What stands out?

The Honda CR-V has a bigger body than many other mid-sized SUVs, which allows a large boot and great rear-seat space. There is also a full-sized spare tyre, which is unusual among similar cars. The interior is presented well, there is plenty of standard equipment, and all-wheel drive is available. This review covers the fourth-generation CR-V, superseded in August 2017.

What might bug me?

Using the foot-operated parking brake – it’s more difficult than a traditional hand brake.

Stabbing repeatedly at the volume button to turn up the sound system. You can’t make an easy big change, in the way that you can with a rotating knob.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

The CR-V is available in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. It is classified as a medium SUV, lower priced.

What features do all versions have?

A reversing camera that allows a choice of view angles. Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen.

An MP3 compatible sound system with an AM/FM radio, a CD player, HDMI and USB inputs, six speakers, and speed-sensitive volume control.

Height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, which carries buttons for operating the cruise control, the sound system and your phone.

Seatbelt reminders for all five seats. A footrest for the driver.

Aluminium alloy wheels (which are lighter and more stylish than steel wheels) and a full-sized spare tyre.

Roof rails. These act as mounting points for the optional roof racks. (If you want to carry something on the roof, you also need the racks.)

Six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; a side airbag to protect the upper body of each front occupant; and a curtain airbag on each side to protect the heads of front and rear occupants.

Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid. All new cars must have this feature.

The CR-V is covered by a three-year warranty, with no limit on distance. Cars sold new after 1 July 2017 are warrantied for five years.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The limited edition 1.6-litre turbo-diesel is the most frugal, with official consumption of 5.9 litres/100km in auto form. This is an excellent engine.

The other diesel available, a 2.2-litre turbo, is just as economical with a manual gearbox but uses 6.7 litres/100km with the more popular auto.

One reason you might not choose either is their prices: the diesel engines are confined to the more expensive, and four-wheel drive, models. And the 1.6 diesel comes in only the most expensive, DTi-L, trim level.

A second reason you might not choose a diesel is that you can’t get hold of one. By March 2016 new stocks of both Honda CR-V diesels were very low, with no relief on the horizon.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine in two-wheel drive CR-Vs uses 7.7 litres/100km as an auto and is easier to drive around town.

There is also a 2.4-litre petrol engine for four-wheel drive models. While it uses a litre more petrol than the 2.0-litre every 100km, it also brings better performance.

In the real world, a CR-V VTi-L with this petrol engine averaged 12.0 litres/100km in comparison testing of mid-sized SUVs for the August 2014 issue of Wheels magazine, putting it near the middle of 10 cars reviewed for fuel use.

The least costly CR-V, the 2WD petrol VTi, comes with a six-speed manual or five-speed auto gearbox. All other petrol-powered models offer the five-speed auto only.

The 1.6-litre diesel engine drives through a nine-speed auto gearbox; whereas the 2.2 comes with a five-speed manual or a five-speed auto.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

Pay more for the VTi-S and you get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and front and rear parking sensors. Windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains. Headlights switch on automatically at night. There is dual-zone air-conditioning, which allows temperatures to be set independently for each half of the cabin, and smart key entry, which allows you to unlock the car without retrieving the key from your pocket or handbag.

Take a further step to the VTi-L and you get part-leather trim (there’s also some fake leather), with powered adjustment and heating for the front seats, and a memory for the driver’s seat (which makes it easier to restore your settings after a companion has driven the car). There is satellite navigation, and a sunroof. The 17-inch wheels on the two cheaper versions are replaced with 18-inch wheels, mainly for the racier look.

An extra-cost option available only on the VTi-L AWD is an active safety suite that Honda calls ADAS, for Advanced Driver Assist System. It comprises Adaptive cruise control, Lane-keeping assistance, and Autonomous emergency braking. (For more on these systems, please open the Safety section below.)

All three versions – VTi, VTi-S and VTi-L – can also be ordered with all-wheel drive, in which case they will have the bigger petrol engine.

(Diesel CR-Vs - DTi-S and DTi-L – were available only with all-wheel drive. Equipment levels matched the VTi-S and VTi-L, respectively.)

Does any upgrade have a down side?

All-wheel drive petrol models have the bigger engine and are heavier, and so use more fuel than their two-wheel drive counterparts.

The VTi-L’s sunroof reduces front headroom by 49mm.

The 18-inch tyres on VTi-L models won’t ride quite as smoothly as the 17s on less costly models, and could cost more to replace.

White is the only standard colour, and all others cost extra.

How comfortable is it?

The CR-V has an elegant interior with a classy and functional instrument cluster. The front seats are comfortable and offer good support. Everything is put together nicely. The large touchscreen makes it easy to navigate basic functions such as the sound system and phone connectivity.

Vision is good and so is the driving position. Most control buttons are easy to reach.

