Most compact 4x4 buyers want something safe, stylish, reliable and economical.
It's hard to see how Honda can fail with this fourth generation CR-V.
If it drives well, is generously equipped and offers a choice of two and four-wheel drive, so much the better. The recipe for the success of Honda's CR-V is a keen understanding of buyer requirements and an almost neurotic attention to detail. Hence why the fourth generation version just can't fail.
There are some quite fundamental changes to this generation CR-V's oily bits. The big one is that you can now buy a CR-V in either front or all-wheel drive with the 2.0-litre 155PS i-VTEC petrol engine while the flagship 2.2-litre 150PS i-DTEC diesel unit continues sending drive to each corner. A very clever electrically assisted power steering works in concert with the car's stability control system to initiate counter steering in the event of a skid, so as to prompt the driver to steer in the right direction.
Honda believes that the majority of CR-Vs sold will continue to be all-wheel drive models and with a run of bad winters behind us, it's easy to see why. The hydraulically activated "dual-pump" system of the third generation CR-V has been replaced by an electronically activated set-up that provides a faster response when a loss of traction is detected. It also reduces weight by 17 per cent and minimizes internal friction by 59 per cent. Hill Start Assist (HSA) is standard across the range and stops the vehicle rolling backwards during hill starts. Hill Descent Control (HDC) makes its debut on the CR-V and is available on automatic versions. It operates at up to 5mph and helps the CR-V descend difficult terrain safely and consistently.
Honda's development team undertook a test programme on European roads to improve the CR-V's ride quality without compromising its car-like handling or high-speed stability. The strut front and multi-link rear suspension has been upgraded with a 10 per cent increase in damper rates all round, while an increase in the body's rigidity allows the suspension to operate more effectively. Care has also been taken to achieve a significant reduction in the engine and road noise entering the cabin. Sound insulation material has been applied to the floorpan below the passenger compartment, while sound absorption material has been fitted to the rear door, rear wheel arches, door frames, front bulkhead and bonnet. The doors now also feature a double seal. The net result is a 3dB reduction in cabin noise compared to the outgoing car.
The first generation CR-V was handsome in a generic kind of way, with the second generation car being a better finished and bigger version of much the same styling theme. Generation three debuted a slicker look with a sweeping coupe-like window line while the fourth generation car makes a departure from that with a kinked side window and huge swept-back headlamp pods. It's undoubtedly a more assertive look.
It's hard to see how Honda can fail with this fourth generation CR-V. To be honest, not a lot really needed changing. The engines have been tweaked for better efficiency and, to this eye at least, it looks a good deal better both inside and out. Otherwise the recipe is very much the same and it's wise of Honda not to stray too far from the established and hugely successful theme.
It still only seats five, but moving to a genuinely useful seven-seat body would have meant upsizing this vehicle quite considerably: five million CR-V sales to date indicate that Honda's customers don't want that. Listening to them is what has made this model so successful. Yes, there are more dynamic and exciting SUVs for sale, but in a maturing market place that's increasingly defined by what the vehicle can do rather than what it says, the CR-V looks set to remain the boss.