The Honda CR-V has been a solid compact sport-utility vehicle for years, so it should be no surprise that the restyled 2012 model remains simply that.
Naturally some changes were made. CR-V adds a few more horses (5 to be exact) under the hood, but it also rounds its styling to the point of being rather bulbous in back, and its length and height shrink a bit while the cargo space grows by 1.5 cubic feet. Pricing has continued to inch upward too. The base LX model with 2-wheel drive now starts at $22,295 and there’s a monster $810 delivery fee to get it shipped from Ohio. Lucky it doesn’t come from overseas.
The tested CR-V AWD EX-L with navigation system is darned near the top-level model and lists at $29,795. Remember when small uses started below $20 grand, not nearly $30 large? But there were no options added, so the sparkling gray (polished metal Honda calls it) tester listed at $30,605. For that you get a quiet, comfortable small ute that will hold four adults comfortably, along with a copious amount of luggage.
The 2.4-liter i-VTEC I4 is a sturdy engine and now cranks out 185 horsepower. Acceleration is solid for a small ute. You won’t lag at a stoplight or feel the rest of the world is racing away from you. However, Honda sticks with its trusty 5-speed automatic transmission with Grade Logic Control to help you in hilly territory. Note though that some small utes and cars now come standard with six-speed automatics. This one shifts well, but not quite as smoothly as a few others.
There also is a green (naturally) ECO button on the dash’s left side that once engaged will speed your shifts to keep your engine’s revs down and thereby save a bit of fuel. It did not seriously hamper acceleration, but you notice it’s on. Also green lights frame the attractive speedometer in the main gauge pod and light up when you are accelerating in an energy-conscious manner. That’s fine and worked well.
I managed 24.6 mpg in about 60% highway and 40% city driving, which was exactly what the trip computer indicated. It’s rare that a trip computer is dead on like that. The EPA rates the Honda at 22 mpg city and 30 highway, pretty mid-pack for this size ute.
Ride is generally good too, although like most small utes it can get a little choppy on Milwaukee’s rough cracked cement streets. Highway and suburban driving is well controlled and comfortable, which you might expect as the CR-V rides on a 103.1-inch wheelbase and features 17-inch tires.
Steering remains moderately light and handling is good with little to no lean in tight turns. A couple of windy days didn’t bother the ute much at highway speeds, despite its taller profile. All-wheel drive is standard on this model, which helps in sloppy road conditions. Traction and stability control also are standard.
Braking from four-wheel discs, vented in front and solid in back, was good. The CR-V also comes with Hill Descent and Hill Start, features that help the small ute creep down a steep incline or start and gain traction easily on a hill. The Honda also is rated to tow 1,500 lbs., so you could haul a small trailer if needed.
Inside, the quiet interior is well laid out with attractive dash and gauges. The gray test ute featured a black over gray leather interior with gray leather seats and gray wood-like trim on the dash and matte silver trim on the door pulls, steering wheel hub and center stack shifter area. The Honda still has key start and a tilt/telescope steering wheel is standard. The tester had phone, radio and cruise buttons on the hub. I like the clear to read gauges with white numbers and blue rings behind them for easy night vision.
Since this one had a navigation system the radio operates on the touch screen for that system, but the buttons around the screen are tiny and the radio volume know also is small. The radio itself sounds fine with seven speakers and 328 watts of power. There’s also a subwoofer and the radio’s volume is speed sensitive.
Honda also uses a small screen atop the dash’s center for the trip computer, clock and compass functions. I found it a little too far from the driver as it’s set way back into the dash. Dual climate controls are bigger and easy to use, as are the larger climate system buttons.
CR-V’s seats feature flat bottoms and mildly contoured backs that are on the firm side, but comfortable. Both front seats offer two-speed seat heaters and the driver’s seat is powered, including lumbar supports. There’s also plenty of head and legroom front and rear and the rear seats fold flat after you fold the rear seat bottom forward. Even without that, there is a load of room (37.2 cu.ft.) behind the second seat and the cargo bed is low, so it’s easy to load and unload under the big rear hatch.
The gear shift lever sticks out from the center stack at the bottom and the CR-V has two cup holders and a huge deep storage bin between the front seats with a sliding cover.
Overhead a power sunroof is standard on the EX-L, but the sun visors were lacking. They do not slide or feature extenders.
Down low you’ll find the gas cap release lever awkwardly placed by the door’s edge near your feet, just next to the parking brake pedal. Oddly the pedal sticks out a bit far too and I caught my foot on it several times when exiting the ute.
The restyled CR-V remains a solid choice in the small ute market, but this segment is packed with good choices. So it’s easy to shop on price, features and gas mileage.
2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L Nav
Made in: East Liberty, Ohio
Engine: 2.4-liter i-VTEC I4, 185 hp
Transmission: 5-speed automatic w/Grade Logic Control
Weight: 3,545 lbs.
Wheelbase: 103.1 in.
Cargo: 37.2 cu.ft. (70.9 cu.ft. rear seat folded down)
Tow: 1,500 lbs.
Base Price: $29,795
Dealer’s Price: $28,219
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $30,605
Sources: Honda, www.autos.yahoo.com
Hits: Solid performer with all-wheel drive, quiet interior and room for four adults, plus copious cargo room. Nice dash, two-speed seat heaters and good acceleration and gas mileage.
Misses: Bulbous back-end could be off-putting, shifting not as smooth as some small utes with 6- not 5-speed automatics like this one. Radio buttons are small and sun visors do not slide or extend.