Honda has gone to a great deal of trouble to make the new CR-V a match for the compact SUV class’s better-driving cars, and give it the air of sophistication that you would expect of a car that’s been established for so long. Although there is greater ground clearance than before, that hasn’t come at the expense of a raised centre of gravity, its maker points out.

Most of the details you might read about in the brochure, however (such as a longer wheelbase, hydraulic suspension bushings and new noise and vibration insulation techniques), seem to have been intended to boost the car’s refinement credentials.

Richard Lane

Road tester
CVT transmission doesn’t allow revs to just drop away under heavy braking, giving you some useful engine braking into tighter bends

They succeed, to a point: the CR-V becomes one of the compact SUV class’s quieter and comfier customers, without setting a really exceptional standard on either score.

The CR-V is certainly not one of the more engaging or poised compact SUVs on the market from a handling perspective. Grip levels are adequate and handling is secure, but body control is only average, and there is nothing you would characterise as particularly agile about the way the car changes direction. In this respect, just as with its powertrain, the Honda makes it clear that it doesn’t much cater for the interested driver.

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And it needn’t, of course, partly because handling dynamism is an entirely discretionary quality for an SUV to possess anyway, especially since the CR-V’s mission would seem to be to provide comfortable, smooth, easy-going family transport. The CR-V succeeds moderately well at most of those things. On the 19in wheels of upper-level EX trim, our test car’s ride might have been a touch quieter over coarse asphalt, but it dealt with broken surfaces well.

The suspension works equally well around town and at relaxed cross-country speeds, although bigger lumps and bumps taken at greater pace do upset the cabin’s softly sprung calm.

Likewise, the CR-V isn’t always the most composed car at higher motorway speeds. But adopt the laid-back, everyday-use, traffic-defined stride that the car encourages and you’ll find it capable of soothing away your stresses effectively enough.

The CR-V pitches, rolls and jounces more than the more driver-focused cars in its class when driven to extremes, but manages to maintain reasonable stability and grip anyway. It’s the sort of SUV whose initial rate of body lean is a touch discouraging but that keeps gripping as you wind on lock – and so will tolerate a quicker rate of progress, however apparently unwillingly.

The car also has well-tuned electronic stability controls that prevent you from disturbing its adhesion with excessive power. Honda’s latest stability aid is called Agile Handling Assist, and has been tuned for European tastes – so that it’s not easily set off with sudden steering inputs, and doesn’t intrude on the driving experience too much.

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