Test Drive: 2012 Honda CR-V

Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2012 Honda CR-V

I’ve been left, shall we say, unimpressed by a number of recently redesigned vehicles. I’ll cite as evidence my reviews of the Nissan Versa, Subaru’s latest Impreza, and the 2012 BMW 3 Series.

A redesigned Honda on the horizon, then, didn’t exactly promise to peg my impress-o-meter. The once-mighty Honda has unleashed a series of duds, such as the nice-driving, ugly-looking Accord Crosstour and the thoroughly underwhelming (and, quite frankly, depressing) Insight hybrid, both of which were new in 2009. The warmed-over 2012 Civic has also received mixed reviews since its introduction last year, and the 2013 Acura ILX doesn’t seem like much of an advancement over the CSX it replaced.

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

The CR-V is an established name in a highly-contested market segment, sold by a respected manufacturer, so its popularity isn’t hard to fathom. So my biggest question was: would Honda screw this one up, too?

From the outside in, I call this new CR-V a much better vehicle than the one it replaces. This one’s a bit weird-looking, but at least it’s distinctive, where the jelly-bean look of the previous car was anything but.

Same goes inside: the look is an improvement, even if the combo stereo and navigation system’s buttons and knobs are still too small. On the plus side, the audio controls on the steering wheel are more user-friendly and make it easier to find the adjustment you need by feel alone.

And if the CR-V carries on with but a 2.4L, four-cylinder engine (whose 185 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque are only marginally more than last year’s motor) and naught but the same five-speed automatic transmission (most of Honda’s competitors have six-speed autos or continuously variable transmissions now), there’s more to the story than those specs suggest.

I used to harbour a strong dislike for the CR-V, not because it was too slow or the transmission didn’t have enough gears, but because it rode hard and the engine tended to be noisy any time it was asked to work hard. With this redesign, my butt suggests that Honda has softened the ride slightly; not much, but enough to suit my preference, in family-oriented cars like this, for a compliant ride. If the engine isn’t actually smoother than last year’s, at least it sounds smoother – and quieter, another thing I appreciate in a car that wasn’t designed to get me too involved in the driving experience. The only thing that annoyed me about the CR-V’s drive was the wide gap between the transmission’s second- and third-gear ratios, which causes the engine’s power to fall off noticeably in acceleration.

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