First Place – 2012 Honda CR-V Touring AWD

Comparison Test: Five Compact CUVs toyota reviews nissan mazda hyundai honda car comparisons
Comparison Test: Five Compact CUVs toyota reviews nissan mazda hyundai honda car comparisons
Comparison Test: Five Compact CUVs toyota reviews nissan mazda hyundai honda car comparisons
2012 Honda CR-V Touring AWD. Click image to enlarge

Anyone who thinks Honda can no longer build class-leading vehicles needs to get behind the wheel of the 2012 CR-V.  All new for 2012, Honda has stepped up its game with the redesigned CR-V and has let some Acura qualities bleed through.  Nearly every tester commented on how comfortable the front seats were.  The gauge cluster would look at home in a luxury Q-ship and the dash design was elegant and well laid out.  Despite the hard plastics, the CR-V’s fit and finish made them look far more expensive than they really were.

Welcome interior features on a vehicle in this class included a massive centre-armrest storage bin that looks big enough to fit a CR-Z in.  The rear seats were deemed the most comfortable for three people and tied for first in comfort with two people.  The multiple menu screens on the dashboard were customizable and allowed the driver to tailor what information they want readily available, though some complained of the quality of the screens.

Once behind the wheel, the CR-V was voted the easiest to drive.  Every reviewer commented that this Honda was the vehicle they felt most comfortable driving, and when driving quickly to boot.  The vehicle responds predictably in corners and despite some body roll, is easy to control.  The nearly perfect ride balance between comfort and sport is unexpected in this class of vehicle and the steering wheel sends a surprising amount of feedback to the driver.

With 1,054 litres of cargo space behind the rear seats and a curb weight of 1,608 kg, the CR-V was one of the larger vehicles in this class.  However, it still achieved the second-best observed fuel economy at 10.9 L/100 km.  Impressive, considering the 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine makes the second-most power in this group, at 185 hp. Step on the gas from a dead stop and the Honda pulls away with surprising vigour, though power begins to taper off at highway speeds.

The CR-V is not perfect, though.  Many found the new redesign to be a bit ungainly, garnering particular derision for the pinched rear side window.  In what could be considered the most unfavourable comparison, more than one tester referred to this window as “Pontiac Aztek-like.”   Our shortest reviewer also discovered that the front seats were a bit higher off the ground than the others, making entry into the CR-V a bit more of a challenge.

Still, the CR-V winning overall was a unanimous decision, as all five of us had it scored the highest.  With a slight design refresh around the rear C-pillar, and maybe a bit more torque, the compact crossover CR-V would be darn near perfect.

Pricing: 2012 Honda CR-V Touring 4WD
Base price: $34,990
Options: None
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,590
Price as tested: $36,680

Manufacturer’s Website:
Honda Canada

Conclusion

There is no question that the CR-V came out ahead on points in this comparison, but the CX-5 came out slightly ahead in judges’ hearts, with three of us leaning towards the pretty face (and tail) of the cheeky Mazda in our personal preferences despite all the merits of the CR-V. In a certain sense, the CR-V is a clinical success, and you can add an IIHS Top Safety Pick feather to its cap, with only the Tucson earning the same award, though the CX-5 is simply too new to have been tested.

You might have noted the wide spread in pricing. Unfortunately, we could not source equally-equipped models from the limited Canadian press fleets at our disposal. Prices were factored into the scores, but not significantly, and the equipment and features that those prices bought were also factored in.

Despite the clear win by the CR-V, all the CUVs we tested were up to the tasks we set before them and would serve a small family or an individual well, and different priorities or tastes might weigh far greater in your purchase decision than our even-handed weighting of all aspects of the vehicle. Additionally, these five are only a fraction of the vehicles in this segment, some of them worthy vehicles. Some candidates were excluded prior to the test for various reasons; we felt that Chevy’s Equinox and Dodge’s Journey were too big (measuring longer than some midsize CUVs), the Jeep Compass was deemed unworthy after our recent experiences, while the Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Mitsubishi Outlander are smaller-volume models, by sales.

The timing was off by a week for including a Subaru Forester here (watch for an upcoming full test drive), and we think its solid powertrain, straightforward practicality, and spirited driving dynamics would have put it solidly in the middle of the pack despite interior quality that lags behind most in this class. And apparently, it wins the dog-owners’ vote, so that may be a necessary addition to our scoring criteria.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the missing Ford Escape, the sales leader and a practical, utilitarian vehicle that has stood the test of time. Ford has thrown all its global engineering resources behind a new global small crossover platform, following the styling lead of the Fusion and the engineering advances of the direct-injection turbocharged Ecoboost engines. The star of the show will be a 1.6-litre four-cylinder Ecoboost that will exceed the base 2.5-litre four-cylinder’s output by a hair, but likely deliver worldly refinement and impressive fuel economy improvements. Top trim will use the 2.0-litre Ecoboost from the Edge and Explorer that matches many V6 engines in power, with an edge in fuel consumption. There is no question that this would be the biggest test of the CR-V’s dominance.

What do all these missing CUVs point to? Yup, rematch! Stay tuned.

Specifications



About Jonathan Yarkony

Jonathan Yarkony is the Senior Editor for Autos.ca, a Brampton-based automotive writer with eight years of experience evaluating cars and an AJAC member.