A trio of vehicles – the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Suzuki Vitara – changed the automotive landscape in the 1990s, giving birth to the booming compact crossover segment that now accounts for more sales globally than any other automotive category.
Over the years, a horde of competitors from virtually every other manufacturer has joined the fray, yet this Japanese founding trio has maintained a solid foothold in the market.
The CR-V is now into its fifth generation, and while the latest iteration carries over the basic theme of the first-generation model, it’s a substantially bigger vehicle, stretching 76 millimetres longer and 74mm wider than its 1990s ancestor.
This means it has grown into a mid-size SUV based on the old yardstick, and the upside is that there’s ample sprawling room inside for a family of four – or five at a pinch. The enlarged CR-V also has a much beefier stance on the road, which earns you more respect in the cut and thrust of traffic.
The current-generation CR-V debuted in 2017, but a minor update at the end of last year introduced a revised front fascia, side skirts with chrome inserts, a new rear bumper with chrome insert, LED front fog lamps on most models and some new exterior colours.
Pricing starts at Dh92,900 for the entry-level DX model, which is front-wheel-drive only, and further up the range are the all-wheel-drive EX (from Dh114,900) and range-topping Touring (from Dh122,900).
We tested the flagship model, which comes with eight-way power-adjustable leather seats, a digitised virtual instrument cluster, seven-inch infotainment touchscreen and an eight-speaker audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The cabin is generally well executed, although some penny-pinching is evident in the hard plastic panels that encase the centre console. The transmission lever is also a bit clunky to operate, and it’s all too easy to slot it into “S” or “N” instead of “D”.
Once on the move, the CR-V impresses with its supple ride and quietness, although the 2.4-litre four-cylinder motor dishes up leisurely, rather than sprightly, performance. The vehicle would have been better served by a conventional auto transmission than a CVT – continuously variable transmission – as the latter creates the impression of a rubber band being stretched interminably when you accelerate.
The CR-V doesn’t particularly enjoy being hustled, as the car pitches and rolls prodigiously if you tip it into corners aggressively, but few owners are likely to do this. It’s far better to cruise along serenely and enjoy the Honda’s comfort, space and excellent visibility.
The CR-V scores well in terms of practicality, too, as there’s 1,065 litres of cargo space on offer with the rear seats up, swelling to 2,146 litres if you fold them down.
Honda’s stylists have tried to get a little edgy with the design language and, although the CR-V is no classical beauty, it’s got more visual pizzazz than the norm for its sector.
Honda’s legacy is steeped in motorsport glory and the brand has, in the past, given us some great driver’s cars – such as the Integra Type-R, S2000 and NSX. The sedate CR-V doesn’t live up to this pulse-quickening tradition, but it’s a capable and well-rounded family crossover all the same.