Believe it or not, the Honda CR-V has outsold every other SUV in America since 2007. And in all this time, Honda has never bothered with an optional V6, a hybrid drivetrain or a third-row seat. Instead, it's one engine, one transmission, have a nice day.
So what's the secret? Ask Honda CR-V owners and they'll tell you it's the compact crossover's roomy interior, the quality of its materials, solid construction and the 1,000 little conveniences that endear the CR-V to them with each passing day.
With that in mind, it's no surprise that the redesigned 2012 Honda CR-V is not a radical overhaul. In this case, the ride is quieter, fuel economy is up and the exterior design is leaning toward stylish. The cabin materials are still top quality and, in a nod to economic realities, Honda won't raise prices when the 2012 CR-V arrives at dealers in December.
Same Size, Slightly Less Weight Since the CR-V's size is one of its biggest draws, Honda didn't mess with it. The 2012 model's wheelbase and track are the same as before, and it's still 71.6 inches wide. The new CR-V is an inch shorter from nose to tail (178.3 inches) and has also lost an inch of height (65.1). This reduces headroom by an inch, too, but you still have 40 inches in front (38 with a sunroof) and legroom is unchanged. The cargo bay is slightly larger this year (37.2 cubic feet versus 35.7), but maximum capacity drops from 72.9 cubic feet to 70.9, which puts it slightly behind the Toyota RAV4.
Modest revisions to the unit-body enhance rigidity while reducing weight. Cumulative weight loss ranges from 25 pounds on the 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L (Honda-speak for an EX model with leather) to 80 pounds on the base LX.
Smidge More Horsepower, Better MPG Less curb weight invariably contributes to better fuel-efficiency, and that's something Honda needed to improve, as last year's CR-V ranked only midpack for mpg among compact sport-utilities.
Honda engineers also went to work on the CR-V's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. A new coating on the aluminum pistons reduces friction, as do new piston rings and revised cylinder liners. The automaker has also transitioned to lower-viscosity 0W20 oil. These measures, along with tweaks to the intake and exhaust systems, have liberated another 5 horsepower and 2 more pound-feet of torque. The 2012 CR-V is now rated at 185 hp at 7,000 rpm and 163 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm.
Last year's five-speed automatic transmission carries over with minor revisions to minimize friction. Gearing is unchanged on all-wheel-drive CR-Vs, but front-drive models feature slightly taller gear ratios, especially on 1st and 2nd gears. All 2012 Honda CR-Vs get a smidge taller final drive (4.44 versus 4.50 previously).
All of the above changes, plus modifications to the electrical system (including a more sophisticated alternator) factor into the 2012 CR-V's higher fuel economy ratings. Front-drive models now earn an EPA rating of 23 city/31 highway/26 combined mpg compared to the previous model's 21/28/24 ratings, while AWD CR-Vs come in at 22/30/25 (versus 21/27/23).
Those numbers might not impress you, but among non-hybrid SUVs, the CR-V ranks second only to the (much smaller) Nissan Juke for fuel economy. Actually, Honda might have achieved even better mpg, but one unintended consequence of fiddling with the gearing was increased susceptibility to knock, so the engineering team had to dial back compression to 10.0:1 — down from 10.5:1 on the 2011 CR-V.
"With the higher final-drive ratio, you have more low-rpm, high-load usage, which makes it easier for the engine temperature to increase," Akio Tonomura, chief engineer for the CR-V, tells us.
Still Not Quick Our 2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L with Navigation takes 9.4 seconds to reach 60 mph (or 9.1 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and goes through the quarter-mile in 16.8 seconds at 83.4 mph. That's right in line with most other four-cylinder SUVs, and it's a half-second quicker than a 2008 CR-V we tested (10.0-second 0-60, 17.4-second quarter-mile at 79.2 mph). However, the turbocharged VW Tiguan is still about a second quicker than the 2012 CR-V.
Accelerating up to speed on the highway is less frenzied in the new CR-V, as improved sound-deadening results in less ruckus from the engine bay. Of course, the 2.4-liter continues to make its best power up high, so if you don't like the sound of an engine revving, this isn't the SUV for you.
Honda's smooth-shifting five-speed automatic is still better than many other transmissions in this class, but it's not as responsive as the 2013 CX-5's new six-speed automatic, and it doesn't match revs or offer a manual mode. A new Econ mode helps you mind your mpg by providing shallower throttle response to pedal input (along with less energetic cruise control and air-conditioner operation), but unless you're on flat ground, it makes for painfully slow progress.
