2012 Honda CR-V EX HD Video Review

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Quick, name the best selling SUV over the past five years. I asked five of my very tolerant co-workers and came up with three votes for Ford Explorer, and one vote each for Suburban and Range Rover (even after I explained it was most popular, not most expensive).

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD

Since you’re here to read about the new 2012 Honda CR-V you have a pretty strong clue to the answer.  Honda’s cute-ute has been numero uno for four out of the last five years and if an earthquake and tsunami hadn’t decimated Honda’s production, they’d probably be batting 1000.

The 2012 model sports crisp new clothes, drinks 10 percent less, and keeps its great reputation (you know, the qualities women wish upon their men).  CR-V is aimed like a laser site at the more responsible gender, women love the size and utility of this vehicle.   Owners told Honda not to mess with the size.  Done.  The new one is actually an inch shorter and lower.

A Little History

The next time you’re playing Trivial Pursuit, Auto Edition, remember that Honda named the CR-V after what they set out to build, a Comfortable Runabout Vehicle.  It also stands for California Redemption Value, the refundable fee paid when buying cans of Coke but that’s a whole different story.

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD

CR-V was introduced in Japan in 1995 and apparently Honda initially believed it was a low volume model.  Despite a modest marketing campaign it blossomed into a sales powerhouse.  When they saw Toyota doing well with the small RAV4 in the US, they shipped CR-V stateside in 1997, complete with a cargo floor that turned into a small picnic table.

Prices (with destination) start at $23,105 for an LX model with front-drive.  The mid-level EX AWD model Honda has dropped off for me retails for $26,455.

Moderate Power To The People

Unlike competitors Escape, Forester, Tucson and Sportage, CR-V has only one engine- a revised 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 185 horsepower and 163 lb-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm.  That’s up five ponies and two lb-ft.  The five-speed automatic- again, the only choice- is also tweaked, but still does not have a manual mode.

2012 Honda CR-V Technical Illustration

The optional Real Time 4WD system is new.  It’s electronically controlled, the outgoing system was a mechanically-activated and needed a bit of wheel slip from the front tires to activate the rear. The new lighter system anticipates slippery conditions for better traction and control.

RT 4WD is completely automatic and transparent in operation.  It’s designed to maximize traction on sloppy and snowy roads, not rugged off-roading (but you knew this).  Really, it’s all most people ever need.  Those planning to tow stuff should know it’s limited to 1,500 pounds.

Hill Start Assist keeps CR-V from rolling backwards on a hill when you move your foot off the brake to the accelerator pedal.  Handy in Seattle.

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD

On The Road

CR-V feels spunky enough in city driving.  It has average acceleration with a 0-60 time of just over nine seconds.  Push the green “Econ” button to save gas and things get a bit sluggish, especially on hills since it backs off on the throttle response and remaps transmission shift points.  EPA rated fuel economy is excellent in class, 22 mpg city, 30 highway.

To visualize efficient driving, light bars that look like parentheses surrounding the speedometer turn green when you’re driving efficiently and white when you’re late picking up the kids from daycare.

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD

At higher speeds there’s less road noise now- thank you Honda- just don’t expect Lexus-like serenity.  In city driving CR-V is pretty agile with a suspension that’s a good blend of comfort and sport.  Not loads of road feel but for a small ute it’s fun to fling about.  Disk brakes at all four corners stop securely.  U-turns are a breeze.

Department of the Interior

The cabin is a tasteful and conservative place to spend miles and time.  There are more cubby holes than seats so there’s plenty of places to loose your sunglasses and a covered center console is big enough to swallow a small purse.  Instrument panel plastics may be hard but everything looks good.  Folding armrests on the nicely bolstered front chairs keep most people comfy, though my wife finds the lumbar positioning on Honda’s seats annoying.  It’s why there are test drives.

iPod and Bluetooth phone integration is standard on all CR-Vs, so is a back up cam with three different views.

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD Pandora Radio Interface

Honda calls the screen “i-MID” and like a busy parent it handles a lot of chores.  It houses a trip computer, load a picture for personalized wallpaper if you want.  Connect an Pandora app equipped iPhone and there’s streaming music complete with album art.  Hook up a Blackberry or selected Android phones and it will read incoming text messages. No, you can’t get Pandora through Android and no, texts won’t be read by iPhones.  Visit Honda’s website for more phone info.

Other i-MID pages allow tailoring of the cars features such as lighting and how the car locks and unlocks.  Generally i-MID is easy to operate- listen up luxury car manufacturers- though in my keep it didn’t like displaying FM radio info such as song and artist.  Also, the screen’s ethereal blue glow casts onto the dashboard, which then reflects onto the upper windshield.  At night it often looks like the aurora borealis up near the rear view mirror.

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD

Other gripes?  The six-speaker audio system is average and if you want XM you have to move to the EX-L model with its improved sound system (note- the base system gets only four speakers).  The sunroof is small when compared to the panoramic glass roof of Tucson and Sportage.  Keyless ignition?  Not available.  On the other hand, a DVD entertainment system, heated leather seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, and sat nav are on the option list.

