THE Honda CR-V is a sophisticated and classy family SUV that throws down the gauntlet to premium-sector competitors.
I’ve recently been testing it in top-end, all-wheel-drive, EX specification and was genuinely impressed by the quality of the cabin, impeccable road manners and clever self-charging hybrid powertrain.
And when you compare it against some of the opposition, it is also competitively priced, with this top version costing from £40,420 on the road but brimming with motoring luxuries and technology.
The Japanese marque’s machine is good looking, too, with broad wheel arches and sharp contours for the bonnet and back end mixed with clean surfaces.
There are striking LED light clusters front and rear, smart 18 in alloys, while the designers have made great use of chrome accents all around the car.
Along with a panoramic sunroof on this top model, it all adds up to give the Honda a dynamic yet sophisticated look that will make it the envy of many other compact SUV motorists.
Climbing on board, I found the interior to be just as pleasurable, with my test EX smothered in ivory leather – perforated for the extremely comfortable heated seats front and rear.
I also admired the other soft-touch finishings, premium metallic detailing and the solid build quality of what is a very spacious and airy cabin.
Four adults or a family of five will have no problem enjoying long journeys and the 497-litre boot (rising to 1638 liters with the rear seats down) should easily carry their suitcases.
In the test car, it is accessed by a convenient, hands-free, powered tailgate, while there are plenty of storage cubbyholes around the cabin.
A relatively uncluttered, sleek layout up front includes a seven-inch, customizable, driver information cluster, flanked by fuel level and battery charge gauges.
Just across from that is a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen set-up that includes intelligent sat nav and full smartphone integration, with dual-zone air con buttons just below as well as a wireless charger.
Falling to hand in the center console are the hybrid system buttons to operate the transmission and opt for sport, eco or even pure EV modes (the latter is able to run for about a mile).
An adjustable head-up display is another highlight of the EX, while other goodies include keyless entry and start, as well as auto lights (including high beam) and wipers – with a front windscreen de-icer.
There are parking sensors front and rear, supported by a rear-view camera and blind-spot and cross-traffic monitoring system.
Other impressive driver aids and safety systems include emergency call, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition with intelligent speed limiter, lane keep assist, automatic anti-collision braking and a variety of stability-enhancing systems.
The powertrain is made up of a 145PS 2.0-liter petrol engine, a 184PS electric motor, a second generator motor, a lithium-ion battery pack and a single fixed-gear transmission.
Leave the car to its own devices and the intelligent, automatic drive-mode system will seamlessly switch between electric, hybrid or petrol power, depending on the driving circumstances, as well as make the most of regenerative braking.
The gearbox set-up provides a really linear feel to the acceleration – almost like a pure electric car – while a special sound control gives drivers an audible indication of how hard they are pushing the SUV.
Also adding to the motorist’s enjoyment are deceleration selection paddles behind the steering wheel – allowing you to very effectively slow the car rapidly or gently without using the brake pedal.
The chassis, suspension, steering and hi-tech all-wheel-drive systems all helped to inspire confidence for an engaging experience as I navigated winding country roads in Ayrshire.
Cruising at steady speeds, the CR-V felt very refined and quiet, while the ride was incredibly smooth, as the car dealt with weather-ravaged surfaces with aplomb.
The performance stats are also likely to put a smile on the face of many family motorists. They see 0-62mph covered in a decent 9.2seconds, a top speed of 112mph and an official combined fuel economy of 39.2mpg, with CO2 emissions rated at 163g/km.
The Honda CR-V in this top-spec trim certainly begs the question as to why you would pay a lot more to drive some of its high-end competitors.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.