SUVs make up a quarter of the vehicles sold this year, and no car company can aspire to much without one on its books. But after last year's natural disasters Honda's supply dried up, and sales plummeted. So dealers have the red carpet out for the new-generation CR-V now landing.

What's new
A two-wheel-drive variant, in 2.0-litre format, with the four-wheel-drive powered by a 2.4. On top of a new platform the equally new body is 30mm shorter than before and 30mm lower, though ground clearance remains 170mm and a longer roofline creates a more spacious cabin, with 75mm extra shoulder room.

A five-speed auto transmission was redeveloped from Accord Euro. The 2.4-litre four gets steering wheel-mounted paddle-shift to make the most of a 15kW power increase to 140kW at 7000rpm, and a modest torque boost to 222Nm at 4300rpm.

Yet thirst has dropped, from 10l/100km in this car's predecessor to a claimed 8.7, through alterations to components such as the fuel pump and steering, plus amendments to powertrain internals to improve efficiency, changes we'll eventually see on Euro too.


Not that they helped us, our launch car registering a 10.9 average after an admittedly lead-footed rural drive. Those preferring to spend less at the pump may choose the 114kW/190Nm 2.0 with its 7.7l/100km claim.

You can tap an eco button to tune cruise control and reduce load on the air conditioning compressor when economy's more important than power.

Aero efficiency is boosted by a flat underfloor to improve stability at speed.

The company line
Honda has to make a splash with CR-V or risk disappearing further into a sales vacuum, and it's now actively targeting fleet sales with a price set well below the last version, the range-opener at $39,900 and the 4WD Sport at $48,900. Honda NZ Head of Marketing Graeme Meyer isn't bothered by diesel's absence - the 2WD sector is more important.

What we say
This version's design is more conservative than the previous car but it's better-looking, with good cabin ergonomics assisted by a steering wheel with more reach and telescopic adjust and better vision for the driver courtesy a reshaped and slimmer A-pillar.

At 589 litres the boot is 65 litres bigger, and easier to access via a lower load lip. A lever folds rear seats flat without removing the headrests to enlarge the space to 1146 litres, much more than the outgoing car.

On the road
Lower suspension and centre of gravity combined with more power make for a better and quieter drive than before. Damper changes angle ride and handling at family comfort rather than rapid point-to-point progress.

The four-wheel-drive still uses a mechanical dual pump system though, which often delivers grip a whisker later than I'd like.

Why you'll buy one?
Most affordable CR-V yet.

Why you won't?
Honda's eco-nannies annoy - who needs the speedo's rim to change from white to green to encourage fuel efficiency?