TEST DRIVE, Honda CR-V

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HONDA, whose CR-V enjoyed the highest levels of customer satisfaction in its class, can expect to win more fans with their new fourth generation model. Les Oliver reports.

HONDA has just launched its fourth generation CR-V now offering buyers a choice of two-wheel drive and a lower entry-level price.

First launched in 1995, the accomplished SUV has notched up five million sales in 160 countries.

Built in Britain since 2000 it has won over 140 awards worldwide and last year achieved the highest level of customer satisfaction in its class.

The new CR-V is smaller than its predecessor yet has a larger Tardis-like interior. Its boot capacity is up 147 litres to 1,648.

For 2013 the CR-V has been adapted specially for Europe. Environmental credentials are improved with a 12 per cent drop in CO2 emissions.

It continues to be built at Swindon and follows the announcement of a £267million investment in the UK plant guaranteeing job security for the workforce.

In its latest incarnation it has been given new rugged good looks, is lower and shorter giving a more planted stance and improved aerodynamics reduce drag.

Expansive windows make it feel spacious and improve visibility.

Their new CR-V has LED daytime running lights, keyless entry, a power tailgate and more practicality - the 60/40 rear seats fold down in one easy action.

There’s a 5in multi-information display which controls the audio, telephone and navigation systems.

Six-speed manual cars have standard Idle Stop technology and Hill Descent Control is available on automatic models.

Four-wheel drive diesel will continue to be the most poplular choice. Quieter, livelier and more refined than the old model, the new CR-V showed itself to be very accomplished in town and country driving.

The ride in the rear was very good for back seat passengers who enjoy a raised view over the heads of front occupants.

The range continues to offer a choice of 2.2-litre 4WD deisel engines or two-litre petrol with two or four-wheel drive and more power - up from 150PS to 155PS and lower CO2 emissions.

There are four trim levels, S, SE, SR and EX, and even the “S” entry-level includes the 5-inch multi info display, cruise control. dual zone climate control, USB/iPod auxiliary input, steering wheel stereo controls, and hill start assist (automatics).

Prices start at £21,395 for the two-litre front-drive petrol model.

The best seller is likely to be the top-spec 2.2 manual 4WD diesel EX at £31,495.

This comes with leather electric seats, power tailgate. panoramic glass roof and integrated sat-nav. The EX accounts for 58 per cent of sales.

With the lower price entry afforded by the addition of two-wheel drive Honda will have a wider market opportunity in the SUV sector, up from 40 to 78 per cent so they can obviously expect to increase sales.

Last year they sold about 12,000 CR-Vs and predict 17,000 this year.

TECH SPEC

Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC EX 4WD manual

Engine: 2.2-litre diesel

Power: 150PS

0-60: 9.7secs

Top speed: 118mph

Economy: 48.7mpg

CO2: 154g/km

Price: £31,495