Honda CR-V, 2012: New design, more power, more features, same top SUV

James Raia

It’s hard to imagine the Honda CR-V is 18 years old. But with its sibling, the Element, discontinued, the CR-V is now the Japanese manufacturer’s entry-level Sport Utility Vehicle.

There’s plenty of competition in the SUV segment, so for 2012, the CR-V was redesigned. The exterior has deeper sculpting, a bolder front fascia and a more overall aerodynamic look. More standard features, increased horsepower and one mpg improved mileage estimates also debuted with 2012 edition.

The Honda CR-V still gets defined in two ways. Does the CR-V mean Compact Recreational Vehicle or Comfortable Runabout Vehicle? Official Honda marketing materials reference both definitions, and it doesn’t really matter.

More important: Since its debut, the CR-V has been at the popularity forefront of the SUV segment, and it’s now available in LX, EX, and EX-L models all with either front or all-wheel drive but without further options.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

The EX-L model, my tester for the week, extends the base LX model, which despite its entry-level price, features a substantial standard features list: interior air filter, tilt/telescopic steering wheel w/radio controls, height-adjustable driver seat, split folding rear seat with fore and aft adjustment, power mirrors/windows/locks with remote, digital-media player connection, USB port, internet radio, wireless cell-phone link and a rearview camera.

Honda CR-V, 2012: New design, more power, more features, same top SUV 1
All Images © James Raia/2012

A power sunroof is among a few items added to the most expensive EX model, and logically the EX-L models offers the most equipment: leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated power mirrors, satellite radio and a navigation system.

Like all CR-Vs, my EX-L had 185 horsepower (five more horsepower than in 2011) and a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with the only available transmission, a five-speed automatic.

The leather seats and navigation system were particularly appreciated during my week with the SUV. It included nearly 600 miles of driving, dominated by a 400-mile, round-trip weekend trek from Sacramento to Fresno.

One of the shortcomings of the CR-V is the engine noise and wind noise. Leather seats promoted the CR-V from utilitarian status to near luxury. The leather seats also seemed to work as sound buffers.


Standard rearview camera.

Good interior storage space.

Intuitive navigation system and dual-level readout

Marbled gray plastic interior trim.

Honest gas mileage averages (28.3 mpg over 563 miles).

Exterior color: Opal Sage Metallic.


Substantial wind noise

Average acceleration.Honda CR-V, 2012: New design, more power, more features, same top SUV 2Facts & Figures: 2012 Honda CR-V

Acceleration: 0-60 mph (unavailable).
Airbags: 6.
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg (city), 30 mpg (highway), 26 mpg (combined), five-speed automatic transmission.
Government Safety Ratings: NTHSA (out of five stars): Overall (5 stars), Front (5 stars), Side (5 stars), rollover (4 stars); IIHS: Frontal Offset, good; Side impact, good; Rear Crash, good; Roof strength, good.
Horsepower: 185.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $29,795.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site:
Price As Tested: $30,605.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion: 5 years/unlimited mileage.

What Others Say:

“The CR-V would appear, then, to fall short of its highly styled, technology-laden competitors from Korea — and the forthcoming new Ford Escape. LED daytime running lights aren’t available, there’s no direct-injected turbo engine option, there are no ventilated seats or double-pane sunroof, and you’ll have to stick a metal key into an ignition slot to start this car. That leaves the CR-V to compete instead on its inherent goodness — and that’s precisely where it shines.” — Automobile Magazine.

“CR-V continues to excel for its ‘just-right’ blend of comfort, refinement, passenger room, and cargo versatility. An edgier look for 2012 makes it stand out from the competition.” — Consumer Guide.

“However, we think the Honda CR-V’s thoughtful mix of family-friendly attributes will continue to make it a great choice for most shoppers. As such, it easily remains one of our top picks in the class.” — Edmunds.

What The Wife Says:

“I really like the fact that it gets better gas mileage and it offers a smoother ride than my (2009) CR-V.”

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“Since its debut, the CR-V has done so much right and at a fair price. Honda still trails the industry with its 3-year/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper warranty, but that’s not a strong enough reason to discourage a potential CR-V buyer. It’s an ideal multi-use SUV — family needs to cargo versatility.”

Article Last Updated: October 11, 2012.

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