Honda's improved fourth generation CR-V is the answer to the school run, June Neary decides this week.
Will It Suit Me?
It doesn't really matter what CR-V stands for. 'Compact Recreational Vehicle' will probably mean as much to you as it did to me. The fact is, Honda's CR-V is the kind of SUV that women like me tend to like very much. My nephew, now ten, has always enjoyed the lofty view a four-wheel drive affords. We tried out one of the very large contenders in the sector a few weeks ago and let's just say its Amazonian proportions delighted him and the friend who came home to tea, but its sheer size was, for me, a nightmare near school where parking is at a premium. The improved fourth generation CR-V I'm looking at here, on the other hand, is in many ways, a roomy hatchback on big wheels. It doesn't look as if it yearns to be plugging up a muddy hillside in first gear. It's happy around town and its neat dimensions mean that it's as manageable as the average family car.
To some extent, it's what the CR-V doesn't have which makes it such a practical option for family driving. It shuns heavy military-type transmission that's thirsty on fuel like some of the opposition. Instead, there's an electronically activated set-up that provides a faster response when a loss of traction is detected. It's designed more for grass and gravel rather than mud and snow. There's no second gearstick or differential lock to worry about. You just get in and drive. Although it can despatch the speed bumps near school with ease, it gives a smooth, comfortable ride. Inside, the car will seat five in absolute comfort. The driving position is crisp and businesslike, the controls clear and logical. I appreciated the high-tech touches in the interior too. The cabin has been tweaked courtesy of a re-shaped chrome-effect inlay running the width of the dashboard, and through the use of higher quality materials on key surfaces. The dashboard has been redesigned to allow better visibility and access to the seven-inch touchscreen displaying the easy-to-use 'Honda Connect' infotainment system. Plus there's an auxiliary/MP3 socket for the radio, something which should have long been standard on passenger cars but which is only now becoming commonplace, some four years after the iPod gained mass popularity. I also liked the latest CR-V's one-action fold down rear seat system, with the rear seats featuring a 60/40 split function. With the seats in place you get an excellent 589-litres of luggage space which transforms to 1,648-litres with the seats folded. The load length is up to 1,570 mm, allowing the CR-V to easily swallow two adult mountain bikes (without having to remove the front wheels) or four sets of golf clubs.
Behind the Wheel
If you want a family car with out and out performance, then the CR-V is not the obvious choice. That said, this Honda is by no means sluggish. Even the least powerful 120PS 1.6 i-DTEC 2WD diesel version is nippy around town, while on the open road it offers as much verve as a warmish shopping hatch (62mph is 11.2s away) - and you won't wince when you pay for your fuel thanks to 62.8mpg combined cycle economy, allied with a 115g/km CO2 return. There's also a pokier 160PS version of this diesel model that gets 4WD. And a 155PS 2.0 i-VTEC petrol model offered with either two or four-wheel drive. With a low centre of gravity, Honda claims to have benchmarked the best family saloons in its class (rather than other SUVs) when it comes to handling. Forget the cumbersome roly-poly road manners and ponderous ride quality still common to some cars in this class. The CR-V has been engineered to be pin sharp straight out of the box using a suspension system that's had more resource poured into it than many of the semi-agricultural setups you'll find on rival offerings.
Value For Money
As a second car for the family, even the cheapest CR-V would be a pricey option, at around £22,500 for the entry-level petrol version. You'll need around £1,000 more than that for the least expensive 2WD diesel, while the 4WD diesel prices from over £27,500. However, unlike the majority of shopping hatches that sit in the drive all weekend, the Honda would come into its own for family outings. I enjoyed the manual 1.6-litre i-DTEC version of this car. The gearbox is again typical of Honda, allowing fluid movement through the gears - and there's an automatic option if you go for the 160PS variant. Whatever model you choose, equipment levels are generous.
Could I Live With One?
The short answer is yes, please. For day-to-day needs, the CR-V is a joy to drive. It has all the advantages of a family car, but it's a lot more fun. If your weekend pursuits include muddy walks with the dog, picnics with the children or a good, long hike with your partner when you can get away from it all, the CR-V will come into its 'recreational' own.