Price: £26,105 (SE 4WD)
Engine capacity: 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel
Power Output (bhp @ rpm): 148 @4,000
Top Speed (mph): 118
0-60 mph (seconds): 9.7
Fuel economy (mpg): 57.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 173
I've spent a lot of time in SUVs and crossovers over the last few months. Spring isn't really the time for tearing up fields testing them, but thankfully it has been naffing cold and four-wheel drive has come in useful on more than one occasion. I shouldn't complain because it's evident we've become a nation of ugly-looking off-road wagon lovers.
Saloon-loving Mondeo Man died years ago and since his 1990s heyday we've gone mad for chunky cars that can wade rivers and bounce along rutted trucks. For example, Nissan's Qashqai alone sells more than the entire Ford Mondeo range and pretty much every other car maker produces a similarly styled (and popular) small SUV or crossover. And it all started with the Honda CR-V, the latest version of which I've just had on test.
The CR-Z was among the first mainstream cars to mingle car-like reflexes with 4x4 practicalities in a weirdly-sized mishmash of automotive design. It was unveiled in 1995 and since then Honda has sold five million of them and everyone from Ford and Vauxhall to BMW and Audi by way of Kia and Hyundai has had a stab at it. The market is packed full of them now, dominating suburban car parks, so Honda has given the CR-V a revamp, hence why I found myself commuting up and down the M40 in it for a weekend at a friend's place.
Like most cars of this type it gets a nicely elevated driving position and visibility is excellent – I can see why it is so useful on the dangerous midweek school run. Likewise its cabin, like all recent Hondas, is well laid out with clear dials and the odd futuristic twist. The CR-V can be had with one of four engines (two petrol and two diesel) and mine came with the more economical 2.2-litre diesel, which is surprisingly refined and with Honda's green "Econ" button depressed easily returns miles per gallon figures in the low forties.
And with plenty of room, a sensible starting price and a boot the size of an oil tanker, it is easier to see why cars like the CR-Z have sent saloon car sales off the edge of a cliff in recent years. Plus it can be had cheaper if you opt for the standard two-wheel drive version which, let's face it, is just as practical. I certainly didn't need to tackle any tricky terrain on the westbound carriageway of the M40. That said you'd still be hard-pressed to get very excited about the CR-V even if you did come across a snow drift. There's just no sense of occasion or excitement about driving one. I'm probably being unfair, the Ford Mondeo was never a pretty or exciting car, and the likes of the CR-V are far more practical. It's just I don't like how they look, but what do I know? If you want a big, muscular car then you could do a lot worse.