Manufacturers often make lofty claims as they attempt to get more of their cars on our roads, but when Honda says its new CR-V drives like a sedan, you'd better believe it.
What's it about
Now in its third generation, the Honda CR-V has definitely come into its own. Dumping the 1.8 litre engine in favour of a spanking new 2.0 litre powerplant, the third-generation CR-V is another on the growing list of products that Honda can be proud of.
This softroader is superbly comfortable for all five occupants, has enough storage space for any paraphernalia the family may need, and has a ride compliant enough to lull even the most troublesome brat to sleep. It's a shame about that styling though.
CR-V has grown-up both in stature and in presence. Cute and cuddly curves and the excuse-me-please demeanour have given way for a more aggressive look. Latest CR-V is all about projecting the right attitude, and that comes naturally enough for the SUV.
Inside the cabin, material finishes are generally of a high quality (the silver plastic bits are somewhat flimsy) and the super-soft seats give the cabin a surprisingly luxurious feel.
Ergonomically, the cabin is a pleasure to be in. The MPV-style gearshift falls easily to hand and the main audio and ventilation controls are well positioned and chunky enough to not to demand all your attention while driving. Buttons governing the audio system are big and well marked, though satellite controls on the steering wheel are as effective.
The use of space within the cabin is also rather clever. Honda has elected to keep the cabin rather sparse by disconnecting the centre and hangdown consoles. This has created a space ahead of the centre console (housing two cupholders, the hand brake lever and a deep storage space with a sliding cover that often caught my fingers for CD and other bits and bobs) ideal for placing a handbag or parcel you'd prefer to have close at hand.
Of course, bigger articles can be tossed into the luggage compartment, which is cavernous. However, I was very nearly decapitated by the opening tailgate while standing up close in a tight parking spot. Oversized tailgates - like the CR-V's - should come with an advisory...
Under the skin
As before, all CR-Vs (there are four derivatives) are powered by the same engine. There are two trim levels and two transmissions to choose from.
The new 2.0 litre i-VTEC engine used in the CR-V does not make for a quick SUV. Honda claims outputs of 110 kW and 192 Nm at 6 200 and 4 200 r/min respectively.
As before, the latest-generation CR-V is equipped with a brace of equipment ranging from standard issue ABS, EBD and brake assist, to electric power steering with speed-variable steering.
On the road
While our unit was unfortunately the victim of more city traffic jams than off-road pursuits, it does come equipped with a Real Time all-wheel drive system. This operates in front-wheel drive mode until conditions are detected that would require all-wheel drive.
With regular driving, in-gear acceleration is anything but rapid, however, once up to speed, the CR-V does make for very comfortable cruising.
The new six-speed manual transmission is a peach too, offering slick, measured changes that create the impression you?re driving a compact hatchback or sedan, rather than a fairly large SUV.
Some questionable interior trim
Honda's CR-V is a tough one to take a firm stance on. Responses to most queries about the car were met with an "it's nice". These comments were not intended to be flippant, either. Though some shiny exterior bits could be regarded as being excessive, the CR-V does little to offend. Overall, it's a "nice", solid, reasonably-priced (from R268 900 to R309 500) SUV that should present a spot of consternation to key rivals Toyota's RAV4 and Hyundai's Tucson.