Previous CR-Vs used a rudimentary all-wheel-drive system that required an actual rotational difference between the front and rear wheels before a pair of hydraulic pumps would act on a clutch to send torque to the rear differential. On the 2012 CR-V, you still have one hydraulic pump to operate the clutch, but now it's driven by an electric motor that's hooked up to the ECU, so you can get torque to the rear wheels before the front wheels even start slipping. The revised AWD system is 6 pounds lighter to boot.
Better Ride Our biggest complaint about earlier Honda CR-Vs was the excessive road noise. On the flip side, the CR-V excelled in the handling department thanks to its unexpected ability to communicate with its driver. The 2012 Honda CR-V is still solid in this regard, but it's clear Honda wanted to tune it for more compliance and reduced road noise.
The suspension still consists of struts in front and a multilink rear, but Honda says it's using higher-capacity dampers, and the overall calibration provides more isolation on rutted freeways. It doesn't feel quite as in touch with the road as last year's model, but if you're transporting an infant, you'll prefer the new setup, as it's much quieter overall.
Similarly, the steering, which now uses electric power assist, offers lighter effort levels but slightly less feel than before. The ratio is also slower at 16.7:1 compared with 15.7 previously. The brakes are unchanged, and all EX models continue to wear 225/65R17 tires, though they're Continentals instead of the familiar Bridgestones.
At the test track, our 2012 CR-V tester went through the slalom at 63.1 mph, circled the skid pad at 0.76g and stopped from 60 mph in 120 feet — all virtually identical to the 2008 CR-V we tested.
How Is It on the Inside? On the whole, the 2012 Honda CR-V's cabin is undoubtedly an improvement over last year. The dash has a more graceful design, the gauges are beautiful and you can finally get some decent electronics in the LX model. All 2012 CR-Vs come with a back-up camera, a USB input, Bluetooth, Pandora integration (if you have the app on your phone) and SMS text-to-speech capability for MAP-enabled phones. There's no need to spring for the EX-L model anymore, unless you want factory navigation or an old-school DVD rear entertainment system.
Beyond that, there are changes that may thrill or annoy you depending on your priorities. The ergonomics, for example, are as straightforward as before with the exception of the i-MID display, which mimics a smartphone interface but isn't very intuitive. In addition, the open floor space in previous CR-Vs is history, as Honda has installed a full front console with additional storage compartments.
In back, the 60/40 rear seats no longer adjust fore and aft — historically a signature convenience in the Honda CR-V. The reason for the change is a new, spring-loaded, auto-fold feature. Pull a couple levers in the cargo bay and the rear seat bottoms fold up while the seatbacks fold down, all without you physically exerting yourself. In their new fixed position, the rear seats offer as much legroom as the old ones did in their rearmost position. As we said, some will like the added convenience, but others might loathe the loss of adjustability.
There are more other questionable changes in the cargo bay. Instead of the sturdy cargo shelf there's now a conventional vinyl cargo cover. And the chunky handle that made it so easy to close the liftgate has been replaced by a finger slot. Care to guess which one was easier to use?
Still a Best Seller? For the moment, the 2012 Honda CR-V is one of the best four-cylinder models in the compact SUV class. With this redesign, Honda has addressed its middling fuel economy and noticeable road noise while preserving the packaging owners like and the level of quality they expect.
We wish Honda had done more to address the sluggish acceleration, but that's the price you pay for better mileage. The minor changes to the seats and cargo area are slightly annoying, but they may prove less so with time.
The biggest worry for Honda at this point is the new competition on the horizon. The 2013 Ford Escape features a choice of three different four-cylinder engines, while the Mazda CX-5 will eventually offer a diesel four-cylinder that will likely deliver exceptional mileage.
Then again, the CR-V has never been the most powerful compact SUV or the most unique. Since the beginning it's been nothing but basic transportation that gets the job done. Not much has changed, and given its sales numbers over the years that may not be a bad thing at all.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report.
