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2012 Honda CR-V Ride and Review by Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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2012 Honda CR-V

2012 Honda CR-V - Still the One

by Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Yes, it’s still the one. Honda’s CR-V has been redesigned for 2012 and it appears that it will continue to be a leader in the compact SUV segment. All too often vehicle redesigns lead to them becoming bigger. Not in the case of the new CR-V. The old adage, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, seems to have played out at Honda.

The fourth-generation CR-V made its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November and went on sale in December 2011. Exterior styling is significantly improved. Fuel economy gets a boost and the all-wheel-drive system is new.

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The 5-passenger CR-V is available in five different equipment levels: LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L with rear entertainment system, and EX-L with Navi. And each of these is offered in (front) 2WD or AWD. Prices run from $22,495 to $29,995. There’s only one power train, a 185 HP 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 5-speed automatic. A new Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System debuted on the 2012 CR-V and is available to help provide traction in low-grip driving conditions such as snow, rain and unpaved road surfaces.

EPA ratings are 23 city mpg and 31 highway mpg for the 2wd models, and 22 city mpg and 30 highway mpg for the AWD models. That’s on regular grade fuel. The fuel tank holds 15.3 gallons and that should be good for about 450 miles of highway cruising.

Living in a snowy-winter region, I would be hard pressed to decide to opt for the AWD vs 2WD with the price increment only $1250 and the fuel economy difference only 1 mpg. Honda certainly hasn’t made this decision easy. However, in a non-snowy region I would stick with the 2WD, especially since the CR-V drives through the front wheels that gives some advantage in slippery road conditions over a RWD vehicle architecture.

Watch TACH's exclusive 2012 Honda CR-V AWD promo video

My test-car-for-a-week was a CR-V 2WD EX-L with Navi priced at $28,545 plus $810 for destination and handling. Maneuvering around the streets of the Second City proved relatively easy. With an overall length of slightly over 178 inches parking is not too difficult either. Around town the CR-V is peppy. Highway merging and overtaking needs appropriate forethought, however that’s one of the trade-offs for good fuel economy. The interior is well laid out and user friendly. The large rear hatch makes for easy loading and the cargo cover helps keep things out of sight.

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Two other city-friendly features are the rear view camera and folding outside mirrors. The camera is a boon to parallel parking, and on the narrow streets and alleys of any big city outside mirrors need to be folded in lest a trash collection truck take one off.

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The cargo area is easily accessible through the large rear hatch with its relatively low lift-over. There’s space for slightly more than 37cuft of stuff and if you fold down the rear seat which is split 60/40 the space nearly doubles to about 71cuft. There is no doubt that SUVs whether small or large have certainly made the lives of many folks much easier when it comes to that all to often need to haul something large and bulky.

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The CR-V has no options to choose from. With the three trim levels, and the top EX-L with two additional choices, Honda has pre-packaged equipment and features. Buyers only need to then decide on front or all wheel drive and pick color and trim. Honda tells me the EV is the most popular model. The CR-V is assembled in the U.S. in East Liberty, Ohio, which should make for a relatively short time to get vehicles to dealers and thus buyers. By pre-packaging and reducing the vehicle build combinations the right car for a buyer is probably most often in the right place. It would seem to me there is no need to settle for a CR-V that is not exactly what you want.

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As I was putting the finishing touches on this write-up media reports have it that new car costs have come down from a year ago, primarily because the inventory shortage created by the Japanese earthquake has been erased. Also, Honda has been recognized as the "Brand of the Year" in the "Full Line Automotive" category according to the 2012 Harris Poll EquiTrend® study. Evidence that the Honda brand continues to be well regarded by American consumers. With a vast network of 1045 dealers nationwide, the CR-V purchasing and, more importantly, ownership experience should be pretty good.

The CR-V is a very viable consideration if you are in the market for a versatile people and cargo hauler that is also comfortable to maneuver in tight confines and helpful to the budget when it comes to fuel. There are other viable contenders in this segment, such as the Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Hyundai Tucson, BMW X3 or Mazda CX-5. New car buyers have great vehicle choices today. You can shop and compare on-line right here on The Auto Channel (Compare CUV’s) and that will save you time and fuel before you head out to visit dealers.

© Larry Nutson