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.