I recently purchased a 2012 Honda CRV EX.
My perspective may be unusual because I also purchased a 2011 CRV EX a few weeks earlier, so I can compare the differences in both. Both of these vehicles replaced my 1999 & 2000 CRV LX, so my take on the differences in CRVs may be somewhat unique.
Honda may have picked areas to improve on that not everyone may agree with.
A few points on the good side:
1. I think they did a great job on improving fuel economy with almost no sacrifice for a gasoline powered vehicle. My 2012 isnt broken in yet, but Im getting 24 to 25 mpg. I know that doesnt sound great, but I drive over a mountain every working day & end up in cities on either side. Vehicles here never get good gas mileage. Even hybrids dont shine in mileage like they do in other areas. My 2000 CRV got about 19-20 mpg driving the same route with its 2 liter engine! The 2012 CRV has a larger 2.4 liter engine with much better torque & the 2012 CRV is a much heavier, more substantial vehicle.
I think the way the 2012 CRV is geared, the benefits are greatest on flat open highway driving. I suspect the gear ratios are higher than they used to be to maximize fuel economy. When climbing hills, I deselect the econ mode & sometimes use the button on the gear shift to lock out 4th & 5th gears to compensate if needed. A green/white light indicator trains the driver on how to drive economically. All of this worked for me. I do think Honda takes CAFE seriously.
2. Road noise is diminished & ride is improved.
3. Having the standard backup camera is great.
4. The rear seats fold better on the 2012 than the 2011. Actually the 2012 CRV folds flat like a 1999/2000 CRV (the 2011 does not), with the improvement of automatic folding.
5. I think the price had actually decreased for the 2012. This is a great feat considering the weak dollar. I actually spent less buying the 2012 verses the 2011. My old CRVs were over 20K (for LX), so the prices have not inflated at an unreasonable level even over 12 to 13 years! After all, the 2012 CRV EX is mechanically/technologically much more substantial.
A few points on the bad side:
1. To me, the most disturbing development with the 2012 CRV is the steering system. The Motion Adaptive Electric Power Assisted steering (I suppose this is a steer by wire system) takes getting used to. My wife frantically called me the first day she drove the 2012 CRV & said she found herself drifting lanes while driving. She turned the car over to me and permanently took over the 2011 CRV. I tried driving the 2012 & did find myself drifting at times. The steering feels strange in comparison to the 1999 & 2000 CRV. The feedback/road feel is different. I did not think that there was anything wrong with conventional power steering of earlier Hondas. After researching how this new system is designed to work (originally on the Acura NSX years ago), I had to relearn how to steer the 2012 CRV. After a few weeks I dont have to consciously force the steering wheel anymore. I can even easily handle the local winding roads without problems. It was a matter of relearning how to steer- but it was disturbing at first.
2. The rear visibility on Honda CRVs has gradually been getting worse since 2000 & the 2012 is no exception! The swooping back that mimics a Volvo cuts into the rear view and storage space. The RAV4 does have a more sensible rear compartment. The owners manual recommends not relying on mirrors only & to briefly look back before changing lanes or backing up- but this can be dangerous with limited rear side visibility. This makes the back up camera a necessity & I am forced to rely a lot on the mirrors.
Misc. comments: Overall, I think the 2012 CRV is a great vehicle. The new 2012 CRV is much more substantial/complex over the 1999/2000 CRV & I do hope that reliability is not affected by the added complexity. They could have added turn signals on the mirrors- available on CRVs elsewhere, but not in the U.S.. I wish they would bring back the Honda picnic table that would fit over the spare tire compartment :)