Va Va Vroom – 4x4s give way to new 'urban animal'
Geraldine Herbert says the plush and durable 1.6-litre Honda CR-V is an ideal workhorse for family life
Honda's new 1.6 diesel CR-V is certainly an 'urban animal'; one that has no aspirations toward rigorous off-road use. An austerity 4x4 for city life, this is a car squarely aimed at the eco-conscious urban mother with a keen eye for fuel economy.
Launched at the beginning of the year, the fourth generation CR-V is a more stylish and classier version of its predecessor. It's also slightly lower and shorter with a new grille-headlight integration, giving it a more distinguished look.
At the heart of the Honda's CR-Vs are two engine choices, the recently launched super frugal 1.6-litre diesel, available in front-wheel drive, and a 2.2 turbodiesel with four-wheel drive.
On paper, the 1.6 engine appears a far more insipid version of the CR-V, but tap the accelerator and power comes sharply from the 120bhp engine and 300nms of torque.
If you need a bit more muscle under the bonnet, the 2.2-litre four-cylinder 150bhp engine with 350nms is the one to opt for.
It cruises smoothly around town and country with little or no road noise, and on-road or off, is comfortable.
On the road, the 1.6 CR-V feels lithe and handles well.
Steering is direct and nicely weighted and it feels well planted on the motorway and composed through corners.
The suspension soaks up most bumps, and comfort is the name of the game.
While we preferred the power of the 2.2 diesel, the differences are noticeable on the road and the 1.6 is definitely the more nimble of the two.
Overall, the 1.6 engine is a really good fit, with the CR-V, offering a good blend of dynamics, power and torque, and is much more affordable.
For those who do need off-road capabilities, the on-demand four-wheel drive system is excellent and offers superb stability and grip but is also lighter with faster response times than before.
Fuel-saving aids abound, including Honda's ECON mode.
This helps to minimise fuel consumption by adjusting throttle response and air-conditioning, while Eco Assist advises through the dashboard display how your driving impacts on fuel economy.
The colour of the dial edges changes from white to green when driving more efficiently. As a result, the 1.6 diesel engine is so frugal that it will make your lawnmower look thirsty. It boasts an excellent 4.5 litres per 100km or 62.8mpg on a combined cycle of town and motorway and CO2 emissions of 119g/km, so annual road tax is €200.
A major selling point in a crossover is boot space – and the CR-V delivers on both.
It is spacious enough for five adults and the boot stores 589 litres. This means it can accommodate two mountain bikes, a double pram or more than a few sets of golf clubs, but the fold-down seats are one of the best features.
With a flick of a lever, the rear seats fold, revealing a van-like 1,669-litre capacity.
Inside, the CR-V's dash is well designed and the controls are easy to find and use.
Plush and durable, it is ideal for families, and anyone with infant car seats will appreciate the easy access to the rear.
Prices for the 1.6 diesel start at €31,995. Opt for the larger diesel engine with four-wheel drive and the entry level SE is priced at €39,295.
Moving up to ES, the next specification adds €1,800 to the price tag at €41,075, while the range-topping EX is available at €46,895.
The 2.2 turbo-diesel CR-V, with four-wheel drive, offers a lot of grip, stability and the ability to tackle rough terrain.
But at a time when most compact crossovers are bought as over-size hatchbacks, the need for any form of four-wheel drive is debatable.
With a generous level of standard equipment and excellent fuel economy the CR-V deserves broad appeal.