with safety technology, both active and passive, including front and front-side airbags as well as front and rear side curtain airbags as well as an advanced stability control system that helps keep a towed trailer, caravan or horsebox (600kg unbraked or 1,500kg braked) safely under control — no surprise then that Honda's SUV is a popular choice for the towing brigade.

The CR-V also comes endorsed by a five-star Euro NCAP rating. Honda's Collision Mitigation Braking system (warns of an impending collision and even applies the brakes to minimise an impact), Lane Keeping Assist, and Adaptive Cruise Control are all optional.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet is smooth and quiet and moves the CR-V along nicely — it also makes a good choice if you're not chalking up big annual mileages. Officially the petrol-drinker averages 37.2mpg — at the end of a hard week's testing the trip computer was showing a very respectable 36.2mpg.

A six-speed manual 'box is standard and the short gearlever conveniently close to your knee makes for no-reach, easy changing (an auto is available should you prefer). Aided by improved aerodynamics, the CR-V is also refined at motorway speeds.

The top-of-the-range EX is loaded with kit — far too much to list here. Highlights include a power driver's seat with memory, heated front seats, privacy glass, dynamic cornering lights, 18-inch alloys, Smart Entry and Start, panoramic sunroof, touchscreen SatNav, parking camera, leather upholstery, power door mirrors, auto-dim rear-view mirror, one-touch power windows, auto lights and wipes, a premium audio system with DAB radio, Bluetooth, front and rear parking sensors plus a rear-view parking camera, and a power-operated tailgate.

“The new CR-V’s boot will swallow 589 litres of luggage. Or to put it another way, it can accommodate two mountain bikes or four sets of golf clubs!
There's more boot/load space too. Trigger the self-opening tailgate using the switch on the fascia, the key fob or the keyless access button to the right of the Honda boot badge.

The luggage blind works smoothly and can be packed away in a jiffy. With the blind in place and the second row seats up, the new CR-V's boot will swallow 589 litres of luggage; fold the 60:40 seats fully — just one pull on a handle does it all for you (and very cleverly, too) — and that jumps to a massive 1,648 litres.

Choose a space saver spare wheel and it goes up still further — to 1,669 litres. Or to put it another way, the CR-V can accommodate two mountain bikes or four sets of golf clubs! A low lip makes light work loading and unloading big, heavy or awkward objects. A light but strong boot liner with deep sides lifts out easily for cleaning and takes the worry out of transporting wet or messy items.

The latest CR-V honours the model's reputation for being car-like and a cinch to drive. It's comfortable, rides well on its stylish 18-inch alloys, and whether it's on the means streets of the city or the wide open spaces of the countryside, the CR-V will serve you right.
MotorBar

Honda CR-V 2.0 i-VTEC EX 4WD | 28,900
Top speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 10.2 seconds | Average Test MPG: 36.2mpg
Power: 152bhp | Torque: 141lb ft | CO2 177g/km