Groups claiming to have interests in both pedestrian safety and the environment have singled out SUV drivers as irresponsible road users, and have begun using tactics to shame drivers of these vehicles, including photographing them when they drop off their children at school.
If any of them are reading this and they want to continue with their campaign, they would do well to look away now.
Honda is about to launch a diesel version of the CR-V, which not only scuppers the anti-SUV brigade’s arguments from every angle, but by the end of this year it is likely to have helped the CR-V become the best-selling SUV in the UK.
Honda has done surprisingly well with the CR-V over the past few years, threatening to topple the Land Rover Freelander from the head of the 4x4 sales charts with just one petrol engine derivative and one body style.
The Freelander has a diesel and a choice of two petrol engines, two three-door versions and a five-door.
Now, with a new diesel model expected to take more than half of all CR-V sales this year, the Honda is likely to see its volume double in the UK when the sales figures are totted up at the end of 2005.
And while many retail customers covering relatively low mileage in their CR-Vs are expected to continue to buy the petrol model rather than pay the £1,400 premium for the 2.2 i-CTDi, company car drivers could see benefits from switching to the Honda from the diesel 4x4 they might be currently driving.
Firstly, the CR-V diesel uses the excellent 140bhp 2.2-litre common rail diesel engine used in the Accord. It gives the diesel CR-V class-leading fuel consumption, with 42.2mpg on the combined cycle. In fact, the only other car with any degree of off-road ability to better it is the minuscule Fiat Panda 4x4 which uses a 60bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine, and then it only just beats it.
The best that can be managed by the CR-V’s main rivals is just under 40mpg by the Nissan X-trail, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage diesel and Hyundai Tucson CRTD.
But none of those can match the CR-Vs muscular power and torque outputs – 140bhp and 251lb-ft.
Only the Nissan comes close with 136bhp and 232lb-ft. With carbon dioxide emissions of 177g/km, the CR-V diesel emits less global warming gases than a Ford Mondeo 1.8 LX. The CR-V also meets Euro IV emissions rules, meaning that the particulate and nitrous oxide emissions of the car are lower than cars that meet Euro III regulations.
Many Euro III cars are still on sale and some of them are the type of small cars anti-SUV campaigners perhaps would encourage people to drive.
Finally, the Honda CR-V is one of the handful of cars tested by Euro NCAP to score three stars for pedestrian protection – the highest star rating achieved in the tests so far. It means that a pedestrian unfortunate enough to be run over would be safer being struck by the CR-V than by the majority of other cars on the road.
So if, as the campaigners would have us believe, SUVs are bad for the environment, take up unnecessary road space and are lethal killers when they hit pedestrians, it seems Honda didn’t get the message.
Behind the wheel
FLEET News was granted an exclusive first drive of the new diesel CR-V and put the car through its paces over almost 150 miles. The latest CR-V was updated in September 2004 has undergone numerous small improvements inside and out to keep it competitive.
The British-built CR-V has had a few tweaks inside to improve perceived quality – the addition of damped grab handles, back-lit instruments and revised rear head restraints among them.
The diesel engine seems a little noisier than in the Accord, but it is likely to be a combination of the cold start and a less stiff chassis allowing more vibration through to the cabin. Once the engine warms up and the car is on the move, the diesel CR-V turns into a remarkably refined machine.
Tyre noise and wind noise are absent on the motorway with only a gentle hum of the engine in the background. The diesel CR-V is similar to the Nissan X-trail in that the rear passenger compartment is exceptionally roomy, and has more useful space than, for example, a Toyota RAV4, or a Land Rover Freelander. However, the Nissan’s interior still fells a little more upmarket with a more expensive feeling dashboard – the CR-V’s still feels like an older lower-medium car.
The Honda contains body roll quite well considering its height, but its steering is more vague around the straight ahead position than the X-trail. Like the Accord, the CR-V shifts through the gears cleanly and precisely, and the brakes always slow the car smoothly. This does not feel much like the traditional SUV to drive.
The new diesel gives this CR-V better performance than the 150bhp 2.0-litre petrol. It reaches 62mph from rest a fraction of a second faster at 10.6 seconds and its theoretical top speed is 4mph higher than the petrol model at 114mph.
But the power is delivered in a comfortable and laid back manner. Although maximum torque comes in at 2,000 rpm, you feel speed smoothly build from around the 1,500rpm mark and at 70mph on the motorway in sixth gear, about 2,250rpm is showing on the rev counter.
It means the CR-V can match the most comfortable cars at this price for transporting drivers to their destinations in a swift, yet relaxed manner.
WHILE the popular petrol CR-V ranks alongside the best in its sector for ability, the diesel CR-V stands head and shoulders above the competition in the key area for corporate customers – running costs and BIK liability. If the plan works, it will certainly make the CR-V the UK’s best selling 4x4.