2012 Honda CR-V Review and Prices

Last Updated: Dec 15, 2011

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2012 Honda CR-V Buying Advice

The 2012 Honda CR-V is the best crossover for you if you want the all-new version of a benchmark compact SUV.

The 2012 Honda CR-V is fully redesigned for the first time since model-year 2007. It remains a five-seater with a four-cylinder engine but gets sharper new styling, improved fuel economy, and a wider selection of safety and infotainment features. The 2012 model is fractionally smaller than the 2007-2011 CR-V but feels more spacious inside. It’s again a four-door crossover wagon based on the same structure as the Honda Civic compact car. With a base-price range of $23,105-$30,605, the 2012 CR-V model line is, on average, just $181 more expensive than the 2011 model line.

Should you buy a 2012 Honda CR-V or wait for the 2013 Honda CR-V? Buy a 2012 CR-V to get the advantages of a new design generation without absorbing the almost-inevitable year-over-year price escalation. Wait for the 2013 CR-V to compare it with redesigned editions of its three toughest competitors: the 2013 Ford Escape, 2013 Nissan Rogue, and 2013 Toyota RAV4. The 2013 CR-V won’t get substantive changes, but if demand from anxious early adopters drives up 2012 CR-V prices, waiting to shop for a 2013 could mean your actual outlay might not be all that painful.

2012 Honda CR-V Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Honda CR-V’s styling abandons the passive look of the third-generation CR-V and becomes more expressive. It has to if this Honda is to appear fashionable next to flamboyant newcomers such as the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, not to mention the curvaceous 2013 Escape.

The grille, roofline, and taillamps are familiar but clearly fresh. Honda molds in some lovely new body-side creases while drawing back the CR-V’s sheet metal into a shape that’s more aerodynamic.

Designers wisely maintain the CR-V’s efficiently compact exterior dimensions. Compared with the outgoing model, the 2012’s body is an inch shorter in length and an inch lower in overall height. Wheelbase remains 103.1 inches. That’s notable because wheelbase -- the distance between the front and rear axles -- is key to a vehicle’s interior space. Careful packaging, however, keeps the 2013 CR-V’s cabin among the roomiest in the class, with especially comfortable rear-seat accommodations.

A one-piece liftgate continues and, despite the shorter body length, the new CR-V has an additional 1.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat, though maximum cargo volume shrinks about 2 cubic feet. Still, at 37.2 and 70.9 cubic feet, respectively, the 2012 CR-V has more cargo room – and also a lower load floor -- than any crossover its size.

The all-new interior features a dashboard reshaped to house two display screens in its upper-central section. The topmost screen displays various fuel-economy and vehicle-function readouts. The lower shows Bluetooth mobile-phone connection settings and the image from the rearview backup camera. Both Bluetooth and the review camera are newly standard on all 2012 CR-Vs. The lower screen also is the portal to a host of customizable accessory settings and on the model equipped with the navigation system, displays map and direction information.

Honda again mounts the CR-V’s transmission shift lever on the lower part of the dashboard near the driver’s knee. A newly standard center storage console is between the front seats (gone is the flip-up tray console). The 2012 CR-V has a slightly lower seating position than the last generation but retains the elevated vantage point appealing to crossover buyers.

The CR-V again merits crossover status by sharing the Civic’s platform. Crossovers combine an SUV body with a car-type understructure. Their one-piece “unibody” construction contrasts with old-school SUVs that employ truck-type engineering in which the body is attached to a separate frame. Unibody design isn’t as suited to heavy-duty hauling but its lighter weight benefits ride, handling, and fuel economy. Note that the Acura RDX compact crossover from Honda’s premium division also shares the CR-V’s basic unibody structure, though it has different styling and a more powerful engine.

The 2012 Honda CR-V model lineup reflects past CR-V rosters. That means three basic levels of trim: entry-level LX, better-equipped EX, and top-line EX-L models. The “L” again denotes exclusive standard leather upholstery.

