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First Drive: Honda CR-V i-CTDi Sport - on sale March



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If ever there was a car crying out for a diesel engine the CR-V was it. The mid-size SUV has always been very popular with family buyers, but the lack of a diesel option has meant fleet sales have never been as strong as retail.

However, with the introduction of its superb i-CTDi engine into the range, it appears the CR-V success story has written another chapter.

The all aluminium 2.2-litre engine was the first diesel unit to be fully designed and developed in-house by Honda and was introduced in the Accord last year.

It has been slightly modified for the CR-V to enable it to still be Euro IV compliant, due to the larger dimension of the 4x4, but still manages to return better fuel economy than its main rivals.

The quality of the i-CTDi engine is apparent from the moment you turn the key with a smooth purr as opposed to a diesel clatter – and the lack of engine noise is an additional blessing when driving.

The diesel CR-V has 138bhp, but it’s the torque that really marks this out from its petrol counterpart. In gear performance is impressive and from a standing start, the low down grunt makes it feel much quicker than the performance figures suggest.

This will no doubt appeal to not only fleet user-choosers but also other higher mileage drivers and caravan towers.

Honda is so confident of its diesel success with the CR-V that it expects to almost double sales this year, from 13,025 in 2004, to around 25,000. Diesel sales are anticipated to account for 47% of this, with the majority being fleet buyers.

The big difference between the diesel Accord and the CR-V is the six-speed gearbox (the Accord still having the five speed unit), which is accurate and slick, however, there is no automatic option available.

Honda says most of the styling changes for the 2005 model were prompted by customer feedback. Despite minor trim changes the CR-V interior still manages to look dated and could do with being less Civic, more Accord.

Strengths: Great diesel engine, interior space
Weaknesses: Interior looks a little dated
Opportunity: Diesel option brings the CR-V into fleet sector
Threat: SUV is the fastest selling sector: bright new products such as Nissan Qashqai coming soon
The USP: Diesel increases CR-V attraction
Price: £20,150
Engine: 2.2-litre common rail turbodiesel, 138bhp, 251lb-ft
Transmission: 6spd manual
Performance:0-62mph 10.6sec; top speed 112mph
Efficiency: 42.2mpg (comb), 177g/km CO2
CAP RV (3/30k): £10,075 (50%)
Rivals: Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4, LR Freelander

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