The new Honda CR-V combines the utility of an MPV with the handling of a sedan
In the comfortable zone In the new CR-V, the suspension is more pliant, there is less wind and road noise, and the overall level of harshness is lower with the increased body rigidity

HONDA'S Comfortable Runabout Vehicle has become more and more car-like with each new model, with the latest CR-V coming closest to the Japanese carmaker's original concept of combining the utility of an MPV with the handling of a sedan.

The fourth generation of the Honda CR-V sees its SUV shape taking on slightly more appealing styling. It is a radical departure from its predecessor's more polarising lines, although some may find the rear pillar design unconventional.

But perhaps the biggest change is the newfound refinement of the new CR-V. The suspension is more pliant, there is less wind and road noise, and the overall level of harshness is lower with the increased body rigidity. The new CR-V has a re-engineered chassis with a frame that weighs 18 kg less. In total, the car is 24 kg lighter than its predecessor.

It is also 20 mm shorter at 4.55 metres long, and 30 mm shorter at 1.65 metres. Honda says this is for improved efficiency and it is no empty boast because despite being slightly smaller dimensionally, more space has been carved out of the CR-V's interior.

For example, the front seats have an additional 75 mm in elbow room, while the new sloping dashboard makes the cabin feel lighter and more open. And, at the back, the rear cargo compartment gets an extra 65 litres of space with the second-row seats up.

Honda has also designed the CR-V to be more upscale. The two engine versions - 2.0 and 2.4 litres - are carried over, along with the familiar five-speed automatic transmission.

In the 2.4 model, the equipment level is now comparable to those of its competitors. For example, an engine start button is now available, along with integrated factory-designed GPS navigation and Motion Adaptive electric power steering which works with the vehicle stability system, among others.

The iVTEC engine driving the front wheels is considered the best in terms of power and smoothness. In its current form, this 2.4-litre iVTEC engine with 190 hp (up 20 hp) is not only the most powerful this unit has ever been but also the quietest.

At the same time, engine friction was reduced to increase fuel efficiency by 12 per cent to 8.4 litres per 100 km. There is also a 'guidance function' that changes the speedometer rim to green to encourage more economical driving behaviour.

For even more frugal motoring, press the green Econ button on the right side of the steering wheel. In this fuel-efficient mode, the engine, cruise control, transmission and air-conditioning are optimised for economical operation.

But perhaps the the biggest improvement to the Honda CR-V is its driveability. For a spacious SUV, it handles like a saloon, with good balance on the highway and even in swift curves. The lower centre of gravity helps, as does the lightness of its controls.

Japanese models in this segment may have been overtaken by their European counterparts in recent times but, as a family car, the familiar CR-V is still a worthy candidate.