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2012 Honda CR-V ReviewThe Good
The 4th-generation Honda CR-V debuts for 2012 with a full redesign, including a new exterior look, improved horsepower and fuel economy, a new automatic fold-down rear seat, and a number of cutting-edge tech features, such as Pandora streaming radio and a voice-oriented text-messaging function.The Bad
With a focus on fuel economy rather than performance, the new Honda CR-V can feel sluggish at times, especially when passing at highway speeds, and all CR-Vs retain a 5-speed transmission, rather than a 6-speed shifter utilized by some competitive vehicles.
The CarGurus View
By most accounts, Honda has made a good vehicle even better. The automaker's goal when redesigning its popular, family-oriented CV-R for 2012 was to make the vehicle more efficient and functional, and Honda has succeeded on both fronts. Add in a number of new tech features sure to keep the competition on its toes, and the 4th-generation CR-V should prove a hit with buyers of all ages, but especially those with growing families.
At a Glance
The redesigned, 4th-generation Honda CR-V compact crossover SUV rolls into 2012 with a sleeker exterior design, an updated powerplant, a new all-wheel-drive system and a number of new interior features, including class-leading technology functions. Since its introduction in the mid-'90s, the CR-V has been a hit with buyers, thanks to its versatility and practicality. For the CR-V's 4th generation, the automaker focused on making the vehicle more efficient, comfortable and functional, especially for families, who are the CR-V's target demographic.
Just as it did when redesigning the popular Civic for 2012, Honda took a conservative approach with the CR-V, opting for incremental rather the earth-shattering updates. In the minds of some early reviewers, that puts the CR-V's class leadership role in jeopardy, especially when competitive vehicles from Ford, Chevy and Hyundai are nipping at its heels. But Honda seems confident that the updates it has made to the CR-V, emphasizing efficiency and functionality, are those most requested by automotive buyers.
Toward that end, Honda touts a number of the CR-V's new features, including an Easy Fold-Down 60/40 split rear seat, which the automaker says is the 2012 CR-V's "most significant new interior feature." Offering more convenience than manual-folding seats, the new rear seat automatically folds nearly flat at the flick of a lever. Honda also lowered the height of the rear cargo floor, making it easier to load gear, and positioned the entire cabin slightly lower for a more car-like ride.
In addition, Honda added a number of new standard features for 2012. The 5-passenger CR-V comes in entry-level LX, mid-level EX and luxury-oriented EX-L trims, and all now come equipped with Bluetooth and a new multi-angle rear-view camera. All trims also receive Honda's new 5-inch LCD intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID), located in the center stack. The new system handles audio, Bluetooth and general vehicle information, as well as Pandora music streaming and a new SMS text messaging function, which reads incoming texts and allows drivers to respond vocally using compatible Bluetooth-equipped smart phones.
Outside, the 2012 CR-V received updated styling, which Honda calls more dynamic and sophisticated. A redesigned front fascia with a three-bar grille, bold fender flares, a slightly lower roofline, deeper sculpting along the sides, and the CR-V's signature vertical brake lights give the vehicle a sleeker, more aerodynamic appearance. In addition, Honda has redesigned the CR-V's body and window openings to provide more outward visibility for the driver and passengers. Although the CR-V's overall length is 1 inch shorter than the previous generation (178.3 inches vs. 179.3 inches for 2011), interior design changes have resulted in a slightly more spacious cabin (an additional 0.3 cubic feet in the LX trim, and an additional 0.6 cubic feet in the EX and EX-L trims). Cargo volume has also increased by 1.5 cubic feet, to 37.2 cubic feet with the rear seats up.
Despite its few minor drawbacks, mostly focused on performance issues, the 2012 CR-V remains a good overall vehicle for buyers who are looking for a functional, economic family vehicle. U.S. News and World Report named the new CR-V its Best Affordable Compact SUV for Families for 2012, and positions it near the top of a very competitive and extensive class. Similarly, Kelley Blue Book named the CR-V one of its 10 Best Family Cars for 2012. The CR-V was also tapped as a Top Safety Pick for 2012, and was named a Best Resale Value Award winner, also by Kelley Blue Book.
The CR-V comes equipped with only a single powerplant for 2012, a 2.4-liter, i-VTEC DOHC 4-cylinder engine that rolls over from the previous year with only minor improvements. The engine generates 185 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque, and links to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Thanks to mechanical improvements, including a reduction in internal friction and wider shift points, the powerplant now posts fuel economy numbers of 23/31 mpg for front-wheel-drive trims (up 2 mpg city and 3 mpg highway), and 22/30 mpg for trims equipped with all-wheel drive (up 1 mpg city and 3 mpg highway).
A new feature for the 2012 CR-V, called the Econ operating mode, helps drivers get the most efficient operation out of their vehicles. Engaged by the driver via a button on the instrument panel, the Econ mode alters the operation of the throttle, cruise control and air conditioning systems to achieve greater fuel economy. It's part of the vehicle's Eco Assist system, which provides visual cues to the driver to encourage a more-efficient driving style.
With an emphasis on economy and efficiency, the CR-V's performance does not meet the expectations of some reviewers, who would like to see an optional V6 or turbocharged powerplant offered by the automaker. The current powerplant drives the CR-V from 0 to 60 in 8.5 seconds, but some testers have pointed out that the CR-V's real performance issues are evident when accelerating from 50 to 70 mph, such as during passing situations.
The 2012 Honda CR-V runs on regular unleaded fuel and has a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds, which is unchanged from the previous generation.
