NEVER mind the old saying: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Where mid-size SUVs are concerned, it’s which came first the Honda CR-V or the Land Rover Freelander?
The answer is the Honda, the first car of its type into the UK market, aimed fairly and squarely at the leisure user. It even had a foldaway picnic table in the boot when launched during the ’90s, although even that was not a new idea. You could have bought a Simca estate in the ’60s with the same feature!
The CR-V has kept pace with the change in drivers’ tastes. People across the world want compact four wheel drives, or cars that look like them, so a major plank of UK motor exports is formed by cars like the CR-V, Nissan Qashqai, and the Land Rover Discovery Sport (the replacement for the Freelander) and Range Rover Evoque.
The CR-V has been in production for more than two decades and, with the Civic, is the mainstay of Honda’s Swindon plant output.
The CR-V went through a hiatus when the hideous front end applied to the last generation did it no favours. That has all been put right with the latest model, now with slightly reduced height and length combined with better aerodynamics.
Whether or not you like that front, Diesel Car magazine nominated the CR-V from 2007-2012 as its best used 4×4 of the year back in January.
It probably helps that the CR-V is also one of the least abused 4x4s as drivers hitting rough terrain with a CR-V must be few and far between. That’s not to suggest this is a seven stone weakling SUV, just that where it’s supposed to shine, in poor road conditions, the 4×4 versions do well.
Owners keen on lower running costs will find the CR-V has plus points because it is offered with the 1.6 litre i-DTEC diesel that does such sterling service in the Civic range.
A car as bulky as the CR-V is not the hefty challenge for this engine that you might expect. In fact Honda now uses a higher output 160bhp version in the CR-V with the full-fat 4×4, replacing the bigger capacity 2.2 diesel that was called on to do the job before.
Buyers who want the body but not the ability will like the 48.5mpg consumption offered by the lower powered 1.6 manual, an improvement of around 10 per cent over the old 2.2.
But the 1.6 with 4×4 and the new nine speed auto transmission certainly likes a drink, with the average dropping to around 41mpg. It’s a trade-off many owners will be willing to sacrifice in order to get all the SUV benefits plus the auto’s ease of driving.
The CR-V is not short on comfort with good ride and handling even on twisty roads and plentiful passenger space all round. The seats are ideal and supportive while hip height is perfect when old codgers need to get in or out.
Practicality comes with excellent load space, as much as 1,669 litres if a space saver spare is fitted in place of the standard full size item. Honda says this is equivalent to 20 bath tubs of water – that’s maybe not a water-tight argument for buying the car! Just pulling on one tab inside each rear door sees the rear seat bases flip, with the backrests dropping into the space with their headrests simultaneously folding down, to give the level load floor that’s frequently missing from load carriers these days.
The 1.6 EX offers such useful extras as a power tailgate that’s a welcome bonus because these panels have become so heavy and high they are almost impossible to close on some cars, although the manual tailgate on the CR-V is better than most.
There’s also a panoramic glass roof, something on which we are increasingly keen, and an electric driver’s seat with memory function. Maybe the metallic doorstep garnish in the EX pack is one thing that could be deleted.
Honda SENSING brings collision mitigation braking with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. It’s maybe better to pay attention rather than rely on electronics – modern cars are making drivers much too lazy!
Auto boxes are always the easiest to use when you want to tow a trailer but with just 1.5 tonnes of capacity on the bar the 1.6 auto is lacking when compared to some competitors. Go for a manual box with this higher output 1.6 diesel and you can increase the towing capacity to two tonnes.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Honda CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC EX automatic Honda SENSING
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 10.4 secs
Top speed: 122 mph
Bhp: 160@ 4000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb ft @ 2000 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 53.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 139 g/km
Best bits: capable.