There is something to be said for not messing too much with a good thing. The 2012 Honda CR-V is the second major redesign for Honda this model year, the first being the Civic which got a makeover earlier in 2011. However, the 2012 Civic was not well received and was even dropped from the Consumer Reports Recommended Buy list. Would the same fate await the CR-V, a vehicle which Honda sells more of than every other vehicle in its lineup except the Accord? We got some hands on time with the 2012 CR-V at the 2011 LA Auto Show to answer this very question.
From the outside, Honda took on a strategy similar to the one it took with the Civic which we have no problem with. The CR-V retains roughly the same shape; if you were to compare the new profile to the old, the rear window ticks up at the back, a change that while subtle gives the CR-V a more angular, aggressive look than its predecessor(seen below). Also new is a three-bar front grille taken from the Honda Crosstour. Our favorite new part of the CR-V though is found in the rear with a wide black trim piece that integrates with the rear window and vertical, Volvo-esque taillights that crawl up the sides.
Honda has decided to keep the same engine that powers the current CR-V, a 185-horsepower (5 more than the previous year), 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Although the engine is the same, Honda has taken steps to really improve the fuel economy for the 2012 CR-V through engine tweaks and aerodynamic improvements. Announced figures were 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, which brings the CR-V even with some of the leaders in the segment. Also getting a major upgrade for 2012 is the all-wheel drive system, that is more reactive and only dings you 1 mpg. Those hoping for a V-6 engine offering are still left wanting.
Moving inside, the redesigned CR-V adds a few new pieces of kit, and somehow the engineers at Honda have found a way to add more interior space although the exterior dimensions haven't moved. The interior layout will be very familiar to those who have driven/ridden in a CR-V before, but adds a small LCD display above the center console to house Honda's i-MID information display system. The instrument cluster gets a makeover as well and adds two bars that flank the speedometer which will glow green the more efficiently you are driving. In the vein the CR-V also features that small green "Econ" button that can also be found in the Civic and Insight which modifies the CR-V's behavior to maximize mpg. Also, the CR-V now includes a backup camera with two view modes as standard equipment, the only car in its class to do so.
One of the more impressive features of the new CR-V were it's rear seats, which now fold down in one step. All you have to do is pull a single lever and the headrests collapse while the seat bottom lifts up and the back falls forward to give you one flat cargo area in the rear.
So how does the 2012 CR-V stack up? Pretty well in our estimation. The CR-V's interior has always had pretty good fit and finish, and with a few added features it's one of the best cabins in the segment. Exterior updates, while subtle, do enough to change the CR-V's look and make it even more modern. Looking forward, this segment is about to get very crowded - both Mazda and Ford displayed new and redesigned compact crossovers that will come out in the 2013 model year, so it was prescient of Honda to see the writing on the wall and take action first with the CR-V. Look for it to hit dealerships before the end of 2011.