Styling differences between the models are subtle. The EX and EX-L have body-colored door handles and mirrors instead of black ones. They also come with fog lights and darkened rear privacy glass. And they have 17-inch alloy wheels versus the LX’ 16-inch styled steel wheels. The EX-L also has roof cargo rails.  

Mechanical: The 2012 Honda CR-V continues its basic formula of a four-cylinder engine working through a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). The engine remains a 2.4-liter but various internal revisions increase output slightly, to 185 horsepower, from 181, and to 163 pound-feet of torque, from 161.

That horsepower figure is among the highest in the CR-V’s competitive set but the torque number is below par. Torque – the primary force behind acceleration – is arguably more important than horsepower and the 2012 CR-V can feel slightly lazy at lower engine speeds.

A contributing factor in the occasionally limp throttle response is Honda’s decision to retain a five-speed automatic as CR-V’s only transmission. Virtually every top rival uses a six-speed automatic. Engineering practice holds that more gear ratios translates to greater efficiencies in power delivery and fuel economy. Honda saves costs with a five-speed, and for 2012 fits gear ratios designed to maximize fuel economy, though at some further compromise to throttle response. It also introduces a dashboard “Econ” button that configures the CR-V’s transmission behavior to favor fuel economy over acceleration.

Also new to the CR-V and intended to improve fuel economy by reducing drag on the engine is electric power steering. Honda calls it Motion-Adaptive Electric Power Steering and programs it to react to vehicle instability on slippery surfaces or during rapid changes of direction with inputs that prompt the driver to take corrective action.

Like virtually every compact crossover, the 2012 CR-V’s default drivetrain layout is front-wheel drive. Front-drive puts the weight of the engine over the wheels that propel the car, which benefits wet-pavement traction.

AWD continues as a grip-enhancer on snow or loose surfaces. It’s available at extra cost on all three CR-V models. The 2012 system, however, is a new one that Honda calls the Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System. It’s an electronic setup that Honda says is more fuel efficient than the CR-V’s previous mechanical AWD. It’s also quicker to distribute power from the front wheels to the rears. Basically, the electronic system doesn’t wait until the front tires slip before reapportioning power. That benefits traction upon acceleration on both wet and dry surfaces. The 2012 CR-V doesn’t employ the latest AWD wrinkle, “torque vectoring,” which further improves grip by shuffling power left to right in addition to fore and aft.   

This crossover’s design brief still does not include severe off-road duty, and Honda chooses not to enhance its backwoods mobility by fitting a driver-selected switch that would lock AWD into a 50-50 front-rear split at low speeds. Many rivals offer such a feature. Ground clearance is a modest 6.3 inches on front-drive CR-Vs and 6.7 inches with AWD; top rivals enjoy an inch or more ground clearance. The 2012 CR-V, however, does gain Hill Start Assist to prevent rolling backwards on steep inclines.  

The CR-V’s suspension remains an all-independent setup that retains the notably sharp handling that distinguished the 2007-2011 generation. Honda has redressed a flaw with recalibrations that give the 2012 model a more comfortable ride. Road and engine noise, though, are still more intrusive than in many of the CR-V’s top rivals.

Again standard are four-wheel disc brakes with antilock technology to improve control in emergency stops and antiskid electronic stability control to reduce chances of sideways slides. Towing capacity remains 1,500 pounds, about average for a four-cylinder compact crossover.  

Features: Honda brings the 2012 Honda CR-V closer to the class leaders for basic infotainment features by finally installing as standard on every model such modern necessities as Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming and a USB iPod interface. Other across-the-board standard features of note include the rearview backup camera. However, in lieu of advanced driver aids, such as blind-spot detection, the CR-V’s left-side mirror has a partially convex pane to expand its field of view.

The 2012 CR-V LX and EX models have a 160-watt audio system with four and six speakers, respectively. The EX-L gets a 328-watt unit with six speakers and a subwoofer. Two smartphone-dependant features are new and are standard on all 2012 CR-Vs. One is text messaging that can read incoming cell-phone texts aloud through the audio system; it’s compatible only with Blackberry devices, however. The other is Pandora internet-radio interface, though it’s compatible only with iPhones connected via the USB cable.

