The current Honda 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.
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.
The extensive mid-life facelift gave the CR-V sharper looks, which correlates with Honda's design language, with the front grille, headlights and rear lights all getting a refreshed look. It was also made wider and given a quicker steering rack and new suspension components, while refinement was improved with thicker door seals.
However, just two engines were available at first, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and a 1.6-litre diesel engine available with a nine-speed auto' box, replaces the long-in-the-tooth 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.