Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: 2012 Honda CR-V EX AWD: Practicality, refinement, and understatement

2012 Honda CR-V EX AWD Review crossover SUV

The Honda CR-V is one of the original cute utes—a small SUV that isn’t intended for hardcore off-road use. Instead, the car-based CR-V is best described as a people and cargo carrier. When equipped with AWD, it’s wonderful for foul weather commutes, trips to the ski hill, or dirt road adventures. It’s always been good—I got my mom to buy one in 2007—and I always had a thing for the first generation models, which debuted in 1997. For 2012, the venerable CR-V has been completely redesigned. And while I wouldn’t call the CR-V “cute,” I do find it handsome, if not a bit conservative, and super practical.

The new CR-V’s most distinctive exterior attribute is arguably its back end. I think the high-mounted angular tail lights are eye catching. The front end isn’t bad to look at, either, but the entire package isn’t one to quicken the pulse. This EX model rides on 17” alloy wheels and 225/65/17 tires. It also has fog lights, automatic headlights, and very functional extended side-view mirrors that help eliminate blind spots. The exterior comes together in neo-classic Honda: understated, simple, refined and handsome.

For me, the bigger story is the interior. It is, again, classic Honda simplicity, refinement, and quality. This thing has more storage places than an IKEA store. There’s a huge center console that you could get lost in; cubby holes everywhere; places to put your phone; areas to stash swag—you name it. Speaking of the phone, the little area near the shifter must’ve been tailor made for a smart phone. One of the most trick interior features, however, is the folding seats. Simply pull the lever in the rear cargo area and the seats instantly fold flat. Even the headrests fold, as seen in this video clip below.

In addition to being practical, the CR-V’s interior is also very comfortable. The seats are wide and supportive; the rear bench has gobs of legroom. This is a car you spend some serious seat time in and not feel uncomfortable afterwards. Everything is pretty easy to use, too. Although the climate control doesn’t have the simple three-dial interface, the push-button HVAC is easy to figure out. The stereo is also simple to use and sounds adequate. I really like the trip computer, which displays fuel info, a clock, and infotainment data. I dig the Pandora interface, too, which allows you to move to another song with the tap of a button on the steering wheel or touchscreen. Other amenities include compass, Bluetooth, USB, backup camera, multiple 12V outlets, and a sunglasses holder with a “conversation mirror.” This mirror allows you to check out what’s going on in the backseat without turning around. This has “family” written all over it.

2012 Honda CR-V EX AWD Review interior dashboard

Driving the CR-V is comfortable, and it feels secure and sure footed. The smooth 2.4-liter SOHC engine makes 185 horsepower, and acceleration is respectable; it never feels like it’s struggling. This engine is hooked up to Honda’s smooth-shifting five-speed automatic; not much to report there—a good thing for at transmission. Finally, this CR-V is equipped with Honda’s Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System, so you can be sure there will be plenty of grip no matter what the conditions. This model is rated at 22 city and 30 highway for fuel economy, which isn’t bad. We saw about 24 MPG combined. 

The CR-V rides comfortably in both city and highway situations, although there’s quite a bit of body roll, which is to somewhat expected in a compact crossover. Driving the CR-V doesn’t quicken your pulse, but it does feel confident in nearly all daily situations, and for most crossover buyers, that’s a good thing.

This 2012 CR-V AWD EX stickered at $26,455 with destination included, and I’d say that’s a fair price for this vehicle. It’s big enough to get all kinds of stuff in it; small enough that it’s not cumbersome to park; it’s simple and inoffensive to look at; and does everything quite well, really. It’s not the most exciting vehicle on the market or in the segment, but it all works, and works very well. Honda’s formula for the CR-V continues to impress; it feels like a good, solid vehicle all around. And yes, I’d recommend my mom get another one when that time comes.

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