2012 Honda CR-V Touring
2012 Honda CR-V Touring. Click image to enlarge

DBDR: 2012 Honda CR-V Touring
First Drive: 2012 Honda CR-V

Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

Photo Gallery:
2012 Honda CR-V

A friend of mine drives a 2003 Honda CR-V, and I’ve spent a good deal of time in that vehicle. What’s interesting to me is how familiar the all-new 2012 model feels, compared with the nine-year old, second-generation version. You just hop in, and everything’s right where it should be.

Existing CR-V owners will certainly feel at home in this all-new fourth generation compact SUV, but I reckon those who’ve never sat behind the wheel of a CR-V will like it just as much. That’s because Honda got the CR-V right back in 1997 when it debuted in Canada, and they’ve preserved the key components of its winning formula since then (except for the original version’s removable picnic table that many owners, apparently, didn’t know was there).

No matter. The important features endure, like the excellent proportions, maneuverability (u-turns where others require three-point turns), roominess, practicality and fuel economy which continues to improve. It’s not too big; it’s not too small; it’s well-appointed; it’s absolutely not truck-like, and it’s a Honda, which still carries some weight in this marketplace.

2012 Honda CR-V Touring
2012 Honda CR-V Touring; photo by James Bergeron. Click image to enlarge

Furthermore, for the first time, all Canadian market Honda CR-Vs will be built in Canada at the Honda of Canada manufacturing assembly facility in Alliston, Ontario.

Starting at $25,990 (all prices plus $1,640 freight) for the base two-wheel drive LX, the price rises to $35,090 for our test vehicle, the top-of-the-line Touring model. It’s a Canada-only specification that adds a bilingual satellite-linked navigation system, roof rails, chrome door handles, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a “Touring” badge to the $33,190 EX-L which is one step down.

Compared with the outgoing model, the 2012 CR-V is slightly shorter (about an inch, or 25 millimeters) and its height is reduced by the same amount. Cargo capacity with the rear seats up is increased by 44 litres, however, although total cargo area contracts by 58L. The wheelbase is the same at 2620 mm, and horsepower from the re-engineered 2.4L four-cylinder powerplant is slightly increased (from 180 to 185) with the five-speed automatic transmission remaining.

2012 Honda CR-V Touring
2012 Honda CR-V Touring
2012 Honda CR-V Touring; bottom photo by Jonathan Yarkony. Click image to enlarge

This year’s all-wheel drive, however, is a new “Real Time All Wheel Drive System,” now with Intelligent Control. The previous model’s so-called “slip and grip” AWD is replaced with a system that is integrated into the vehicle’s electronic stability control and electric power steering assist to maximize control and efficiency. The system sends power to all four wheels when starting from standstill, but the power to the rear wheels is effectively disconnected when cruising. Nonetheless, the AWD system is always engaged and ready to react to road conditions as required (the same system is found in the new Acura RDX).

Another area of projected improvement is the fuel economy. Even though power is up, fuel consumption is down, and quite significantly so. Official estimates rate the 2011 AWD CR-V at 10.1/7.5 L/100km, city/highway, while the 2012 version is expected to achieve 9.2/6.6 L/100km, representing a reduction of 11 percent combined city/highway driving. Regardless of your actual results on the road (which for most drivers are higher than the estimates), this CR-V should consume less fuel than the previous generation.

As you would expect, there are exterior changes, designed to make the CR-V look sleeker and more urbane. The grille is more prominent, the side windows more angular, the rear is perhaps a little bulbous. The black plastic “off-road” rocker panel garnish is now gone, replaced with body-colour paint. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a nicer looking vehicle, but it’s different and does seem more stylish. Another effect of the redesign is that the 2012 Honda CR-V looks bigger than its predecessor, but as noted above, it’s actually not.

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