Is the 2012 Honda CR-V a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2012 Honda CR-V and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2012 CR-V featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
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Review I had a Mazda CX-7 prior to this purchase and had SO many mechanical issues. They all seemed to happen right after I went over 60k, so they weren't covered by the warranty, go figure. I was anxiously waiting for the 2012 Honda CR-V to come out so I could get rid of it and say hello to reliability! I bought the CR-V in January 2012 and have just finally realized that I REALLY like it. Took me long enough! Coming from a turbo-charged engine, it was somewhat disappointing to drive at first. Very little pickup and I felt like I couldn't even get out of the way. Had to adjust driving style, but I just kept reminding myself that I no longer had to worry about it not starting or breaking down on the side of the road...trade-offs. I had Bose speakers in the CX-7, and the sound system was also less than par comparatively, although decent for what it is. The bluetooth was a nice new addition and the back-up camera is awesome. I had the battery issue everyone else seems to have, but it never completely died on me. It took a while to turn over a few times, which worried me because of the CX-7 fiasco, but it always started. We make periodic long drives so maybe the battery was able to get a good charge then? When I took it to the dealership for regular maintenance last winter, they told me I needed to replace the battery because the charge was really low. I didn't replace it b/c I thought they were just trying to upsell me something I didn't need. I mean really, who needs to replace the battery after only 2.5 years and 40k miles?! I wasn't aware of the battery issue 2012 CR-Vs were having at the time... At my last oil change they did a software update to fix the issue. I haven't had any problems, but then again, it's summer, I guess we'll what happens as it gets cold again. That brings me to the AWD...or rather, the RWD, since that's what it feels like. I haven't gotten stuck in the snow yet, hopefully never will, but when driving in the snow it feels like the rear-end wants to come around and it's a little scary having to compensate. And, DO NOT drive it in sand...we DID get stuck in sand, even after letting air out of the tires. We finally had to almost completely deflate them before we got traction and were able to get out. Overall, this is not an AWD vehicle, I tried. :) If you want that, I suggest buying something known for that, just be prepared for the gas mileage to adjust accordingly. The cargo space with the seats folded down is incredible. My family moved this past summer and I was able to do much of the small stuff on short trips. It fit so much stuff that I was more concerned about the weight limits than I was on the space available. Overall, this is perfect for what we need and the gas mileage is pretty good. On long trips we get 30-31 mpg and city I get about 24-25. Just what's advertised. I plan to keep it at least until our 10-year old starts driving...she can take it and then I will probably get something with real AWD capability and low gas mileage. :) Hope this review helps in the decision making!
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What options are available on the 2012 Honda CR-V?
Available Honda CR-V 2012 Submodel Types: SUV
Available Trims: LX, EX-L, EX, Touring, EX-L w/Navigation, SE, Special Edition, EX-L w/Rear Entertainment, Base
Exterior Colors: Crystal Black Pearl, White Diamond Pearl, Basque Red Pearl II, Modern Steel Metallic, Alabaster Silver Metallic, Obsidian Blue Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, Polished Metal Metallic, Urban Titanium Metallic, Gunmetal Metallic, Kona Coffee Metallic, Twilight Blue Metallic, Royal Blue Pearl, Mountain Air Metallic, Molten Lava Pearl, Dark Olive Metallic, Sandstorm Metallic, Taffeta White, Nighthawk Black Pearl, Tango Red Pearl, Opal Sage Metallic, Glacier Blue Metallic, Copper Sunset Pearl, Whistler Silver Metallic, Satin Silver Metallic, Green Tea Metallic, Borrego Beige Metallic, Eternal Blue Pearl, Mojave Mist Metallic, Chianti Red, Sahara Sand Metallic, Pewter Pearl, Redondo Red Pearl, Clover Green, Clover Green Pearl, Sebring Silver Metallic, Silver Moss Metallic, Cypress Green Pearl, Satin Silver, Electron Blue, Electron Blue Pearl, Milano Red, San Marino Red, Supermarine Blue Pearl
Interior Colors: Gray cloth, Black cloth, Gray leather, Black leather, Ivory cloth, Beige leather, Ivory leather, Gray premium cloth, Black premium cloth, Beige premium cloth, Beige cloth, Black, Ivory, Saddle
Popular Features: Fold Flat Rear Seats, Rear Bench Seats, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Stability Control, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, AWD/4WD, USB Inputs, Bluetooth, Sunroof/Moonroof, Aux Audio Inputs, Alarm, Auto Climate Control, Back-up camera, Heated seats, Power Driver Seat, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Leather Seats, Keyless Entry/Start, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-collision safety system, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Post-collision safety system, Remote Start, Power Liftgate/Trunk, Navigation, Upgraded Headlights, Rear Entertainment System