July 10, 2012
In June of this year, the 2012 Honda CR-V set its sixth consecutive monthly sales record. 23,282 examples of Honda's all-new, but very similar small crossover flew off dealer lots and into the waiting driveways of small families and active seniors across the country. Add up the entire year and Honda's moved 146,682 of the things.
The redesign may be minimal, but in a highly competitive segment where Honda is a dominating force, playing it anything but safe would've been a fool's gambit. So the new CR-V uses basically the same powertrain and looks more like an evolution than a whole new generation of crossover.
It's a recipe Porsche has used for decades with its 911 sports car, but can evolution work in a mass-market segment where passion rarely comes into question? We've got a year to find out if Honda made the right choice now that the latest CR-V has joined our long-term test fleet.
What We Got
As is usual for Honda, our 2012 CR-V was picked from a prix fixe menu that allows no substitutions, no alterations and only minimal choice. All 2012 Honda CR-Vs come with a 2.4-liter inline-4. Honda tweaked this familiar motor with a few new mechanical parts that boost its rating to 185 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 163 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Along with the power upgrade, the CR-V now boasts EPA mileage numbers of 23 city/31 highway for front-wheel-drive CR-Vs and 22 city/30 highway for the AWD version that we have.
The engine is essentially the same as the one found in the last-gen CR-V and the five-speed automatic (the only transmission offering) was introduced last year, but the all-wheel-drive system is all new. The old system required rotational differences between front and rear before power got sent out back. Now we've got a hydraulic pump activated by — gasp — a computer that can hook up the rears with some power before the front tires even move. Bottom line: It's more responsive to slipping tires.
Once you've decided which drivetrain you want — FWD or AWD — you only really have one decision left: Do you want the LX, EX or EX-L. The LX is the cheapest CR-V available with a starting price of $23,325. It comes well equipped, but the EX model makes everything a little better by adding 17-inch alloy wheels, a security system and a power moonroof for only $26,675 (AWD). And if we're already at nearly $27K, why not just make the jump to the $29,325 EX-L that adds easy-to-clean leather seats (heated up front), halogen headlights, dual-zone climate control and heated power side mirrors. You can get the EX-L with Nav for a mere $1,500 more. That's the one we got.
Our 2012 stickers for $30,825, so it represents the most loaded CR-V possible. Since Honda provided the vehicle for this test it wanted to put its best foot forward.
Why We Got It
The Honda CR-V has long been considered the default choice for anyone looking into purchasing a new small utility vehicle. It's so ingrained into the landscape, we're surprised CR-V hasn't attained Kleenex or Q-Tip status.
But does it deserve this reputation? Especially when you consider the much-improved competitors like the latest Ford Escape, the sharp-handling Mazda CX-5 and the upcoming Hyundai Santa Fe and redesigned Toyota RAV4. When the playing field is as crowded as this, can the 2012 Honda CR-V maintain a lead on more than just perception?
We'll tell you what we think as we pile on the miles over the next 12 months. If the CR-V deserves its reputation, we'll find out for sure.
Current Odometer: 2,127
Best Fuel Economy: 31.1
Worst Fuel Economy: 25.9
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 27.7
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.