Compact sports utility was in its infancy when Honda reworked the Civic’s platform to underpin a soft-roader’s shell. The CR-V was available with part-time all-wheel drive from the off (although it was slyly dubbed ‘Real Time’) and hoovered up regional sales on its way to becoming a global model.
Arguably, the concept of 4x4 ruggedness has never left much of an indentation on the Honda brand, but it hasn’t needed to. The CR-V, in three previous generations, has already breached five million sales.
Yes, it’s unfortunate that our in-depth look at the new CR-V comes barely a week after Honda was forced into a huge global recall but, faulty window switches aside, the firm’s long-running SUV has lived a rather blameless life.
The model’s mingling of car-like reflexes with a 4x4’s practicality was revolutionary when it was unveiled in 1995. Now, of course, it’s the segment norm. Every significant player in the mid-market features something along similar lines and, worse still for the CR-V, premium car makers and former budget brands have got in on the act, too.
Competition comes from the expected, like the Ford Kuga, but also from Kia, Hyundai and, arguably more worrying still if you’re calculating potential volumes at Honda, from BMW and Audi.
So Honda’s job now is to keep the CR-V well respected in this bustling and pretty saturated segment of the market. To that end, this new model has received a styling rebuff to differentiate it heavily from its predecessor. More importantly, it attempts to address some of the old car’s more objective shortcomings. Let’s see how it gets on.