WHEN the first Honda CR-V was launched 20 years ago there was little opposition in the compact SUV market and while rival manufacturers have now caught up the Swindon built Honda with four wheel drive is still a top car to have in your garage especially for winter driving writes Bryan Longworth.
It is available with two wheel drive but the 4x4 model is the one to go for as I discovered during my time with the test car when it kept me on the move despite deep snow and ice causing massive traction problems for motorists in two wheel drive vehicles.
In fact I found that the electronic four wheel drive system was ideal for the snowy and slithery conditions on steep Peak District roads and that the CR-V which is not an off-roader combines the comfort and space of a normal road car with the benefits of four wheel drive for winter motoring.
On one particular journey over a very hilly country route during the worst snowfall for years the Honda 4x4 system was extremely effective even when I had to stop driving up a steep hill covered by a foot of snow when a vehicle in front lost traction but the CR-V made a successful standing start which can be a dodgy situation in such conditions and also when going down steep snow and ice covered roads the ABS braking system and hill descent control prevented me skidding into roadside ditches like some other unfortunate vehicles had done.
And now to keep the CR-V competitive with all the opposition in this market segment Honda has just announced comprehensive updates to their popular SUV available from the Spring which provide enhanced styling a new diesel engine and nine speed automatic transmission plus a more engaging and refined ride.
That opposition includes the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Skoda Yeti and Mazda CX-5 which are all very competent cars but I found that the Honda is a very comfortable and roomy car that can still cut the mustard with such competitors.
My test car was the CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC Black Edition with four wheel drive and automatic transmission costing £32,155 that had a combined fuel consumption of nearly 43mpg with CO2 emissions of 174g/km a top speed of 118mph and a zero to 62mph time of 10.6 seconds.
As well as having features like the very useful hill descent control, trailer stability and emergency stop system the test car was loaded with standard kit including satellite navigation, space saver spare wheel, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control and a rear view camera.
However, all that equipment surprisingly did not include heated front seats which would have been much appreciated in the sub zero temperatures of my test period especially for early morning starts.
The well designed interior has plenty of stowage spaces and the rear load area with an easy to open and close hatchback offers a massive amount of space above the spare wheel.
I would have liked the steering to have been a bit more engaging but I notice that the aforementioned improvements to the fourth generation Honda in the Spring include ride and handling with a new steering ratio for a more engaging ride which should address this.
The difficult wintry weather proved to be a tough test for the CR-V which proved to be an extremely capable performer maintaining traction in all situations and a vehicle that should certainly be considered by potential owners in the compact SUV sector especially now it is to be given a make-over.
Verdict: CR-V is a real snow beater.
Model: Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC Black Edition 4x4.
Engine: 2.2-litre diesel.
Top speed: 118mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 10.6 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 42.8mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 174g/km.
Price: £32,155 on the road.