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First drive: Honda CR-V – on sale January 2007



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The latest generation CR-V aims to blur the boundaries between SUV and D-sector cars by refining the driving experience, upping economy and minimizing emissions. Available in 2.2-litre diesel or 2.0-litre petrol guise, the latter boasts lower emissions, higher mpg and better pedestrian safety than a Mini Cooper 1.6-litre 16v S.

This message of environmental friendliness is being further reinforced by Honda’s ‘Not all 4x4s are the same’ sticker; this marketing strap-line aiming to separate Honda’s new offering from less green SUVs.

John Kingston, environment manager at Honda, explains: “The ‘one size fits all’ approach of anti 4x4 protesters is confusing. Some customers have expressed concerns and frustration about being criticized for driving CR-V – no surprise when you consider it is not a gas guzzler and is remarkably safe for both passengers and pedestrians.”

First launched in Europe in 1996, CR-V has been a consistent performer for Honda and last year UK sales totalled 16,700. The manufacturer expects 22,000 examples of the new model to be sold here next year.

The new CR-V is more compact than the outgoing model. It’s 100mm shorter and 30mm lower, while the wheelbase has also been reduced by 10mm. However, to improve handling, front and rear tracks have been increased by 25mm and 5mm respectively.

The rest of the changes come under the ‘evolution not revolution’ banner, but the overall effect is cohesive and looks good.

Inside, the CR-V gets a Civic-style steering wheel and dash-mounted gear shift, larger more comfortable front seats, reclining and sliding rear seats and a double deck parcel shelf for increased loading flexibility. A panoramic glass roof is an optional extra.

The new CR-V driving experience benefits from vastly improved body stiffness, variable speed-sensitive steering, a lowered centre of gravity, plus generous increases in sound insulation. The diesel is the pick of the two engines, although the petrol we tested was perfectly competent.

Price: £19,000-25,000
Engines: 2.0 i-VTEC petrol 148bhp; 2.2 i-CDTi diesel 138bhp
Performance: 0-62mph 10.2-12.2sec; top speed 110-118mph
Transmission: Five-speed manual, five-speed automatic
Efficiency: 34.2-43.5mpg, 173-195 g/km CO2
Rivals: X3, Freelander, X-Trail, RAV 4
Strengths: SUV lifestyle without guilt
Weakness: Smaller dimensions may put some buyers off
Opportunity: Change ‘gas-guzzler’ preconceptions
Threat: Blanket über tax on 4x4s
USP: Adaptive cruise control option on EX model, a first in the sector

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