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Benchmark gets better
The latest Honda CR-V model features a bolder nose and deeper sculpting of its bodyline creases.

_THE _ Honda CR-V has always been one of the benchmarks in the medium-sized SUV market.

So when the Japanese car maker released the fourth- generation model last November it was not surprising to see that it had been given more of a tweak than an overhaul.

But there were also some important improvements made to both the exterior and interior of the car.

A few tweaks to the exterior design including a bolder nose, deeper sculpting of the bodyline creases, wider wheel arches and fuller tail-light design help create a greater on-road presence.

Inside, features such as one-touch fold-down rear seats, reversing camera, Bluetooth phone, and audio streaming have definitely made it more user- friendly.

The interior space has also been increased, with most of the additional room going into the cargo area which has grown by 100 litres to a best-in-class 556 litres and an impressive 1648 litres when the back seats are folded down, without the overall size of the car growing and making it more difficult to park.

Rear seat passengers (it will cater for three adults comfortably) now also have their own air-conditioning vents and while the rear seat no longer slides back and forward, legroom is among the best in its class.

The interior layout and design has also been improved, with the odd-looking gap between the centre stack and front seats now filled in by a full-size centre console, a move that has given the CR-V a more sophisticated feel.

It also has new instruments which are well-placed and easy to read. The seats are also more comfortable and supportive.

The car supplied for test was the top-of-the-range AWD Vita-L which comes standard with extras such as leather upholstery, electric front seats with heating, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, auto on/off headlights, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate-control, HID headlights with an active cornering function, sunroof, keyless entry and push-button start.

It was just a pity that the designers elected to stay with the hard plastics of the old model, instead of using the far more appealing soft-feel plastics nearly all of its competitors have opted for. Honda has elected to stay with the same chassis and drive-train, though with a few tweaks to improve power and fuel efficiency.

While it was a little disappointing to see that a company once renowned as a technology leader has bowed out of that race, once behind the wheel all that is forgotten.

The 2.4-litre engine used in the AWD models is a sweet little engine that revs nicely and gets the nearly 1500kg wagon moving nicely. The five-speed auto is a nice match. The new electric power steering has a nice feel and while the suspension is on the firm side it ensures the CR-V remains sure-footed without compromising ride comfort.

According to Honda, fuel efficiency has also been improved with an official figure of 8.7L/100km but during my week behind the wheel I used 10.7L/100km and that was with the economy button, which alters the mapping of the drive-by-wire throttle system to ensure a smooth increase in torque and greater fuel economy.

  • HONDA CR-V *

  • Model *4WD Vti-L

  • Price *$42,290

  • Engine *2.4-litre i-VTEC

  • Outputs *140kW/222Nm

  • Transmission * Five-speed auto with paddle shift

  • Thirst * 8.7L/100km

  • Safety *Five stars