Smaller can be better

Honda CRV
Honda CRV
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A Honda SUV with a small and efficient diesel engine? It doesn’t seem the likeliest thing but here it is; the CR-V 1.6 i-DTEC.

The fourth generation CR-V is proving popular with British buyers and a lightweight diesel that emits just 119g/km could prove even more popular still. You don’t get all-wheel drive though – but would you really miss it?

If you’ve got a nagging feeling of deja vu about this engine, it’s because it’s already available plugged into the front of a Civic and very good it is too. The CR-V’s unit is good for 120PS which doesn’t sound a lot to move such a sizeable vehicle but perhaps more germane is a torque figure of 300Nm which should be more than adequate to get the job done. It slots nicely into the range below the 150PS 2.2-litre diesel and offers an entry level point to economy minded buyers who might not want such a beefy engine.

This version directs drive to the front wheels only, so perhaps we should be a little wary of the ‘4x4’ label, preferring ‘light SUV’ instead. It’s fitted with a manual gearbox only and handling is helped by the fact that this is the lightest diesel engine of its type. 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.

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. The front bumper is joined by a horizontal three-bar grille and deep-set headlights, while front LED daytime running lights and rear LED lights are further additions. The lower front bumper is designed to convey SUV capability.

Rather refreshingly, the length and height of the car have been reduced by 5mm and 30mm respectively compared with the outgoing model, without reducing the interior space. With the rear seats folded flat, the boot capacity of the CR-V has grown by 148-litres to 1648-litres and with the seats folded up, the boot capacity is a capacious 589-litres.

Honda needed this engine and it probably needed it three years ago. Although it might at first seem a powerplant better suited to a family hatch than a fairly sizeable SUV, 300Nm of torque ought to be enough to shift a CR-V without feeling too sluggish.

It’s an exercise in pragmatism above all. You probably don’t need an automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive in this sector of the market. What you do need is something really well built and desirable but which won’t cost the earth – this is it.