WILL IT SUIT ME?
It doesn't really matter what CR-V stands for. 'Compact Recreational Vehicle' will probably mean as much to you as it did to me. The fact is, Honda's CR-V is the kind of 4x4 that women like me tend to like.
My nephew, now ten, has always enjoyed the lofty view a four-wheel drive affords. We tried out one of the very large contenders in the sector a few weeks ago and let's just say its Amazonian proportions delighted Iain and the friend who came home to tea, but its sheer size was, for me, a nightmare near school where parking is at a premium.
The fourth generation CR-V I'm looking at here, on the other hand, is in many ways, a roomy hatchback on big wheels. It doesn't look as if it yearns to be plugging up a muddy hillside in first gear. It's happy around town and its neat dimensions mean that it's as manageable as the average family car.
To some extent, it's what the CR-V doesn't have which makes it such a practical option for family driving. It shuns heavy military-type transmission that's thirsty on fuel like some of the opposition. Instead, there's an electronically activated set-up that provides a faster response when a loss of traction is detected.
It's designed more for grass and gravel rather than mud and snow. There's no second gearstick or differential lock to worry about. You just get in and drive. Although it can despatch the speed bumps near school with ease, it gives a smooth, comfortable ride. Inside, the car will seat five in absolute comfort. The driving position is crisp and businesslike, the controls clear and logical.
I appreciated the high-tech touches in the cabin too. Even the entry-level variant model I tried features vehicle stability assist, trailer stability assist, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake assist.
Manage to fall off the road in one of these and you'll have excelled yourself. Should you manage to defeat the electronics of the CR-V, there's driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags as well as a rollover sensor.
Aside from the technology to save us from our own excesses, there's also a driver information system, and a CD stereo with air conditioning.
Plus there's an auxiliary/MP3 socket for the radio, something which should have long been standard on passenger cars but which is only now becoming commonplace.
Behind the Wheel
If you want a family car with out-and-out performance, then the CR-V is not the obvious choice. That said, thanks to a 155PS 2.0-litre engine in this version, this Honda is by no means sluggish.
It's nippy around town, while on the open road it offers as much verve as a warmish shopping hatch - and you won't wince when you pay for petrol.
The engine is typically Honda, a little more advanced than the norm. The 2.0-litre i-VTEC unit, thanks to clever design, is the size - and the weight - of a 1.6, producing rest to 60 in around ten seconds. The 2.2-litre 150PS i-DTEC diesel engine is also likely to be a popular choice - it's one of the most refined diesels you'll find.
With a low centre of gravity, Honda claims to have benchmarked the best family saloons in its class (rather than other SUVs) when it comes to handling. Forget the cumbersome roly-poly road manners and ponderous ride quality still common to some cars in this class.
The CR-V has been engineered to be pin-sharp straight out of the box using a suspension system that's had more resource poured into it than many of the semi-agricultural set-ups you'll find on rival offerings.
Value For Money
As a second car for the family, even the cheapest CR-V would be a pricey option, at around £22,000 for the entry-level petrol version. However, unlike the majority of shopping hatches that sit in the drive all weekend, the Honda would come into its own for family outings.
I enjoyed the manual version of the car. The gearbox is again typical of Honda, allowing fluid movement through the gears - though there's an automatic option. Whatever model you choose, equipment levels are generous.
Could I Live With One?
The short answer is yes, please. For day-to-day needs, the CR-V is a joy. It has all the advantages of a family car, but it's a lot more fun. If your weekend pursuits include muddy walks with the dog, picnics with the children or a good, long hike with your partner when you can get away from it all, the CR-V will come into its 'recreational' own.