Helping govern these and other functions are thumb controls on the spokes of the 2012 CR-V’s new steering wheel. A compass readout is standard, but Honda again reserves its voice-activated navigation system as an extra-cost item exclusive to the EX-L; it creates the “EX-L with Navi” model.

The automaker also confines availability of the CR-V’s first-ever rear-seat DVD entertainment system to the EX-L; a 7-inch fold-out ceiling screen and remote control are included. The navigation and rear-entertainment systems are not available in combination, however.

The CR-V’s rear seatback has a center armrest and its backrest again reclines to adjust comfort. It also splits 60/40 to expand the cargo load area. The 2012 version adds a more convenient new folding mechanism. It uses release levers near the tailgate and pullstraps accessible from each rear door that, with a single action, cleverly tilts the rear headrests, flips the seat cushions into the footwells, and drops the seatbacks flush with the load floor.

Standard passive safety systems again include torso-protecting front side airbags and head-protecting curtain airbags for all outboard positions designed to inflate in side collisions and when sensors detect an impending rollover.

2012 Honda CR-V Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Honda CR-V is $23,105-$30,605. That compares with a 2011 CR-V base-price range of $22,705-$30,905. Honda says the 2012 model’s added standard features are worth $400-$1,000 and notes that the navigation-system-equipped version costs $300 less than its model-year 2011 counterpart.

Still, the CR-V remains priced at the upper end of its category, a competitive set that includes the likes of the Escape and RAV4 but is a tier below premium compact crossovers such as the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLK.

Behind the CR-V’s pricing structure is Honda’s policy of eschewing individual options in favor of an escalating terrace of models with a regimented set of standard features. That policy simplifies ordering and improves assembly quality. But it sometimes compels buyers to shell out for a more expensive model just to acquire one or two desired features. It’s also inflated CR-V base prices versus the competition, though in fairness, once most rivals are optioned up to compare directly with a CR-V counterpart the price difference is modest.

The 2012 Honda CR-V LX is priced at $23,105 with front-wheel drive and $24,355 with AWD. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Honda’s fee for the 2012 CR-V is $810). The 2012 CR-V LX comes standard with power windows, locks, and mirrors, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, cruise control, height-adjustable driver’s seat, remote keyless entry, and rear-seat heater ducts. All 2012 CR-Vs have eight cupholders.

The 2012 CR-V EX is priced at $25,205 with front-drive and $26,455 with AWD. It includes all the LX equipment, plus an antitheft system, variable intermittent windshield wipers, illuminated front vanity mirrors, front seatback pockets, retractable cargo cover, and a power moonroof.

The 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L is priced at $27,855 with front-drive and $29,105 with AWD. The 2012 EX-L again builds on EX-level equipment by adding leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power driver’s seat with power lumbar, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and outside mirrors, and automatic headlamps.

Adding the rear DVD entertainment system to the EX-L boosts its price to $28,555 with front-drive and to $29,805 with AWD.

The most expensive 2012 CR-V is the EX-L with Navi model; it’s priced at $29,355 with front-drive and $30,605 with AWD.

2012 Honda CR-V Fuel Economy back to top

Credit the more aerodynamic styling and friction-reducing engine and transmission improvements for a 1-3-mpg boost in the 2012 Honda CR-V’s EPA fuel-economy ratings. That helps it reclaim its spot among the top-tier of compact crossover SUVs and means fuel economy remains a CR-V selling point.

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 CR-V with front-wheel drive are 23/31 mpg city/highway, 26 mpg combined city highway. The comparable 2011 CR-V rated 21/28/24 mpg.

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 CR-V with AWD are 22/30 mpg city/highway, 25 mpg combined. The 2011 AWD CR-V rated 21/27/23.

Honda says that utilizing the Econ mode increases the potential for drivers to improve fuel economy but it does not quantify projecting savings.

