Japanese manufacturers seem to have a knack for designing cars that are more interesting to behold than their European counterparts. Interesting-looking cars aren’t necessarily attractive ones, of course. Mitsubishi has its quirky-looking Eclipse Cross, Lexus a family of unapologetically edgy SUVs and Honda – in addition to its 10th-generation Civic – now has the latest CR-V.

While the car’s boxy silhouette hasn’t changed radically from Mk4 to Mk5, the CR-V is now a far busier thing to look at. Sharp creases and bold contours are used fairly liberally – just look at that bonnet – while abundant brightwork draws the eye.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Fifth generation hasn’t lost the vertically arranged tail-light design of previous CR-Vs. That said, they’re now much more compact-looking, while they swoop in beneath the rear window too

Wider arches and larger wheels that are now positioned further towards the car’s extremities lend the CR-V a more muscular and athletic stature. The car has grown, too. Compared with that of its predecessor, its wheelbase has been stretched by 30mm to 2663mm (AWD), liberating additional interior space. All up, the CR-V is now 4600mm long, 1855mm wide and 1689mm tall – gains of 70mm, 104mm and 14mm over the dimensions of the 1995 original.

The fifth-generation CR-V is based on an adaptation of Honda’s ‘compact global’ platform that underpins the current Civic. This new chassis is not only lighter than the previous model’s, it also benefits from a 25% increase in torsional stiffness. Suspension, meanwhile, is comprised of a MacPherson strut-type arrangement at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear.

Top 5 Family SUVs

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Honda range

Driven this week

The CR-V is powered by a new version of the 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that’s available in the Civic – albeit one fitted with a smaller, more responsive turbocharger. Two states of tune are available: the first with 170bhp and 163lb ft when mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, the second with 190bhp with 179lb ft when paired with the car’s all-new continuously variable transmission (CVT). Our test car had the latter tune and transmission. Diesel engines have been dropped from the line-up.

Where manual models are available with front or four-wheel drive, CVT-equipped CR-Vs are exclusively four-wheel drive. Not that power is sent to all four wheels all of the time in the latter. A multi-plate clutch system is used to send up to 60% of the engine’s torque to the rear differential when needed – when accelerating from a standstill, driving on low-grip surfaces or, at times, when cornering. At cruising speeds, the rear axle drive disconnects in an attempt to improve fuel efficiency.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Honda range

Driven this week