The CR-V is one of those cars that you think nobody drives, until you sit behind the wheel of one. Then you suddenly notice how many of them there are on the road. But previous models have been a little limp-wristed, the sort of car an aerobics teacher might drive, or maybe young mums aspiring to 4×4 status.
Honda is probably quite proud of that heritage, tagging its CR-V models as fine-handling family cars, rather than large clumsy off-road units.
But the new 2007 CR-V is a bit more manly, and that’s not just down to the diesel engine. Honda has made the CRV look more aggressive, with the sleek rear quarter panel that incorporates a sweeping window, wide wheel arches and the styled bumpers making it a chunkier-looking machine.
On the road
Honda’s claim that the CR-V is as refined to drive as a saloon car isn’t far from the truth. With 140hp under its belt and maximum torque (250lbft) developed at just 2000rpm, there’s an abundance of power between 2000rpm and 4000rpm, which is great for overtaking.
As with all diesels, power fades away after 4000rpm, though, which can leave you wanting more grunt from the engine.
Steering on these diesel models is hydraulic, compared to electric on petrol models. It does mean that manoeuvring into a parking space is a doddle, though on the road the car can lack feedback. However there’s no denying that the CR-V handles well.
In normal conditions drive goes to the front wheels, with power only dispatched to the rear end if the fronts start to slip. It certainly works – even if you exit a roundabout with vigour on a wet road, the rear end never threatens to step out. So it’s a lot safer, if slightly duller, than a rear wheel drive biased vehicle.
The 4wd system does what it says on the tin, keeping power distributed evenly, making the drive balanced and instilling you with confidence in the unit’s ability.
The downside is that the CR-V is not a fantastic off-road machine, but then this car was never developed to tackle the Camel Challenge. Sure, it can cope with grass slopes and modest dirt tracks with confidence, but it’s no Defender 110.
We were lucky enough to have the top-of-the-range EX model, which comes as standard with sat-nav, a rear parking camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a swanky electrically adjustable driver seat.
It’s also available with Honda’s £2000 safety package. Sounds like a lot of money, but you get some fancy kit. For a start, there’s active front lighting (which swivels the headlamps as you turn the steering wheel, so you ‘see’ round corners).
Then there’s collision mitigation braking (if the car in front suddenly jams on the brakes, your car automatically slows too) and adaptive cruise control (lets you set both your target speed and the distance you want to stay from the car in front).
There are two spec grades under the EX, too. On the basic SE grade machine, luxuries are limited to heated door mirrors and air conditioning. Jump up to the ES and you get things like front and rear parking sensors.
This is a well-put-together vehicle and Honda’s traditional build quality is present in everything down to the switches on the stereo. The basic models are indeed basic, but there’s some sophisticated technology available at the top end of the range. Fuel consumption of 38mpg on the motorway and slightly less in town isn’t bad, either.
Honda admits that it is pitching this vehicle at the young marrieds and that particular social group is well catered for by the CR-V. But you wouldn’t be too upset if you had to take it to the local agricultural show or cattle market. Hondas may have a comfy, sensible image but no-one can deny they’re well-made and do the job they’re intended to.