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by Tim Beissmann

The all-new fourth-generation Honda CR-V will be cheaper than any version of the compact SUV to come before it when it launches in Australia in November.

Honda Australia director Stephen Collins told CarAdvice the addition of an entry-level front-wheel-drive variant – a first for the local range – would almost certainly see the CR-V’s starting price fall to its lowest level in history.

“We still need to finalise it, but certainly you don’t need to be Einstein to work out two-wheel-drive has got to be cheaper than a four-wheel-drive,” Collins said.

Like the two generations before it, the outgoing third-generation CR-V is available only with four-wheel-drive, and starts at $28,090 for the base model manual.

With the exception of the Subaru Forester, all of the top selling mid-sized SUVs in Australia are available with a front-wheel-drive option, with the entry-level variants of the Holden Captiva 5, Kia Sportage and the Mazda CX-5 all available for under $28,000.

“For us, that will be the first time with two-wheel-drive and I think consumers are really demanding that sort of variant now,” Collins said.

“We’re confident two-wheel-drive and the four-wheel-drive will be well priced and competitive and really enable us to get CR-V back amongst the top sellers in that segment.”

Sales of the CR-V have all but dried up in 2012 in the wake of last year’s Thailand floods and in the lead up to the launch of the new model. Just 498 were sold in the first five months of this year, down from 2207 over the same period in 2011, leaving the CR-V with just a 1.3 per cent share of the medium SUV segment. Honda Australia sold 5748 CR-Vs in 2011, giving it a 6.9 per cent market share.

The Nissan X-Trail is currently the most popular mid-sized SUV in Australia, with 6641 sales to May giving it a 17.3 per cent share of the market. The Toyota RAV4 (5887, 15.4 per cent), Subaru Forester (4983, 13.0 per cent) and the Mazda CX-5 (4602, 12.0 per cent) follow close behind.

The new US-market CR-V made its debut at the 2011 Los Angeles motor show in November and went on sale the following month. Australia’s CR-V will be based on the Euro-spec model, which gets slightly softened, more refined styling and is set to go on sale in Europe in the coming months.

A near-production-ready prototype was showcased at the 2012 Geneva motor show in March.

Final specifications are still to be revealed, although the US-spec CR-V is powered by an upgraded version of the outgoing model’s 2.4-litre petrol engine producing 138kW of power and 221Nm of torque – up 13kW/3Nm from the old model.

Fuel economy of the new US-spec model improved around 10 per cent compared with the old model. A similar improvement in Australia would see the all-wheel-drive model fall to around 9.0 litres per 100km, with the lighter front-wheel-drive variants to be even more efficient.

Collins also confirmed Australia’s CR-V range would definitely include a diesel engine, and while a 2013 launch appears likely, the timing is still to be finalised.

“We will have diesel in CR-V, it’s just a question of when we can nail it down,” he said. “It certainly won’t be this year.”

Details of the Mk4 CR-V’s diesel engine have not been revealed at this stage. The current 2.2-litre diesel available in Europe and parts of Asia produces 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque, and uses 6.5L/100km in four-wheel-drive manual guise (7.4L/100km for the automatic).

The fourth-generation Honda CR-V is set to benefit from number of new features including a large multi-function display screen, integrated Bluetooth phone connectivity and a rear-view camera, among others.

The full local specifications will be revealed closer to its November launch.




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