Heroic Honda saves the day in snowy wonderland

When the going gets tough… DAVID HOOPER, Editor of wheelworldreviews.co.uk, was glad to be testing Honda’s CR-V with its Real Time 4WD, when the weather took a particularly wintry turn.

With North Yorkshire’s Ribblehead Viaduct in the background, Honda’s CR-V handled the slipper roads well, but little did we know, the trip home was to be far more challenging.

I LOVE it when a plan comes together! Now who said that? But when it comes to being caught in bad weather, having a 4×4 on test is the perfect scenario – even if it was by pure chance.
Fortunately for my wife and I we were travelling home in Honda’s latest CR-V, after a weekend’s walking with friends at Ribblehead, in North Yorkshire.
We had a brilliant day up on the hills, with clear blue skies, a dusting of fresh snow on the ground and temperatures hovering around zero degrees. After a hearty meal at the Station Inn, which nestles under the magnificient viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle line, a pint or three next to the roaring fire and another enjoyable stroll around Gargrave, just north of Skipton the following morning, it was time to head for home.

The spacious interior – note the aircraft-inspired handbrake.

All went well until we reached the outskirts of Harrogate, a lovely town, but one known for its traffic congestion, no matter what time of day you pass through it. My wife was on a Christmas-present buying mission, otherwise we would have avoided it.
The first flakes of snow drifted towards our Honda CR-V as we passed the radar domes at Menwith Hill, but quickly became the size of 50p pieces. Once in Harrogate, my wife dashed into the shops to get what she wanted and we agreed to meet at a popular tea shop for a cuppa. I parked the car on the nearby green, relying on the parking sensors to help me squeeze into a tight space.
I was gone no more than half-an-hour, but in that time, our warm car had all but disappeared under a blanket of snow a couple of inches thick, all the roads were white, and I began to realise we might have a problem getting home.
It didn’t take long before we were stuck in traffic jams, with cars struggling to negotiate long but not particularly steep inclines, with even a Mini inching its way past us in the opposite direction with its wheels spinning wildly.
I was low on fuel, so having picked up a couple of pensioners who had abandoned a rear-wheel-drive Mercedes at the bottom of the hill and were walking home looking like snowmen, I performed a three-point turn and drove up the hill, in the middle of the road, passing a struggling Toyota van and a Fiesta, whose driver wasn’t too impressed, but he wasn’t going anywhere quickly, and there was just enough room.
Once refuelled, we headed for the A1, navigating our way out of the traffic around the back roads. The CR-V isn’t the prettiest of cars, but it had steadily grown on me during the week as I spent more and more time at its wheel. Not only is it spacious and practical, its split level boot floor had been handy, and the 40:20:40 split folding rear seats mean the luggage area can be expanded to almost van-like proportions.
But its most appreciated feature was its Real Time 4WD which runs as a conventional front-wheel-drive car most of the time, but if the front wheels begin to lose traction, then power is  automatically sent to the rear wheels.
I was reminded why so many people like 4x4s which, having become the subject of heavy taxation and a hate campaign waged by do-gooders, saw many buyers turn their backs on the breed. Until the cold snap last year – when manufacturers reported a sharp reversal of the trend, with people buying into 4x4s again and getting rid of expensive rear-wheel-drive cars which are about as much use as chocolate fire-guards when it snows. Crossover vehicles have also seen a boom in recent years, with part-time four-wheel-drive.
Say what you like, I don’t care, 4x4s have their place, and when you need one, you really need one. Without the surefooted CR-V, we wouldn’t have got home on Sunday night. Even with it, I wasn’t sure we were being sensible in trying, but having just passed a very welcoming pub before heading off down a fairly steep hill and not knowing whether the car would get up the other side of it, I wasn’t too worried. We had our cold weather gear and walking boots, so it wouldn’t be too long a long walk back!

The smart centre console with dash-mounted gear selector.

As it was, the CR-V was brilliant, safe, secure, predictable, and with plenty of traction in the atrocious road conditions, it got us to the A1, which was moving surprisingly freely. There were three lanes, trucks in Lane One, cars in Lane Two, and 4x4s in Lane Three!
This CR-V is the latest, facelifted version of the third generation of the model, is reasonably priced, well equipped and as reliable as you would expect of a Honda.
Buyers of the Swindon-built SUV have a choice of three trim grades, SE, ES, or EX powered by either the two-litre petrol engine in my test car, which averaged 34-35mpg on a run, or a 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel, which would return quite a bit more, matched to a manual or automatic gearbox.
The Urban Titanium paintwork of my test car is new this year, along with Premium White Pearl and Alabaster Silver.
After our little adventure, I was left in no doubt of the CR-Vs credentials as an excellent all-round family car. A point driven home, if you excuse the pun, by the arrival of a BMW 5-Series Touring which is now parked a quarter-of-a-mile from the house as I watch yet more of the white stuff cover everything as I write this review. After failing to get a rear-wheel drive Lexus up a small hill near my house a couple of years ago, I just know I would regret bringing the BMW in, at least if I want to use it this week.
If only the Honda could have stayed a bit longer . . .
Oh yes, I nearly forgot – it was Hannibal on the brilliant TV Series the A-Team that said “I love it when a plan comes together”.

For the out-door types, there are plenty of storage options. The weekly shop fits just as well.

Rating: ★★★★★

Honda CR-V 2.0 i-VTEC ES MT.

CR-V RANGE: From 2.0 SE 5dr (£21,005) to 2.2i-DTEC EX with Advanced Safety Pack Auto 5dr (£31,850).

ENGINE: 1997cc, 148bhp four-cylinder engine, driving four wheels through 6-speed manual gearbox.

CO2 EMISSIONS: 190g/km.

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 118mph. 0-62mph in 10.2 secs.

ECONOMY: City: 26.9mpg.
Country: 40.9mpg.
Combined: 34.9mpg.
Fuel tank: 58 litres.

INSURANCE: Group 27 (1-50).

WARRANTY: 3 years/90,000 miles.

PRICE: £22,805.

WEBSITE: www.honda.co.uk

• All data correct at time of publishing.