IN TIME for the March sales surge, Honda will stir the 4x4 debate by launching a British-built model that's compact, safe and oh-so-green.

There are some Sports Utilities which may be considered big, bad and ugly. But the Honda CR-V i-CTDi diesel, launched this month, will certainly not be one of them.

Not only does the latest CR-V have a smaller 'footprint' than most family cars, but it is also more economical than many - and with the lowest CO2 emissions rating of any vehicle in its class.

It is also among the safest cars on the road, one of a handful of cars - and the only SUV - that combines a Euro NCAP four star occupant score with a three star pedestrian safety rating.

Without being immodest, we'd go so far as to claim that the Swindon-built CR-V i-CTDi is the greenest and most socially responsible SUV in the land.

Three versions of the new diesel will be on sale. They will be badged SE, Sport and Executive and will carry a £1,400 premium over their 2.0 litre i-VTEC petrol engine equivalents.