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

Chief tester
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 Compact SUVs

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Honda range

Driven this week

  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales