The all-new 2012 Honda CR-V is the fourth generation of Honda's popular and widely acclaimed first venture into the SUV market. The original, according to Honda lore, was conceived to fulfill a need the company perceived for a Comfortable Runabout Vehicle. A four-door, five-passenger, entry-level sport utility vehicle, the CR-V is comfortable and is quite useful for running about. The new version is improves on the previous generation though only slightly.
The Honda CR-V comes packed with features such as Bluetooth-enabled hands-free capability and streaming audio. The audio system comes with the ability to function as a control head for the internet radio site Pandora. Not only is there a rearview camera, but it's a multi-angle unit that lets the driver choose between a top view and either a 130-degree or a 180-degree view. Automatic climate control, leather, heated front seats and a premium, 328-watt audio system with a subwoofer and XM satellite radio are available. Optional on the top model is a GPS-based navigation system with turn-by-turn directions.
There is only one engine offered, an upgrade of the previous CR-V's 2.4-liter four-cylinder, and one transmission, an upgraded version of the 2011 model's gearbox. Those upgrades, though, eke out four more horsepower and two more pound-feet of torque and with better fuel economy, a 10-percent improvement.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimate 23/31 City/Highway mpg on the front-wheel drive CR-V, 22/30 mpg with all-wheel drive. Those figures split the difference between the segment's major players.
New on the 2012 CR-V is the Eco-Assist system, which will adjust transmissions shift points and gently retard acceleration to improve fuel economy. Eco-Assist can be switched on and off by the driver. Honda has given the new CR-V some equally new drivetrain technology.
The 2012 CR-V gets hill-start assist, which applies the brakes when the car is stopped on an incline and releases them when the driver touches the accelerator. The clutch that sends power to the rear wheels on the AWD models has a pre-load function that prevents any initial slippage when moving off from a stop. On freeways and surface streets, the ride and handling is solid without being overly firm and stable with little body lean in corners even at elevated speeds.
The 2012 CR-V's styling definitely falls more toward evolutionary than revolutionary. Most of the changes are minor, leaving the visuals in familiar territory. Headlight housings are sleeker. The roofline is an inch lower, and the side sculpting is more pronounced. The most remarkable difference is something only following drivers get to enjoy, as the liftgate and taillight assemblies have received a complete re-do and look remarkably more contemporary than those on the 2011 CR-V.
Interior finish is Honda-spec, with everything fitting snugly and pleasantly styled panels and trim pieces complimenting each other and showing a consistent theme. Controls are functional and for the most part intuitive. The screen on the optional navigation system is large and easy to read, though the system takes a long time to start up. Honda's decision to go with hard plastic surfaces everywhere but the door armrests is disappointing. The lower roofline means occupants lose an inch of headroom. The rear cargo compartment is slightly larger when the rear seats are folded, but the cargo compartment is no longer perfectly flat.
The 2012 Honda CR-V comes with a 185-horsepower four-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is available across the line. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include $810 destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
CR-V LX ($22,295) comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, four-way adjustable front seats plus manual height adjustment for driver's seat, cruise control, tilt and telescope steering wheel with illuminated cruise, audio, phone and information display controls, power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, two-speed windshield wipers, multi-media, four-speaker, 160-watt audio, Pandora internet radio compatibility, Bluetooth hands-free, text messaging and media streaming capability, on-board computer with trip and powertrain data and personalization of select functions, front center console and rear center armrest, floor mats, cargo area light, and 215/70R16 tires on styled steel wheels. CR-V LX AWD ($23,545) adds all-wheel drive.
CR-V EX ($24,395) and CR-V EX AWD ($25,645) add one-touch tilt and slide power moonroof, security system, variable speed windshield wipers, fog lights, two more speakers, body-color outside mirrors and door handles, driver and front passenger seatback pockets, retractable cargo cover, rear privacy glass, and 225/65R17 tires on alloy wheels.
CR-V EX-L ($27,045) upgrades to dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-trimmed seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift lever, 10-way power driver's seat including power lumbar, heated front seats, 328-watt audio system with seven speakers, including subwoofer, XM radio with 90-day trial period, and roof rails. The EX-L gets the only factory-installed options offered: a navigation system with turn-by-turn directions ($28,545) and rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($27,745). Each version is available with AWD.
Safety equipment comprises frontal airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, full coverage side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, the federally mandated Tire Pressure Monitoring System, rear seat anchors and tethers for child safety seats (LATCH), and multi-angle rearview camera. Optional all-wheel drive improves handling stability in slippery conditions.