I STOPPED short of actually buying a CR-V when my wife and I were looking for a family car a couple of years ago.
I was barely into my 30s and my daughter was in the planning phase; I wasn’t ready to be an SUV owner. Instead, I chose the cooler, quicker Liberty GT wagon.
But I remained an unlikely fan of Honda’s third-generation soft-roader.
Because of that, I was disproportionately interested in the new CR-V. In light of Honda’s patchy recent form, I thought it might stuff up the things I liked about the old car. But the new, Thai-built fourth-generation is easily the best CR-V in the model’s 17-year history.
The $29,990 2.0-litre front-wheel-drive, entry-level model is the new addition, which, while not actually cheaper than the old entry-level AWD, is better equipped and, at 7.7L/100km, both a bit more economical than the new AWD (8.7L/100km) and a lot more economical than the old one (10.0L/100km).
From there, the range works its way through the auto-only all-wheel-drive VTi ($32,990), VTi-S ($36,290) and flagship VTi-L ($42,290). It’s no longer possible to buy a manual all-wheel-drive CR-V.
The new CR-V has a better-looking nose, a Volvo XC60 tail and, its maker claims, is bigger on the inside and smaller on the outside. The spec sheet says it’s 20mm shorter, 5mm taller and the same width as the old one, on an identical wheelbase and tracks.
Inside, there’s a bit less headroom in the front, and rear legroom is about the same as in the old car. The steering, which is now electro-mechanical rather than hydraulic, loses feel and on-centre immediacy. That doesn’t matter like it does in, say, a 911, but it’s a bit of a shame, because the old one steered so well.
A revised version of the old 2.4-litre four delivers 12 per cent more power, using 13 per cent less fuel, without tricky tech. The new 2.0-litre lacks the lug-ability of the 2.4, but both engines sound good and work well with the five-speed auto and six-speed manual. A 2.2-litre turbo-diesel (auto and manual) is due in the second half of the year.
Okay, I’ll come clean: I’ll probably never be ready for an SUV, but if I was, right now, the Honda CR-V would be it.