The current CR-V may not look that much different to the car it succeeds, but that’s because Honda is following Volkswagen’s cue and not messing with a winning formula any more than it has to. Besides, the fourth generation car is far more changed than first acquaintances might suggest.

It is, for example both lower by 30mm and shorter by 5mm than the last car. However, it suffers no reduction of interior space, says Honda, thanks to smarter packaging. It’s torsionally stiffer, too. A longer roof and flatter floor have smoothed out the airflow both over and under the car and combine with more efficient engines to provide some useful gains in fuel economy and falls in CO2 emissions.

Matt Saunders

Deputy road test editor
You can opt for a powered tailgate, operated via the key

Another throwback to the CR-V’s history is that two-wheel drive is the exception rather than the norm. Many newer rivals retain an all-wheel drive model just because of the credibility that would be lost if an off-roader was produced with literally no off-road ability. By contrast, four-wheel drive remains very much a CR-V staple and is available on all models save those fitted with the entry-level 1.6-litre diesel.

However, just two engines were available at first, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and a 2.2-litre diesel that has taken the lion’s share of sales in the UK. Doubtless Honda could have installed a higher-output engine – in the US the mainstay is a 185bhp 2.4-litre petrol – but in Europe, demand for such a thirsty, tax-inefficient powerplant would be negligible.

The new 1.6-litre diesel had been added as a low-emissions, low-consumption model, so unsurprisingly comes without even the option of either all-wheel drive or the five-speed automatic transmission available in CR-Vs with the either the larger petrol or diesel engine.

The CR-V sits on a bespoke platform that uses McPherson struts at the front and a multi-link rear end.

Top 5 Crossovers

  • Nissan Qashqai
    The Nissan Qashqai gets a new look and more functionality in an effort to attract a new generation of buyers

    Nissan Qashqai

  • Ford Kuga
    Ford's targeting a class above with its bigger Kuga

    Ford Kuga

  • CX-5's exterior has been shaped using Mazda's 'Kodo - soul of motion' design

    Mazda CX-5

  • If the new CR-V looks more crossover than old-guard SUV it may be because the roofline is 30mm lower than before

    Honda CR-V

  • Kia’s well priced compact soft-roader has been given attention-seeking looks

    Kia Sportage


Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    More powerful Clubsport version of Volkswagen's iconic hot hatch proves thoroughly entertaining on our track-only first drive in Portugal
  • First Drive
    25 November 2015
    Suzuki has added an automatic diesel powertrain to its S-Cross crossover line-up. Does it offer a compelling choice over the manual versions?
  • First Drive
    24 November 2015
    Alpina’s D3 saloon and estate benefit from the latest BMW 3 Series updates. We've always loved it, but is it still as beguiling as ever in this latest form?
  • First Drive
    24 November 2015
    Our first UK drive shows that few supercars offer as rounded a package as Audi's new R8. It isn't the last word dynamically but it still has a lot to offer
  • First Drive
    20 November 2015
    A new 1.8 turbo petrol engine and manual gearbox make the Ibiza Cupra a more satisfyingly brutish, hands-on hot hatch, but it's still not the best of its breed