New Car Review: 2012 Honda CR-V

Front 3/4 view of red 2012 Honda CR-V parked with hillside behind
The 2012 Honda CR-V.


That's the problem Honda has at the moment. I've read a few mediocre to bad reviews of the 2012 Honda CR-V, and after a week and 500 miles at the wheel, I can tell you, they're wrong. And it stems from expectations.

Those of us of a certain age watched as Honda went from building underpowered motorbikes to two-door rollerskates like the Honda 600 to world-beating sedans like the 1980s Accords and Civics in what seemed like the blink of an eye...and maintained the edge in quality, reliability and even innovation.

For the past decade or so, Honda's been operating with different priorities, and it shows. Their cars are no longer cutting edge. The simplicity and flawless ergonomics have given way to a fascination with electronics and buttons in the cabin. I've even said it...in a lot of ways, Kia is now building what we (of a certain age) expected from Honda.

But that doesn't mean that their cars are bad...or even less competitive in their categories.

The 2012 Honda CR-V.

The CR-V was a pioneer of what used to be called the cute-ute segment. For 2012, it's a bigger, more refined machine...enough so that it could be all the SUV most families really need.

Our test vehicle was the loaded all-wheel drive EX-L with navigation. Beginning price $29,795. Zero options. With $810 destination and handling, it sits at $30,605.

No, a 185 horsepower four mated to a 5-speed automatic won't set your hair on fire. Neither will anything else in this class. It's smoother than you'd expect, quicker than you'd expect and quiet. Exactly what you'd want from a small SUV.

It comes with four-wheel drive, a full complement of airbags and curtains, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution, vehicle stability assist, and tire-pressure monitoring.

The 2012 Honda CR-V interior.

Inside? A nice place to do your driving, with what seems like a significant reduction in the number of buttons on the dashboard, a generous sized (wide and deep) center console, power outlets, USB and auxilary jacks, Bluetooth, leather trimmed seats, steering wheel and shift knob, a good-sounding audio system with Pandora interface and XM Satellite Radio, and a power moonroof.

Complaints?  The audio and nav graphics are dated and the multiple audio sources can't be scrolled through quickly. To get to the one you want requires some patience. First-time pairing of a phone via Bluetooth isn't as quick and intuitive as with a lot of systems. And, the CR-Vs tall stance makes it susceptible to cross-winds...not dangerously so, but you can feel it more than in most vehicles in this class.

Apart from those things, though, this is a fully-equipped, well-built, go-anywhere small bordering on midsize SUV for roughly $30,000 that the EPA says will get 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway. In 500 miles worth of a 60/40 city streets/urban freeway mix, we saw 25.3.

I'd love to see Honda return to the days of amazement and wonder with every new product. But there's a lot to be said for simply building good cars with good value. And right now, Honda's delivering.