Eco Assist gives a green light when driving efficiently, says Martin Brennan
It is amazing how in this age of technological advances simple things can be so effective. The rim of the speedometer on the new Honda CR-V glows green when the driver is getting the best performance and economy from the 2.2 litre diesel engine. Put a foot, or a hand, wrong on the accelerator or gearstick and the green fades to a pale white. You have failed. It's almost like a hand has dipped into your wallet and taken a few bob.
The Eco Assist is in your face and is almost impossible to ignore. "It is like having a teacher on board. It makes you drive better and saves you lots of money," Frank Kennedy, sales manager of importers Universal Honda, explained at the launch of the fourth generation of the CR-V this week. Apparently, the system can save you between 10 and 15 per cent of your fuel cost.
There is a lot new in the CR-V that takes pressure off the drivers and protects from driving mistakes that could lead to fatalities.
There is a new electronic 4WD, which will automatically switch to an economical 2WD when slippery conditions are not found. There is Vehicle Stability Assist and a new electric speed-sensitive power steering that works in conjunction with it.
Now, also, there is a more efficient 150bhp engine with a big 350Nm of torque, which attracts an annual road tax of €330 -- down from €667 in the previous model, as the C02 level has dropped from 171 to 149g/km.
Fuel efficiency has also been improved by 14 per cent in manual version models. This big SUV can now return 5.6L/100km (50mpg) -- down from 6.5L/100km in its previous version.
The new 4X4 has the biggest boot space in its class, more interior space although the body is shorter, lower noise levels than the previous model and comfort has been upgraded for passengers.
It is also more user-friendly. The rear seats fold into the floor at a tug of a toggle and the cargo area cover can be used horizontally or vertically to conceal items.
Honda says there will be four levels of trim with manual and CVT transmission. Prices range from €37,000 up to €50,000 for the top-of-the-range EX automatic version.
Honda believes in giving good specification even in the entry level models and claims that some premium German marques would have to add thousands of euro worth of equipment to play catch-up.
New on the way for January sales is a Civic with a 1.6 litre diesel engine with a C02 output of 94g/km, and a similar displacement engine with 110g/km C02 output for a 2WD version of the CR-V, which will be here in the autumn.
Also on the way is a smaller SUV model; a Civic estate model; a high-performance Type R; six new engines; three new transmissions (CVT and double clutch); and two hybrid system models, all part of the new ' Earth Dream' technologies that Honda has espoused.
Since the company dropped out of Formula 1 racing the 600 engineers and designers involved in that programme have been drafted into worldwide R&D for cars.
An EV Jazz (electric vehicle) has been developed, which has a capability of 20 'real world' miles with a charge time of just three hours from a domestic supply, but this vehicle will not appear in Europe just yet. "Only when customers want it," we were told.
In the past, Honda has sold the CR-V as more of the soft-roader than an off-roader but in a tough test over rugged and swampy terrain in Co Kildare the 4WD turned in a good performance on mud and snow Continental tyres.