Honda's updated model really puts it up to the other SUVs , writes Campbell Spray
Seventeen years ago when the Honda CR-V was launched, SUVs (sports utility vehicles) only took 1 per cent of the Irish market. But not for long. The market exploded as the vehicles were seen as a credible saloon-car alternative, with the extra bulk and image to give status.
Very soon, the urban landscape was awash with soft-roaders and the environs of schools were packed with yummy mummies offloading their little darlings, for whom a short walk was deemed to be too inconvenient.
While the recession saw a massive slump in overall sales, the launch of crossover models – like the immensely successful Nissan Qashqai – has ensured that last year SUVs took 15.3 per cent of the market, against 12.3 in 2011.
The Qashqai, which is the saviour of Nissan, was the third biggest-selling new car in Ireland, with 3,258, behind the VW Golf range with 3,356 and the Ford Focus with 3,738.
The fourth-generation CR-V was launched late in 2012 after more than five million of the preceding models had been sold globally in 160 countries, including 7,000 here.
While the CR-V has lost its dominant role in the sector (in 1998 it had 23 per cent of SUV sales) the new model is a very well-specced and credible competitor. It was the most rugged and confident of three of the main players that I tested earlier in the winter.
Strangely, the Hyundai Santa Fe had the most luxurious feel of the three and had the advantage of two extra occasional seats, while the Audi Q3 was the most covetable but also could be very expensive.
The CR-V is better value, cleaner and more economical than before, while still being one of the larger and sturdier of the breed.
My own feelings after a week's test and some good (very) rough-roading were backed up when it received the prestigious, overall '4x4 of the Year' honour from the respected publication Total 4x4 Magazine. It also won the Medium SUV segment.
The publication's editor, Alan Kidd, commented: "Seldom has a new 4x4 put such a big tick in so many boxes. It takes an awful lot to impress us these days. The new CR-V didn't just impress us – it made our jaws drop."
The new CR-V has prices starting from €39,295 for the highly equipped 2.2 i-DTEC SE model, with annual road tax of €390.
Later this year, Honda is launching a 2WD version of the CR-V.