You might want more thrust from the basic 2.0-litre engine in 2WD models in everyday driving, something not helped by its five-speed auto. Most rival autos have at least six gears, respond better to inputs from the driver and make the engine appear more powerful.

The 2.4-litre engine on 4WD models is more pleasant to drive, accelerating more easily.

Overall the CR-V is an easy car to live with, with steering that is light and faithful in its responses. The suspension is also fairly compliant, making it comfortable over bumps.

At high speeds, tyre noise can intrude on what is a quiet cabin otherwise.

What about safety?

With a reversing camera, airbags all around and seatbelt reminders for all positions, the CR-V has a good level of standard safety. It also has daytime running lights – additional lights near the headlamps that make the car more visible.

Features such as rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensing headlamps on all but the least costly model improve safety levels, activating without driver intervention.

An extra-cost option on the all-wheel drive VTi-L (only) is the ADAS suite of active safety aids, which includes a form of autonomous emergency braking that Honda calls CMBS (Collision Mitigation Braking System).

ADAS uses radar and camera sensors to monitor the road ahead. They inform the Adaptive cruise control, which will hold you automatically at a safe distance from other drivers on the highway. They also inform the CMBS, which will warn you of an impending collision, and will apply the brakes automatically if you do not respond. The included Lane keep assistance monitors road markings to check that you are not drifting out of your lane on the highway – a likely sign of distraction or fatigue. If it concludes that you are, it will attempt gently to correct the steering.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rated this CR-V’s safety at five stars, in October 2012.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Like alternative mid-size SUVs, the CR-V drives more like a car than an off-roader. However, the taller body and softer suspension means it is prone to leaning in corners, which can be disconcerting through a succession of bends. And while the light steering is nice in the city, at highway speeds you may well find it too light - and a bit dull around its centre position.

However the CR-V holds the road well, instilling confidence in the driver.

The 2.0-litre engine, like many Honda engines, works best when you drive it hard and let it spin, but the auto transmission does not always harness its sweet spot, tending to select a higher gear early. The 2.4-litre engine in AWD versions is more enjoyable and better for overtaking.

That five-speed auto is a better match for the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, which has a broader spread of power in most conditions. The 2.2 diesel is also fairly quiet and smooth. The 1.6 diesel is smoother again and feels more powerful, aided by the closer ratio steps in its nine-speed auto.

All-wheel drive versions of the CR-V are light-duty off-roaders, designed for predominantly on-road use. The full-sized spare tyre adds confidence to try some tracks and trails, but the suspension design and low ride height (for an off-road vehicle) limit its ability on rough surfaces.

How is life in the rear seats?

The CR-V has more leg room at the rear than most medium SUVs, and so is very comfortable and spacious there for adults. The wide rear seat fits three people easily. And vents dedicated to the rear compartment bring heating or cooling.

However, the middle seatbelt comes out of the roof and requires two buckles to fasten it.

The outer child seat anchor points are also in the roof, obstructing rear vision.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The CR-V’s big boot is great for families, with a long, broad floor and tall load space. The rear seats can be easily split-folded in a 60/40 configuration, using handles on either side of the luggage area. Flip up the bases before folding the backs down and you get a near-flat floor.

There’s a net on the left of the boot for smaller items.

Elsewhere in the cabin there are plenty of storage binnacles, including a sizeable centre console and a smaller pocket above the main front door pockets that’s perfect for phones.

The CR-V is rated to tow 1600kg.

Where is it made?

Most CR-Vs are produced in Thailand. However the limited edition CR-V DTi-L (with the 1.6-litre diesel) was produced in England.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Perhaps wider access to active safety features such as automatic emergency braking. You can have these only on the most expensive CR-V – and even then you have to pay extra.

A six-speed automatic gearbox, which would improve performance and cut fuel use. Most other medium SUVs have at least six forward gears (or a CVT, with an infinite number of ratios). Among those are the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester.

Seven seats: the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-Trail offer a third row of seats in a car of about the same size.

The ability to display smartphone apps on the car’s central touchscreen, via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The Volkswagen Tiguan and Ford Escape offer this feature, for example.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The CR-V VTi 4WD. It has plenty of equipment and represents great value. We prefer the more powerful engine in this all-wheel drive version.

When did Honda update this CR-V?

The CR-V reviewed here arrived late in 2012 and received a mild update late in 2014. A limited-edition, 1.6-litre turbo-diesel introduced about October 2015 briefly augmented dwindling stocks of the 2.2-litre diesel. From about the second quarter 2016, this CRV has been available only with petrol engines.

From 1 July 2017, Honda extended its warranty on new cars to five years.

About the end of July 2017, Honda replaced this car with a new-generation CR-V. The new CR-V has a nominally more fuel-efficient turbocharged engine, support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a seven-seat version, and the option of all-wheel drive.