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CR-V is bigger and better

IN recent years the Honda CR-V has proved to be one of the most popular "soft roaders" as the company has a reputation for good build quality and smart looking vehicles.

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Now they have made the million seller CR-V longer, taller, safer and better equipped with both the cabin and boot space increased. There is also improved suspension and a new two-litre VTEC engine.

Part of their aim is to eat into the sales flow of the class-leading Land Rover Freelander which has however sadly suffered all sorts of faults for what is supposed to be a tough British machine.

As these sort of vehicles have become so popular the scene is crowded for choice, such as other new arrivals from Suzuki, Mazda, Hyundai, Nissan, Ford, Vauxhall, Toyota and more.

Some of these are better than others off-road in the muck and hillocks but that should cause little worry as we all know perfectly well that very few owners wilfully expose their precious shiny steeds to such trials and risk damage and indignity. Owners want them to look as if they could fare well off-road, even if they don't.

No, it's judged on how the vehicle feels and goes on the smoothish road while nipping down to Sainsbury's, schools or a holiday with all the family, dog and clutter aboard. That's what really counts for most people.

If you really are going to put yourself off-road in the gunge or up and down gravelly hillsides go out and buy yourself an oldish Land Rover Defender used by farmers and armies.

The other appeal of these versatile 4x4s as well as the MPVs with their higher driving and passenger position is that they give a feeling of greater safety and better all-round visibility over lesser mortals in their Mondeos, Clios or even a Rolls.

On the road prices are £16,695 for the SE model and £17,995 for the SE Sport which has alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers, headlamp washers, climate control and a hard cover for the spare wheel.

If you want automatic gears it's £900 more and metallic paint is £285. The prices compare quite favourably with rivals, considering the bigger size of the new model.

The engine in the former, smaller CR-V was found to be excellent and in the new CR-V it has been further improved. It's a two-litre fuel-injected VTEC unit with boosted power output to 148 bhp. It is supposed to be even better at more than 3,000 rpm.

Honda say they have also made the new engine smoother, quieter, more economical and cut harmful emissions too.

Honda is also among the pioneers of another useful feature a sort of two cars in one.

The front wheel drive shifts you well but when the CR-V finds itself on mud, ice or leaves, it instantly changes to four-wheel drive and then back to two-wheel drive when the problem is over. It also helps fuel economy as the permanent four-wheel drive fitted in some of its rivals means higher petrol consumption. This alternating system was on the former CR-V and on Honda's smaller HR-V.

Honda, based in Swindon, also say the CR-V is better than average when it comes to crash tests whether against another vehicle or a pedestrian. It met the official Euro NCAP 4 star standard and pedestrian protection to Euro NCAP 3 level.

Also on the safety front there are three-point seatbelts for all five occupants, side-impact bars, ISOFIX child-seat attachments, electronic brake distribution and four airbags.

Rear passengers have plenty of leg room. There is a waterproof storage container under the floor and its lid doubles as a picnic table.

Putting the handbrake on the dashboard has allowed a large fold-down tray to be fitted between the front seats, complete with holders to take two large McDonald's cups.

Satellite navigation is among extras that can be added.

The big tailgate door has a separate upper glass hatch that allows small items to be put in the rear without opening the whole door.

One of the few things I wasn't excited about was the amount of black everywhere in the cabin.

Buyers have a choice between a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox that is nicely flexible.

The CR-V is available with a choice of nine colours and, although I haven't done exhaustive research on it, I think it's a bit cheaper than some of its big rivals.

It is covered by a three-year/90,000 mile mechanical warranty which can be extended to six years. Also, there's three years of breakdown cover.

To sum up, the previous CR-V was popular and well praised but the new one is a good improvement on even that

AUTO FACTS

Model: Honda CR-V SE

Engine: 1,998 cc, petrol

Transmission: Five-speed manual (four-speed auto optional at £900 extra)

Fuel consumption: Urban 24 mpg; extra urban 36 mpg; combined 31 mpg

Performance: 110 mph

On road price: £16,695

Verdict: Bigger, better than good predecessor



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