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Honda CR-V 2002 Road Test

Fri, 07 Feb 2003

The British public took to the original Honda CRV like they did to curry and chips. When it arrived, in June 1997, it was four-speed automatic only. But it was ahead of the Freelander, and you could have one NOW rather than wait for it.

The manual CRV also beat the Freelander to the post, cost £2,000 less, and was filling supermarket parking spaces months before Solihull could get production into gear.

And while the Freelander has been clocking up recalls in the time-honoured Midlands manner, CRV owners have been quietly going about their business with barely a rattle. Whenever Freelander owners scoffed at them for not driving a proper off-roader they could always reply "And how many times has your Freelander been off the road?"

These two aren't the only cars in their class. The RAV 4 that started it all in June 1994 sprouted an extra pair of doors in June 1995, then got a complete revamp in August 2000. Now there's the Nissan X-Trail to add to the fray, the new all-independent Ford Maverick and the Mazda Tribune, a jacked-up 4x4 Renault Scenic, the Hyundai Santa Fe and the heavyweight new Jeep Cherokee.

But, of course, Honda had gone back to the drawing board long ago and the fruits of this are now here for all to see in the shape of the new CRV.

Look at it and you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's nothing more than a facelift of the old car. But Honda has taken a leaf out of VW's book and gone for a familiar shape, even though the entire vehicle is brand new.

It has a new engine, basically the same 2.0 litre VTEC unit used in the Stream and the Civic Type R, but in this case tuned for torque rather than out-and-out power. The result is 148bhp at 6,500rpm and 192Nm (142lb ft) of torque at 4,000rpm. Variable valve timing means there is bags of torque at low revs too, making this superbly sweet engine very strong between 30 and 80 in third, and 10 and 55 in second.

Using Honda's World Car flat-floor platform means that the CRV automatic at least now has a proper walk-through cabin. With its meaty handbrake on the dash and 'four on the tree' gear lever there is nothing to stop you sliding across to get out of the nearside or paying a visit to the kids in the back seat. The manual isn’t quite so handy, though, because the gear lever sprouts from the floor rather than the dash and needs to be deftly negotiated.

The rear seats get up to all sorts of tricks, reclining or sliding backwards and forwards to give 527–628 litres of loadspace behind them, or folding up, headrests still in place, to free up 952 litres. Safety hasn't taken a back seat either because all three rear seats have proper three-point safety belts. And, with its new ultra-stiff body shell, Honda is expecting a four-star result in the NCAP crash tests, together with the best rating of any sports utility vehicle for pedestrian safety.

On the old CRV you had to open the back window before you could open the back door. On the new car, it's all one big, side-hinged door with a separately lifting window built into it. As you'd expect in a vehicle of this type, there are cupholders and cubby holes all over the place. Between the front seats is a folding table with indentations for everything from a Biro to a Burger King. They haven't forgotten the boot floor that turns into a picnic table either, and that's bigger now at 861mm x 760mm.

Under the floor, Honda's hydraulic Dual Pump four-wheel-drive system does the same job as before. In most conditions drive is to the front wheels only, but if the system detects any slippage at the front, it engages a clutch to the rear wheels. This works very well in wet grass, mud and snow, and also in the wet on mountain hairpins where the rear wheels clutch in and push the car around the corner without it scrabbling for grip.

Honda has come up with some very impressive cost-to-run figures for the new CRV. CAP Monitor predicts that it will retain 45.3% of its list price after 3 years and 60,000 miles. IDS Ltd reckons that service, maintenance and repair costs will be among the lowest in the light SUV class, and significantly less than for the Freelander. BIK tax for a company car user paying 40% works out at £430 a year less than for a Freelander 5-door TD4 GS

The old CRV was the best-selling car of its type in the world, finding its way onto a million driveways from Baltimore to Bali. Some of that million were built in Swindon and 90,000 a year of the new CRV will be for worldwide markets, making Honda UK a net exporter.

So it’s not only a good car that does everything the old one did and more, it's also good for the country.

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