Here it is then, the new CR-V. Bigger, better, we hope, and a lot more expensive.

Honda has its sights set on the premier league with the sixth generation model and has packed it witrh new technology, a raft of driver safety aids and, for the first time, a plug-in hybrid model.

A quarter of a century ago CR-V was something of a trailblazer, an SUV designed for families, not farmers. A bit of a gamble but it paid off becoming its best seller in the UK and a firm favourite with caravaners because it was a great tow car with a sizeable flat floored boot.

Times have changed and Honda is facing up to the challenges of a totally different motoring world. It ditched diesel some time ago so this model is powered by a 2-litre petrol hybrid engine with a plug-in model to stretch economy and drastically lower the car’s exhaust emissions.

It is the plug-in we are looking at here  and it is fair to say it is long overdue given Honda’s expertise in electric power trains that stretches back to the Insight of 1999.

That said with the switch to electric put back to 2035 the plug-in hybrid will very likely become the preferred choice. They are a stopgap for those not ready to commit to full electric and although pricey will become more affordable as used cars feed into the system.

The plug-in gives an electric only range of up to 50 mikes, more than some rivals. I managed around 43 before the gauge said empty and switched to engine power, not that I noticed because the transition was seamless. Using my Podpoint wall charger the CR-Vs 17.7kWh battery was topped up in just over two hours which is also faster than some rivals. Using a domestic socket will take just under eight hours.

Once the battery is spent petrol power only should be good for mid forties to the gallon on a light foot but some electric power can be recovered using regenerative braking.

The complete overhaul of CR-V is obvious from the styling. It has lost that distinctive profile although the more mainstream design is still appealing and bolder, particularly the in-your face grille and slimline headlight signature.

Honda has always been ahead of the game on safety and has gone even further with driver aids. It is protected like a fortress with all round camera and sensors. Emergency braking to help avoid a front end shunt is standard across the range while the new ‘traffic jam assist’ keeps the car in its lane at low speeds, switching to the basic lane assist when the road clears.

Passengers are protected by 11 airbags but what about this for a useful addition. A front centre airbag to prevent a coming together of driver and passenger in a collision.

There is a now familiar look to the dashboard with a digital driver’s binnacle backed up by a large head-up display and central touchscreen for the everyday functions, but at least Honda has given us buttons for the heating and radio volume which is pleasing.

Generous space has always been a given on CR-V and there is even more now with the increase in length. Legroom is excellent front and back and the reclining back seats were a big hit with my adult nieces. This is also a useful way of increasing headroom for overly tall passengers who will find it tight with the seats in the upright position.

I often wonder why car testers, me included, sometimes dwell on the way SUVs handle when no one expects them to drive them like a sports car. Of the CR-V I will just say it is commendably comfortable, no matter what rubbish surfaces it has to cope with, and has more than adequate handling abilities.

A bone of contention that has been resolved is the  CVT gearbox. Until now it has been annoyingly noisy hanging on to the revs but  that has been overcome by introducing a second gear and has done the trick so no more screaming under hard acceleration.

Sadly CR-V will never be the tow car it once was with a 1500 kg limit, provided you have the plug-in hybrid which is only available with front wheel drive. But here is the anomaly. You can only get all wheel drive with the hybrid which has a towing capacity of just 750kg. That seems to be the wrong way round?

The new model is without doubt a big step forward in quality, comfort and safety. The SUV net is huge and as well as traditional rivals like Toyota Rav4 and Mazda CX-5 the CR-V has put itself up against the likes of BMW, Audi and Lexus.

The biggest question is will buyers be put off by the higher price. Time will tell.

Fast facts

CR-V e:PHEV Advance Tech

£54,670 (£45,895 e:Hybrid)

2-litre petrol; 326bhp

0-62mph 9.4secs; 121 mph

50.3mpg (353mpg full charge)

17.7kWh battery; 6.8kW on board charge

19g/km. First tax zero

Insurance group 37

Boot: 617-1710 litres