With the Honda CR-V approaching its sweet sixteen, it seemed like a good time for some changes. This little freshly revamped SUV has enjoyed a lot of success since its launch in 1997. And it intends to remain a leader in its category. Following the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Honda has only made subtle changes to the CR-V, adding a touch more sophistication to the fourth generation, which is on its way to North American Honda dealerships.
The CR-V’s interior was carefully redesigned to add a more contemporary feel without alienating the brand’s loyal fans. The dashboard lines are fluid and modern, while the controls remain well located and the navigation system is actually user-friendly (unlike the one in the Accord, for example). Gone is the era of the big central button designed for a thousand and one commands! The upper screen includes certain information about driving aides, including the image captured by the rearview camera that comes standard on all versions. That’s a nice surprise from Honda, which sometimes drastically cuts the standard equipment on its more affordable trim levels.
In front, note that the central console now touches the dashboard rather than leaving an empty space. Thus, storage compartments are more numerous and more practical. As for the bucket seats, the seat cushion remains a little short and doesn’t provide enough support under the knees. Smaller people, however, will not be affected but this, um, shortcoming. In back, the doors open wide enough. A completely flat floor ensures that the middle passenger will be comfortable. The rear bench folds down easily thanks to a control located in the trunk. Both the seatback and the seat can be folded down lickety-split to make way for the fourth generation’s increased loading area. Obviously, it’s divided 60/40.
The trunk space is satisfactory despite the rounded body panels, but rear visibility is only average. Side storage bins would have been a welcome addition for such necessities as windshield washer fluid.
The CR-V is still easy to recognize, despite its new exterior design features, as Honda decided not to make any revolutionary changes like they did with the 2006 Civic. Among the subtle modifications are a black plastic rocker panel that wraps around the fenders and tail lights that are somewhat reminiscent of certain Volvos. High marks go to the dynamic front grille. The new high-end Touring version is more stylish thanks to the various chrome accents that you’d expect on a luxury vehicle. Basically, the style has been refined without upsetting the balance.
A good engine
The drivetrain remains practically unchanged for 2012. The renowned 2.4L four-cylinder delivers 185 horses, which is sufficient to power the CR-V. Pick-up is still a tad soft when shifting into second, but other than that, the overall output of this tried-and-true engine will satisfy most buyers. As has been the case since 2007, only a five-speed automatic gearbox comes standard, and it uses low viscosity oil to reduce friction between its components. You can use Econ mode to minimize fuel consumption, but it makes the ride a smidge sterile. Bring the manual gearbox back would be interesting, as it was fantastic on the first generations of the CR-V. Finally, different, less visible innovations are present on this new generation: power steering, aerodynamic undercarriage and more rigid structure.
There’s a choice of 2WD or 4WD depending on the version. The latter (Real Time AWD) is not continuous; it kicks in during all starts. When driving, the regular front-wheel drive spreads to the back wheels if necessary. It’s not designed for off-roading, but it holds its own on snowy surfaces. Yet again, Honda chose to perfect what was already in place instead of changing everything. It was a wise decision.
A sure bet
Honda is well aware of how competitive the small SUV segment is, which explains why the new generation CR-V approached its makeover carefully. Number two in sales after the Civic, this now Canadian-built (Alliston, Ontario) vehicle has a special place in the Honda line-up. By refining the CR-V here and there, the Japanese brand is sure to hold onto its place on the podium. The 2011 version is also interesting and will be available until the end of the year, since the 2012 vintage will only arrive on our roads this coming winter. Good things come to those who wait!
|Test model||2012 Honda CR-V|
|Trim level||EX-L NAVI 4WD|
|Price range||$26,290 - $35,590|
|Price as tested||$35,590|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Competitive models||Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan|
|Value for price|