2012 Honda CRV Touring

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One of Honda’s best-sellers, the CRV, arrives totally redesigned for 2012.  Honda’s popular compact crossover SUV’s newest reincarnation is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, but there’s still plenty of good news for consumers.  The 2012 CRV boasts a lower base price ($25,990 for 2012 vs. $26,290 for 2011), more power (185 horsepower), better fuel economy rating (9.2/6.6 l/100 km city/hwy for 2012 vs. 10.1/7.5 for 2011), and increased shoulder room and cargo carrying capacity despite a slightly lower roof and shorter body.  But wait . . . there’s more!  Kudos to Honda for making heated front seats and rearview camera standard on ALL CRVs.

With the new CRV, Honda looks well positioned to compete for your hard-earned dollars when compared to other popular compact SUVs like the top-rated Toyota RAV4, fuel-sipping Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Tucson and gorgeous Kia Sportage, to name a few.

(Ed.  This para only, revised.) The first early release photos of the 2012 CRV left me cold, but this compact ‘sport-cute’ looks handsome in the metal.  The front fascia has a bolder look with a larger grill opening and in side view, two strong character lines and the ‘pinched’ rocker panels accented with chrome trim around the side glass help visually elongate the body.  Style-wise, Honda designers have retained the CRV’s familiar ‘look’ of the previous generation, while attractively resculpting the sheetmetal in a crisp, non-polarizing way.

Inside, the CRV is very well designed with features you use every day.  My favourite feature is the astonishing simplicity required to lower the second row seat.  The tailgate unlocks via a touch switch under the hatch handle and pull one of the spring-loaded releases (near the tailgate) pops up that side’s seat cushion, lowers the head restraint, and folds down the seat back.  Presto!  You have a nearly flat cargo hold.  This must be an industry benchmark for ease of use.  Converting the CRV from a people hauler to cargo carrier is dead simple.  A child can do it with ease.

Hondas typically have really well designed ergonomics focusing on the driver and happily, the 2012 CRV doesn’t disappoint.  Front seat foldable armrests are positioned perfectly so the driver can perch their right elbow while grasping the leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The instrument cluster features a design similar to the high-tech CRZ sport hybrid coupe.  A round speedometer is the instrument panel’s centrepiece, but it’s a 3-dimensional affair of ‘stacked’ discs instead of a flat cluster.  To help Eco-warriors eke out that last kilometre per ml of fuel, Honda has cleverly integrated coloured lights that trim the speedometer – green to show the vehicle is operating in the most economic/environmentally responsible way and white to show it’s not.  An “Econ” button on the left side of the dash enables the driver to switch to a fuel saving mode that is claimed to further reduce fuel consumption.

In customary Honda fashion, all the radio, HVAC and navigation system controls are large, legible and intuitive.  It doesn’t take long to quickly familiarize oneself with the main controls.  While the CRV is a marvel of clever packaging and arguably among the most user-friendly when it comes to ferrying active, busy families, my sole complaint is the absence of a power tailgate opener (perhaps too much to expect in this price segment.)

The CRV Touring has some desirable standard features, such as the standard (on all models) rear camera (which has three switchable views, wide angle, normal, and beneath bumper); a retractable ‘conversation’ mirror (to allow front seat occupants to monitor kids in the back)

For back seat passengers, there’s plenty of headroom and legroom for normal sized adults, and the flat floor (there is no ‘hump’ to accommodate a driveshaft or exhaust system) contributes to the sense of roominess.

On the road, the CRV’s 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine is a solid performer.  Mated to ‘only’ a 5-speed automatic transmission (competitors like the Chev Equinox and Hyundai Tucson have 6-speeds), shifts are seamlessly smooth and quick.  Most buyers will be happy with the CRV’s power and it’s near class leading fuel economy rating, but drivers craving more power should view the compact SUV class hot rod Toyota RAV4 equipped with the optional 269 horsepower 3.5-litre V-6.

While Honda may be criticized for taking the conservative route in redesigning the 2012 CRV, the newest compact SUV on the block is an absolute winner.  A lower base price, improved fuel economy, excellent list of standard features with legendary Honda build quality, reliability and re-sale value earn the 2012 CRV a ‘highly recommended’ rating.

Test vehicle provided courtesy of Millwoods Honda, Edmonton.

The Specs

2012 Honda CRV Touring

Type of vehicle: All-wheel-drive compact sport-utility

Engine: 2.4-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder

Power: 185 horsepower at 7,000 r.p.m; 163 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 r.p.m.

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Brakes: Front ventilated disc brakes, rear disc brakes. ABS with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution (EBD), traction control and vehicle stability assist

Tires: All-season P225/65R17, temporary spare

Price: $34,990;  As-tested:  $37,864 (includes $1,590 freight and PDE and dealer installed accessories, floor/cargo mats $327, hood deflector $259, running boards $698)

Transport Canada fuel economy (L/100 km): 9.2 city, 6.6  highway (regular unleaded)

Standard features: Automatic on/off headlights, heated front seats, leather interior, leather-wrapped steering wheel/shifter, heated power door mirrors, tilt/telescopic steering, power windows, automatic dual-zone climate control, air-conditioning, rear camera, 60/40 split rear seat, front seat armrests, keyless remote entry, Bluetooth, navigation system, 360-watt 7-speaker/subwoofer AM/FM/CD, XM satellite radio, front/rear mudguards, fog lights, power glass moonroof, roof side rails.

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