From £27,2857

For its fourth-generation, Honda moves its long-established CR-V into full-size family SUV territory

Some 23 years have now passed since the first-generation Honda CR-V emerged into the world. It was a pioneer among modern, good-mannered, family-friendly urban SUVs – not because it looked particularly radical or featured any groundbreaking technology, but because it changed people’s perceptions and expectations of, and attitudes to, vehicles of its ilk.

The CR-V’s Honda Civic-derived platform allowed it to handle in a far more car-like manner than contemporary 4x4s, while its high-riding stature conveyed a sense of onboard safety and security that family-minded buyers found hugely appealing. The CR-V has flourished in spite of all of the competition it has inspired; by Honda’s own claim, it has become the world’s best-selling compact SUV.

Our top-flight EX-grade test car is the only CR-V to be fitted with 19in wheels as standard. All others make do with smaller 18s, aside from the entry-level model, which has 17s

The landscape into which this much larger fifth-generation version of the Comfortable Runabout Vehicle emerges demands more of it than any of its forebears, of course.

Competition is now far stiffer than it was even as recently as for the fourth-generation version, while the market is saturated with rivals – many of which have been cast with more sporting personalities and dashing good looks than could be justified for the ever-functional CR-V, and many of which come from premium brands.

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So how does the Honda fight back? Well, for the first time, the CR-V is being offered with the option of seven seats, while a petrol-electric hybrid version is set to appear in 2019. The car’s cabin is claimed to be more spacious than ever, while class-leading fuel efficiency is promised to boost its rational appeal still further.

But are the changes wrought on our five-seat, petrol-engined test car enough to make the CR-V stand out against big-name rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Skoda Kodiaq and Peugeot 5008? Or will it struggle to keep its head above water?

Honda CR-V FAQs

Is the Honda CR-V available as a plug-in or electric?

Honda has recently launched its quirky all-electric Honda E city car, but for now this model remains the only EV in the range. There are no plug-in hybrid models either, with the brand favouring ‘self-charging’ petrol-electric powertrains for its latest machines, including the Honda CR-V. Using a 2.0-litre motor and a pair of electric motors powered by a 1kWh lithium ion battery, the big SUV can manage about a mile of gentle driving in pure electric mode.

What are the main rivals for the Honda CR-V?

You don’t have to look hard for alternatives to the Honda CR-V, which plys its trade in the hotly contested midsize SUV class. Other hybrid options include the sharp-handling Ford Kuga and the distinctive new Kia Sportage (and its equally eye-catching close relative the Hyundai Tucson). The Toyota RAV4 serves up a similar blend of space and solidity to the Honda, while the Mazda CX-5 lacks hybrid power, but is roomy and good to drive.

How much power does the Honda CR-V have?

There’s not a lot of choice when it comes to engines for the Honda CR-V, with the 2.0-litre hybrid the only option. However, getting to the bottom of how much power the Honda has is tricky, because the company won’t, or can’t, tell. The four-cylinder petrol unit delivers 143bhp, while the main electric drive motor musters 181bhp (there’s also another, smaller motor that doesn’t have a quoted output). While the true overall figure is unknown, it’s enough to accelerate the CR-V from standstill to 62mph in 8.6 seconds.

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What choices of gearboxes are there for the Honda CR-V?

As with the engine, the Honda CR-V is only available with a single gearbox option - a single-speed automatic transmission. There’s no need for multiple ratios because the biggest of the two electric motors drives the wheels most of the time, and its instant 232lb ft means there’s no need for multiple ratios. It also allows the Honda to accelerate smoothly and seamlessly without any jerky gearchanges to upset the car’s serene and relaxing progress.

Where is the Honda CR-V built?

The easier question to ask here would be, ‘where isn’t the Honda CR-V built?’. The Japanese SUV’s popularity around the world means it’s built at numerous factories that are scattered across the Globe. Much of the production is handled by the brand’s home plant at Sayam in Japan, but also at facilities in Canada, China (where it’s known as the Honda Breeze), India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand, the USA and Vietnam.

How many generations of the Honda CR-V have there been?

As a pioneer of the current compact crossover class, the Honda CR-V has been around long enough to now be in its fifth generation. Initially referred to as a ‘soft roader’, the first generation CR-V made its debut in 1997 and featured novel extras such as an outdoor shower attachment and a boot floor that could be removed and turned into a picnic table. Subsequent generations became more grown-up and were aimed at more expensive premium rivals.

Honda CR-V First drives