Easy Loading

CR-V is aimed squarely at women with young families and to help load child seats and squirming kids into the back seat, the rear doors open very wide, nearly 90 degrees.  The cushion itself is a bit flat but there’s a good amount of space, leg and foot room won’t be a problem for adults.  Two seat pockets, a folding armrest with cupholders, and door storage help keep things organized.  The floor is nice and flat.  The only shortcoming is the lack of a power port for phone charging.

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD

One feature I really liked on the outgoing CR-V was a vertically moveable shelf that spanned the width of the cargo area.   Unfortunately that’s gone, Honda says owners just weren’t that into it.  Under the cargo floor is a spare tire, useful on forest service roads where AAA might not find you. Bag hooks and a storage nook are nice too.

The best trick comes from the rear seats that drop flat with one tug of a lever in the trunk (or a strap on the lower seat cushion).  I suggest watching the video, it’s an interesting ballet. This feature makes CR-V very useful, more than you might imagine.

As far as cargo room, the previous generation CR-V swallowed a lofty 12 bundles. Eyeballing it I was skeptical the new one could match that but somehow, generation four continues the legacy of a dozen packs.

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD  

Real world use finds the space extremely useful.  I picked up my son and his friend stranded miles from home with a flat bicycle tire in a rainstorm.  By flopping down the larger side of the 60/40 seats, both boys and their bikes were comfortably on their way home to mugs of hot chocolate.  Yes, I had to remove the front bike tires.

Style?

Let’s touch on design for a moment.  I haven’t been a fan of Honda’s direction lately but CR-V gives me hope.  The overbite is gone from the grille, the tailgate is less busy and the D-pillar with integrated tail lamps has a stronger sense of purpose.  Even the character line down CR-V’s waist has lost its “muffin top” quality. Nice to see balanced purposeful lines from Honda again.  A couple of my neighbors mistook it for a Volvo, which tells me Honda is improving and the Swede has finally shed its box-on-wheels image.

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD

Competition has never been tougher in the compact sport-ute market and a new Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4 are on the horizon.  There’s also the fact that CR-V is not the least expensive in class.  But it has a great reputation, terrific utility and that new sense of style to win shoppers over.  It won’t be much of a surprise to find this comfortable runabout vehicle on the most popular list again.

FULL PHOTO GALLERY BELOW.  ALL STILL IMAGES PROVIDED BY HONDA.

6 Comments

  1. augaug says:

    Ah. My kids are younger. One feature I do like in the Rondo that I have is the 12 volt socket in the cargo area is always active. It doesn’t turn on and off with the key. Having one of the 3 active makes it easy to charge something like a laptop when I’m doing some running around.

    I have to agree with stanleytomy, I’m looking forward to the Mazda CX-5 coming out as a comparison. It has less power but is rated to tow an extra 500 lbs. It also has door handle style latches in the trunk to fold down the seats. They don’t do the fancy dance, but higher trim levels offer a handy 40/20/40 split. Great for child car seat families!

  2. augaug says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m curious to know why you always point out the lack of a powerpoint on the back of the centre console. In this review you mentioned that there’s “No place to charge your phone there” but to me that seems kind of silly. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of your reviews, but in previous scenes, we saw your iPhone plugged into the centre console. I work with an iPhone and a laptop all the time, and I can’t imagine wanting to plug my iPhone or laptop into the back of the centre console. It’s inconvenient to reach that from the drivers seat, and if you want to keep cords to a minimum, you’re leaving it on the floor where it can get wet or damaged by rear seat passengers, or on the rear seats where it isn’t secure. My Kia Rondo has a 12 volt plug in the front of the console, inside the armrest of the console, and in the cargo area. All three of these locations are convenient. The one inside the centre console allows me to hide my phone, the one in the rear allows me to charge my laptop while keeping it secure in either the cargo net, or the under floor storage. I just think that maybe you should give credit when the plug is placed in a smart position, and not worry too much if it’s not in your preferred position. If I didn’t have a 12 volt outlet inside my armrest, I can see wanting one in that area, and perhaps the back end of the centre console would make sense, but it seems to me that manufacturers have moved beyond simply providing a second outlet, which used to be in your preferred location, to putting them in even smarter positions.

    To me, if the powerpoint is missing, it should be mentioned. But if it’s in a logical spot, it makes sense to mention that it’s there, as opposed to commenting (complaining?) that it’s not in your preferred location.

    • TV says:

      Because I have two children that sit in the back that are always fighting over the power ports to charge their phones and iPods.

  3. motorstreet says:

    This seems like a great family car for somebody whose priorities are space, comfort, safety, and fuel economy. I have always been impressed by the huge cargo areas in CR-V’s and the roomy back seats. I am disappointed that Honda still has the outdated 5 speed auto in this car and hasn’t added Direct Injection yet, although that’s coming. I also think the EX AWD CR-V is about $2000 too expensive, especially considering that it doesn’t even have a leather steering wheel or heated seats. I think the new Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 will be better than the CR-V. The Escape almost as much space as the CR-V and has much more modern EcoBoost engines. I think the Mazda CX-5 will be the best small SUV, because it’s the best looking small SUV, it sounds like it will be by far the most fun to drive small SUV, pricing should be pretty reasonable, and it will eventually be offered with a diesel.

  4. stanleytomy says:

    cant wait for the mazda cx-5