Ride & Handling
Although the 2012 CR-V doesn't quite match a sedan in its ride and handling, it comes close, according to many testers. Tuned for a smooth, comfortable ride, the CR-V receives an updated chassis for 2012, with a fully independent front MacPherson strut suspension and a rear multi-link setup. Lighter and more compact than the previous suspension and chassis, the new configuration provides good handling while allowing for a lower interior floor and increased cargo space. The CR-V's turn radius is tight for an SUV, and front and rear stabilizer bars help reduce body roll while cornering. In addition, the chassis does a good job of insulating passengers from most rough roads.
Honda offers the CR-V as either a front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle. New for 2012, an electronically controlled Real Time AWD system with intelligence, available at all trim levels, replaces the previous year's mechanically activated all-wheel-drive system, which allowed some wheel slippage during activation. The new AWD system provides smoother operation than the previous setup, according to reviewers.
In addition, the 2012 CR-V now comes equipped with a new Hill Start Assist feature, which prevents rollback when the vehicle is stopped on a hill. Honda also added a new Motion-Adaptive Electric Power System, which works with the vehicle stability control system to detect slippage when cornering or during inclement road conditions, and aids the driver in making steering corrections. Overall, however, the new steering system gets mixed reviews from early testers. Some say it feels tight and sharp, especially when compared to other vehicles in the class, while others critics cite it for limited feedback and some numbness.
Owners have always given the CR-V high marks for its comfortable interior and ample cargo space, and that remains true for the latest version. Seats are comfortable for long trips, with adequate headroom and legroom in the front and back, and the new easy-fold rear seat makes it simple to expand cargo space. Door pockets come standard on all trims, and seatback storage is standard on the EX and EX-L. In addition, a redesigned center console provides storage space, as does an overhead console.
Most reviewers find the CR-V cabin's quiet, even at highway speeds. The LX trim receives 16-inch wheels for 2012, while the EX and EX-L ride on 17-inch wheels with all-season tires.
Cabin & Comfort
The new CR-V offers one of the most comfortable, best-looking and best-equipped cabins in its class, according to reviewers. The automaker's goal was to give the CR-V's redesigned interior an upscale, sedan-like feel, and most agree that the effort has been successful, thanks to high-quality materials and a softer, more refined feel. Add in plenty of high-tech features and configurable cargo space with low lift-over height, and the CR-V's cabin is a winner.
In redesigning the CR-V's interior, Honda paid particular attention to what it calls the "in-vehicle driving experience," which incorporates everything from the height of the driver's seat, providing good visibility, to the new intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID), which comes standard on all trims, to the updated center console, with storage space large enough to hold a sizable purse, to the multifunction steering wheel with voice-activated controls, also standard on all trims. The analog instrumentation is simple and clean, with a large speedometer dial front and center, and reviewers generally find the controls easy to operate.
In addition, the CR-V's new cutting-edge tech features are sure grab the attention of buyers and competitors alike. All trims now come standard with a Multi-Angle Rear-view Camera with Guidelines, which provides multiple viewing angles behind the vehicle, displayed on the i-MID screen. In addition, the i-MID system includes an SMS text-messaging function, which can read incoming texts, heard through the audio system, and allows drivers to respond using one of six factory-preset text messages. It currently works with a limited number of phones, including the iPhone and certain high-end Android phones. The i-MID display also incorporates the CR-V's optional navigation system, which many reviewers still find overly complicated to operate.
The CR-V LX comes standard with a 4-speaker, 160-watt audio system, while the EX and EX-L receive an updated 7-speaker, 328-watt system. Both now include Pandora music streaming, while the 328-watt system also includes XM satellite radio. Both systems also include Bluetooth and an input jack and are controlled through the i-MID system and steering-wheel-mounted controls.
Other standard features across the line include cruise control, power windows and door locks, and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel. The EX and EX-L also come equipped with dual-zone automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, while the EX-L receives leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver's seat.
The 2012 Honda CR-V received top scores in all areas from both the IIHS and the NHTSA. The IIHS gave the CR-V a top rating of Good for front, side and rear impact tests, as well as for roof strength, earning the CR-V a Top Safety Pick designation, while the NHTSA gave the CR-V 5 out of 5 stars in front crash, side crash and rollover tests.
All CR-V trims come standard with Vehicle Stability Assist, Honda's electronic stability control system, as well as antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution. Side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, as well as dual-stage front and front-seat side airbags, also come standard on the 2012 CR-V.
A Pedestrian Injury Mitigation Design, which includes energy-absorbing fender mounts and supports as well as a specially designed hood, helps improve a pedestrian's chance of survival if struck by the vehicle. The CR-V's front seats are also designed to lessen the severity of neck injuries in the event the vehicle is struck from the rear.
What Owners Think
In redesigning the 2012 CR-V, Honda seems to have hit its mark, since most owners rave about the vehicle's new look and updated features. Owners find the CR-V's ride surprisingly smooth for a compact SUV, and note that the vehicle handles the road well. In addition, while some owners feel the CR-V is underpowered, others have a different take, finding plenty of power coupled with good fuel economy. The cabin's ergonomics, comfortable seats, easy-to-read instrument panel, build quality and overall fit and finish also have impressed new owners, as well as those who have upgraded from older CR-Vs. In addition, some owners note they've received positive comments about the CR-V's exterior design from friends and family members.
Road noise remains an issue with some owners, especially when passing, and others would like to see better gas mileage. Others note that the Econ system works fine during regular driving conditions but caution against using it while climbing hills or under heavy loads. Overall, however, the CR-V comes highly recommended by current owners, with some calling it the best CR-V yet, and others comparing it in a positive way to similar, more expensive vehicles from other automakers.
by Mark S. Baker
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