From May 07

Honda’s CR-V has always been a 4×4 with a conscience. The old-shape diesel version showed that not all 4x4s were gas-guzzlers by covering 40 miles on every gallon of fuel, while test results for pedestrian protection were among the best ever.

The new CR-V hasn’t quite matched the old car’s exceptional pedestrian protection, but in every other respect it promises to be cleaner, less thirsty and safer than before. The crash test organisation Euro NCAP has awarded the Honda four out of five stars for both adult and child occupant protection. Fuel consumption has also improved. Diesel fuel is sipped rather than slurped at the rate of 43.5mpg.

That’s all well and good, but what caravanners really need to know is whether the CR-V is up to snuff as a towcar, so we’ve put Honda’s latest 4×4 to the test.
Towing ability
With its healthy kerbweight of 1660kg, the CR-V is an 85% match for tourers of 1411kg. We matched it to the Lunar Quasar 524 with an MTPLM of 1300kg, making for a 78% match.

The outfit proved impressively stable. We had to make steering corrections only when blustery winds threatened to push it off track. With 251lb/ft to call upon, the 2.2-litre diesel engine has plenty of muscle to hold 60mph on steep motorway inclines, so long as you stay in fifth. Sixth gear is too high when towing.

At lower speeds the CR-V lacks the punch of the Nissan X-Trail. On loose surfaces the front wheels may struggle for traction; the CR-V is a 4×4, but power is only supplied to the front wheels until they slip, and there is sometimes a delay before power reaches the back.

Driving Solo
Without a caravan on the back, the CR-V’s traction is less of an issue. In fact, it is a sharp car to drive. Compared with a big bruiser, such as the Kia Sorento, the Honda is nimble and responsive, while the suspension strikes a fine balance between comfort and control.

The smooth power delivery and quiet engine sometimes make the Honda feel slower than it really is. Check the speedometer and you’ll find you’re gaining speed at an impressive rate.

In the Cabin
We’ve come to expect good build quality from Honda, and the CR-V doesn’t disappoint. It’s well put together, as well as user-friendly, thanks to such touches as stereo controls on the steering wheel and a passenger-side cubby in addition to the glovebox.

Some compact 4x4s can feel cramped for tall drivers, but the Honda provides ample legroom and headroom. Passengers in back also get plenty of space. ISOFIX child-seat points are fitted to ease travelling with kids.

There’a healthy 556 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place, a useful improvement over the Nissan X-Trail’s 410 litres. The new Land Rover Freelander 2 has the edge, however, with its minimum of 755 litres of luggage space.

Buying & Owning

If you think all 4x4s are expensive to run, think again. The CR-V’s fuel economy will rival that of diesel estates. Since Hondas have a good reputation on the second-hand market, the CR-V’s resale values should be healthy, too. Our sister magazine, What Car?, predicts the Honda will hang on to 53% of its original price after three years.

You’ll need to shell out at least £20,000 to buy a CR-V diesel. The ES version tested here will set you back another £1400, but a healthy list of standard kit offsets the extra outlay. Alloy wheels, parking sensors, climate control, a CD player, fog lamps and a leather steering wheel are included.

Moreover, Honda finished first in the What Car? Reliability Supertest in 2006, while the old CR-V placed 16th out of 105 cars in last year’s JD Power customer satisfaction survey.

Caravanners have lots of great 4x4s to choose from. Should the CR-V be at the top of your list? That depends on how often you tow and the tourer you own. If you go away regularly and tow a heavy van, you’ll be better off with a Kia Sorento. The CR-V can’t match that car’s low-down pull and permanent four-wheel drive. However, if you’re looking for a car first and a tug second, the Honda’s space, refinement and fuel economy make for a compelling combination.

Price £21,400
Engine capacity 2204cc
Max power 138bhp @ 4000rpm
Max torque 251lb/ft @ 2000rpm
Kerbweight 1660kg
Max tow weight 2000kg
Cost of towbar fitting £350 (fixed)/£425 (detachable)
Official combined fuel economy 43.5mpg
0-62mph 10.3sec
Max speed 116mph
CO2 emissions 173g/km
Luggage capacity 556-955litres
Insurance group 12

Overall length 453cm
Width (incl mirrors) 182cm
Height 168cm
Max noseweight 100kg

Front seats: headroom 94cm, legroom 105cm
Rear seats: headroom 95cm, legroom 74cm