If you were marched blindfold to both this and the previous Honda CR-V, sat in disguised cabins and allowed to drive both, you might wonder from their dynamics which is the newer car.

Relative to its rivals at the time, the old CR-V was a real achievement, a breath of fresh air blowing through the turgid ranks of its classmates with enough of a spring in its step to make you pleased you didn’t splurge the extra on a Land Rover Freelander 2.

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The CR-V languishes behind the Freelander, Santa Fe and X3

At best, this new model has trodden water while all the time its rivals have advanced. When new, the 2.2-litre diesel was a groundbreaker; now it seems merely adequate.

While the old CR-V also possessed ride and handling that really raised the eyebrows, now it’s not bad, but nor is it outstanding in any notable way – and falls behind the likes of the Mazda CX-5 and BMW X3.

And that is an effective metaphor for the CR-V as a whole. It gives the impression that wrapping it up in fresh new looks is somehow enough and that the rest of the car does not need to be similarly renewed. That said, the addition of a 1.6-litre diesel is timely and should ensure that CR-V sales stay strong.

But it is no longer a car about which we can get at all excited. You might wonder why we ever thought it a possibility in this class of car. To which we’d point out its predecessor and that Honda badge on its nose, a sign that still speaks of engineering excellence far beyond the run of the mill.

Sadly, and in the Honda CR-V at least, there is little evidence of that mindset at all.

Top 5 Compact SUVs

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

    Ford Kuga

    1
  • Volkswagen Tiguan

    Volkswagen Tiguan

    2
  • Range Rover Evoque
    The Range Rover Evoque is available as a three-door, pictured here, or a five-door

    Range Rover Evoque

    3
  • The second generation BMW X1

    BMW X1

    4
  • Honda CR-V
    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

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Honda range

Driven this week

  • 2016 Hyundai I30 1.4 Turbo prototype
    First Drive
    30 August 2016
    We get early access to the third-generation Hyundai i30 1.4 Turbo. Does this prototype show promise?
  • Citroën C4 Grand Picasso
    First Drive
    26 August 2016
    The Citroën Grand C4 Picasso gets tweaked styling, improved tech and new personalisation options to keep it ahead of rivals
  • Car review
    26 August 2016
    Wolfsburg celebrates the GTI’s 40th with its most extreme version yet
  • Kia Optima Sportwagon
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    New Kia estate looks the part, has good space and handles tidily, but its engine's flexibility and refinement let it down
  •  Kia Optima PHEV
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    Plug-in hybrid Optima is a practical, tax-efficient PHEV that undercuts rivals and fulfils its main remit well, but keen drivers need not apply