2012 Honda CR-V Release Date back to top

The 2012 Honda CR-V went on sale December 15, 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Honda CR-V back to top

Honda seems to be heeding critics – some within its own ranks – who say its cars and crossovers need to recapture the spirit of innovation and style that fueled the company’s original success in the U.S. The automaker will reportedly accelerate the newest Civic’s midcycle freshening to address some of its perceived shortfalls. And while the 2012 CR-V lacks little in the way of styling, there is room to improve details, such as the navigation system’s graphics.  

Of broader concern is Honda’s hidebound allegiance to a five-speed automatic transmission and, to a lesser degree, to an engine with relatively low torque. Some industry prognosticators say Honda will stay with what is essentially a warmed-over version of the third-generation CR-V’s powertrain for the first few years of this fourth-generation design, then transition to a new powertrain as part of a midcycle update, probably around model-year 2015.

One way to give the CR-V more muscle without lowering mileage ratings is with diesel power. Honda offers the CR-V overseas with a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, which furnishes substantially more torque than the 2.4-liter gas engine and promises 40-mpg on the highway. Some reports had a diesel slated for the 2010 Honda CR-V, but the slumping economy and relatively high diesel-fuel prices tabled that plan. Honda could revive the diesel for the fourth-generation CR-V – likely as part of the midcycle freshening. A turbocharged gas four-cylinder or a gas-electric hybrid also are future CR-V possibilities. A V-6 engine is not part of the CRV’s personality or in line with Honda philosophy.

Honda ought to also consider filtering into the CR-V such gee-whiz technology as lane-departure-warning, adaptive cruise control, even automatic parallel-parking. These have been the province of premium brands, but a few mid-priced crossovers are beginning to offer them and more will follow as buyers reorient to smaller cars and SUVs without lowering their expectations about available features.

2012 Honda CR-V Competition back to top

Nissan Rogue: Like the CR-V, this five-seat compact crossover has just one engine – a four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque – but uses a continuously variable transmission. Acceleration is marginally livelier than the CR-V’s and is bolstered by sharp handling. Rogue isn’t as roomy as the CR-V, or as nicely finished inside. But a base-price range of $22,340-$26,030 is a value plus and fuel-economy ratings are competitive, at  22/28 mpg city/highway, 25 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 22/26/24 with AWD. A 2011 midcycle update to styling and features positioned Rogue for an expected model-year 2013 redesign.

Toyota RAV-4: Still one model year away from a full redesign, the 2012 RAV-4 should nonetheless be on any compact-crossover shopping list. It boasts fine performance from a four-cylinder engine (179 horsepower, 172 pound-feet of torque) and is among the few in this class to also offer a V-6 (269 horsepower 246 pound-feet). It also is available with a third-row seat suited for small children. Styling that mimics that of a traditional SUV has the RAV4 looking a bit old-school next to newer, curvier competitors such as the CR-V and Tucson. But the lame-duck 2012 RAV-4 will give up nothing to any rival for solid comfort and rewarding road manners. With AWD, fuel economy rates 21/27/24 mpg with the four-cylinder, 19/26/21 with the V-6. Estimated base-price range is $23,600-$31,000.    

Kia Sportage: The Ford Escape is actually America’s top-selling compact SUV, but the 2012 version is an antiquated, decade-old design soon to be eclipsed by an all-new 2013 Escape. So if you’re shopping model-year-2012 alternatives to the redesigned CR-V we recommend putting this youthfully styled five-seater on your list. Sportage is the creased-bodied cousin of the curvy Tucson from Kia’s South Korean corporate partner, Hyundai. It outsells the Tucson and is priced slightly lower. Base four-cylinder models have 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque, rate 21/28/24 mpg with AWD, and start at $21,600 with automatic transmission and front-drive. Much faster are the turbocharged four-cylinder versions. They have 260 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, rate 21/26/23 mpg with AWD, and start at $27,700.

2012 Honda CR-V Next Steps