Honda CR-V standard-bearer gets an update

The Honda CR-V is nicely done and enjoyable to drive, and competes on price as well. But it is not very advanced, especially for something redesigned this year.
The Honda CR-V is nicely done and enjoyable to drive, and competes on price as well. But it is not very advanced, especially for something redesigned this year.
Posted: March 14, 2012

2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L with Navi:Standard-bearer gets an update.

Price:$30,605. No options.

Marketer's pitch: "The all-new up-for-almost-anything CR-V."

Conventional wisdom: Honda = standard-bearer.

Reality:All-new, and a nice vehicle, but no great advances have been made.

Nice segment: I never really gave much respect to the small-SUV segment. With Sturgis Kids 1.0 through 4.0, we were always looking to maximize passenger capacity or save a few bucks with a real gas-sipper.

But having tested a large range of vehicles from this class - the Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, and Volks -wagen Tiguan among them - I find the vehicles to generally be pleasant. They drive like smaller cars, have plenty of space for five people and their stuff, and don't get terrible mileage. (Perhaps I'm just facing the reality that someday I'll need something like this myself that's easy to get in and out of.)

The CR-V has long been a favorite of reviewers and buyers, and it gets some updates for the 2012 model year.

Step inside: The leather interior standard in my tester was comfortable and nicely appointed. And as a bonus, the driver's seat wasn't over-lumbared like the other Honda and Acura vehicles I've tested.

The ride: Handling is good. I wouldn't call it sporty, but it was certainly responsive. The narrow vehicle maneuvers comfortable through the tight one-way streets of Philadelphia and the ancient country roads around West Chester. And the vehicle is easy to park.

Kickin' it, old school:The five-speed automatic transmission allows you to select gears Nos. 1 and 2 for yourself, but that's it.

Performance:Acceleration is no great shakes, but it's not bad for its class. Still, the lack of shiftability makes full-out acceleration troubling, as stick-lovers like me fight to get the thing into second gear before redlining. So the advantage here goes to all the other cute utes I've listed above.

Tune in:The buttons that change from radio to CD and back are extremely small and don't function well. One does AM-FM, another does CD-XM1-XM2-USB-Auxiliary. That's a lot of toggles to get from CD to your favorite XM station and back.

If this is going to be my "70 is the new 50" vehicle 30 years from now, Honda has to realize that my eyes and fingers are not going to be any younger. It's all in my mind.

The steering wheel controls operate cleanly, though.

Quick change:Folding down the rear seat is delightfully easy. Pull a lever next to the rear door and, wham, it's down. It offers all the convenience of a power fold-down seat and none of the long-term wait. Just make sure no kids or dogs are in the way.

Friends and stuff: Cargo capacity behind the rear seats is huge. Rear-seat comfort is equal to the best of the other small SUVs.

Shake it up:My test vehicle came with a noticeable vibration at 55 to 60 m.p.h., with just 700 miles on the odometer. But that could simply have been an unbalanced wheel.

Rear view:An auxiliary display on the top of the dash would have been a great location for the rear camera. Instead, it shows up in the infotainment display, and it's not that easy to see.

Fuel economy:25.8 mpg in my usual mix of city and highway, on par with the rest of its breed.

Where it's built: Sayama, Japan.

How it's built:J.D. Power gives the 2012 CR-V "better than most" rating for dependability.

In the end:This is a nicely done vehicle, and enjoyable to drive. Honda's reputation for quality should offer reassurance down the road.

You can get into a CR-V for $22,295 and an all-wheel-drive model for $23,545, so it competes on price as well.

But it's not very advanced, especially for something redesigned this year. The Kia Sportage offers better mileage and ShiftTronic, and the Volkswagen Tiguan is a much sportier ride.

Butthead in the Driver's Seat: In last week's review of the Mazda3 four-door I erred on the availability of SkyActiv in the five-door hatchback. The engine is available in the hatchback, and the base price is $19,300.

Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or ssturgis@phillynews.com.

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