Honda reveals today the European version of its new fourth-generation CR-V SUV which will be built at the company's UK plant in Swindon.

The new car is a little lower than the outgoing model, slightly more aerodynamic, and also has a lower cargo floor and a more usefully shaped load area. Styling tweaks, as well as bigger wheels and wheel-arches, combine to make it look quite a bit chunkier and more substantial than its predecessors but it still has a fairly compact footprint and sits on an unchanged wheelbase. Fourth generation CR-Vs are already on sale in North America and Asia, but Honda is emphasising that Swindon-built European models, while outwardly similar, will have more sophisticated interior trim and materials – and this was certainly borne out when I had the chance to poke around an example of the new car at a preview for journalists in Frankfurt last week. European cars also get fancier headlamps and tail-light clusters.

Prices have not yet been released but Honda is hinting that the new car will cost roughly the same as the old one - although it will provide far greater market coverage than before. More luxuriously equipped cars will extend the range at the top, with features such as a power tailgate and lane-keeping assist, while at the lower end, Honda will for the first time be giving customers the option of ordering the CR-V without four-wheel drive – a choice already offered by most competitors.

At first, only petrol models will be available in two-wheel drive form. Initially, customers will be able to choose between a 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol and a 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel; in both cases, customers can choose between manual and automatic transmissions. Those are familiar sounding options but the engines have seen a comprehensive round of efficiency improvements. In the case of the petrol engine, four-wheel drive versions emit 173g/km of CO2 in official tests, while two-wheel drives emit 168g/km. That’s a comparatively small gap, which Honda says points to the efficiency of its all-wheel drive system.

The big news, though, is that the CR-V will also be available eventually with a 1.6-litre diesel engine, although this will first be seen in the smaller Civic. The option of two-wheel drive and a small diesel will be especially useful in helping the CR-V to ward off the competitive threat from the successful Kia Sportage and Hyundai iX35.

Honda expects most UK buyers of the latest CR-V to be private customers, “retained loyalists” who are already familiar with the brand, although there will also be a push to sell the new car, with its fleet-friendlier specs, to corporate customers this time around.

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