Getting Respect

2012 Honda CR-V 2
2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD. All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2012 Honda CR-V

Lately, Honda has been going through a "Rodney Dangerfield Complex."

Why lately? Think about what Honda had been since making a splash with the Civic in 1972. Being an engineer and mechanic who refuses to compromise and sees the larger picture, Sochiro Honda forged a philosophy of taking a basic idea and elevating it to the next level. The CVCC engine changed the way engines were designed to meet emissions standards worldwide. VTEC also took the idea of electronically-controlled multi-port fuel injection and forged the balance between performance and efficiency. Components found on more expensive automobiles made their way onto Hondas. They also shifted design to distinguish run-of-the-mill cars from Honda's own models.

Then, everything changed. Critics went on the attack for Honda's latest designs and the lack of engineering advancement over the past several years. All of the sudden, the once peerless Honda received little or no respect by these critics for any new product that was introduced by them.

In Dangerfield's own words, Honda appeared to receive "no respect, at all!"

As a former Acura owner, I always felt that Honda had the spirit of their founder in place. I, too, became disappointed when design trends either became polarizing or perhaps too evolutionary. There are still some gems that Honda makes. I found the Element to be a fun and practical vehicle. It became the choice of home rehabbers and other do-it-yourselfers everywhere. The last Civic was a sales leader at once time in the throes of the global financial crisis. The Accord and Fit are rather decent, as well.

The ultimate point being is Honda still sells a lot of their vehicles regardless of what the critics say.

When Honda announced the coming of the new CR-V, my only thought was that it better be good. And, if it is good, Honda may get back the respect it lost in recent years.

2012 Honda CR-V 5

The mantle the CR-V has to climb is a steep one. The small crossover is a popular one – one of the best sellers in the segment. For the past three generations, the CR-V had been a hard-working family carrier that found universal appeal for its capabilities in town and beyond. If you wanted a Honda that embodied the spirit of the CVCC Civics and the first few generations of the Accord – the CR-V was it.

To thwart its "Rodney Dangerfield" image, it went to "Ferris Bueller" to pitch the new fourth generation CR-V around Super Bowl XLVI – Matthew Broderick. Cute spot, I might add. The only thing I wanted to know about the spot is this: Where's Sarah Jessica Parker? Was she off doing a movie she was actually working in? Why didn't she call during the commercial?

Let's just send Rodney Dangerfield, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker off to their dressing rooms for the moment. The first thing you notice about the new CR-V is a combination of familiar and different elements melded together rather nicely. The grille is a design taken from the Odyssey minivan, the taillights are new versions from CR-Vs past, but everything else is all new. As visually polarizing as it might seem, it is a huge improvement from what the critics have told us about Honda design of late. As a matter of fact, I like it.

In some respects, the new CR-V may seem bigger. In actuality, it is. Over time, the CR-V increased in size by various leaps, but retain its membership in a highly competitive class. It is taller, but ripe for families needing a two-row crossover with plenty of cargo space. This translates into a sizeable glasshouse that helps drivers and passengers alike to see better all around. The rear quarter window's odd shape is not much help in terms of creating a blind spot at the corners.

2012 Honda CR-V 14

Cargo access is aided by a huge liftgate. This comes into play for various scenarios from a trip to the home improvement store, extended vacations and tailgating at sporting events. Lift over is low, which helps in many of these uses – especially when you put down the second row in creating enough room for a serious dose of retail therapy. Before you pick up that big item from the store, try the second row fold-down operation. Just pull the strap under the rear seat cushion, lift it towards the front seat and let the seat back just glide down into place. This is perhaps the nicest rear seat fold-down operation in the business.

You feel the largess of the CR-V inside with room for five adults across two rows of seating. The big front seats provide reasonable comfort and some bolstering, while the rear seats really do not need any adjustment to enjoy three-across comfort. The leather in the EX-L tester is supple and soft. It is actually a great place to work in, have a meeting or introduce new friends to your lives.

2012 Honda CR-V 10

Normally, Honda's interior designers usually throw a few curve balls at us. In the CR-V, they did not. The instrument panel provides a mix of upscale touches and tactile simplicity. A digital readout in the middle of the speedometer gives you all of the trip information you need, but I’d rather not have the corners of the tachometer and fuel gauge hidden from the steering wheel. Controls on both the steering wheel and on the center stack were right to the touch in varying sizes. Interior materials were of high quality.

An upper center screen, also called the i-MID or Intelligent Multi-Information Display, gives you audio system information as well as fuel consumption status – redundant from the center digital screen inside the speedometer. When you throw the CR-V into reverse, the multi-view back-up camera comes into view in the i-MID. The tester came without the optional navigation unit, which some CR-V shopped complained that they did not need two screens in the middle. Instead, it came with a rear seat DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones. The DVD player is not integrated with the CD slot in the center stack, as it is hidden in the huge center console binnacle.

Sound from the AM/FM/XM/CD audio system is quite good. You get 328 watts of sound through seven speakers – the seventh being a subwoofer. A Bluetooth compatible phone works well with both phone functions and streaming audio form your song files. There is a provision for you to stream your Pandora channels through these seven speakers, as well as add a photo as your i-MID wallpaper. These only work if you have an iPhone – sorry, Android and Blackberry users (including me). There is also a function where your text messages can be read on the i-MID screen. Not sure how I feel about that one…

2012 Honda CR-V 15

Honda stuck to a single engine lineup for the CR-V, something you rarely see in the compact crossover segment. The 185 horsepower 2.4litre i-VTEC engine offers strong delivery and balanced cruising. It can get a bit noisy when the throttle is pushed hard, but it does quiet down when it settles into its groove. It is mated to a 5-speed automatic and Honda's Real Time all-wheel drive system. To make things more efficient to run, there’s the Eco Assist button to depress. That changes the timing and gearing to induce more efficiency from the driveline. Honda makes some very good drivelines that are smooth to operative and easy to manage. The CR-V's set up meets those expectations perfectly.

One thing to understand about the CR-V is its mission – to haul families. One does not expect a CR-V to race on Sunday or dodge the crazies on the highway. Therefore, its main tenet is a supple ride that does not offend anyone sitting inside of its huge cabin. When presented with a pothole or any deep road imperfection, the suspension does its best to soften the shock. You do feel that pothole, however.

The CR-V is also light and lithe – just a tad over 3,500 pounds! That’s a 300-pound weight savings over the last competitor I've driven last year!

Another thing that would not be a surprise to many Honda (and Acura) owners would be its sharp steering. The action is just quick. Steering feel is near perfect, as it should be.

A supple ride should be balanced with good handling. The CR-V handles quite competently in both normal and evasive situations. However, there is plenty of body roll through the curves and corners. You can also hear the tires on certain road surfaces, which would mean some more sound deadening to help keep things quiet at speed. The brakes tend to be a tad spongy and quite soft, but they do stop when you need them to.

2012 Honda CR-V 6

One thing I look for in a crossover/SUV is fuel economy. There are cases when a certain consumption number is deemed acceptable. Some consumers would rather hit the estimated highway number all of the time. Let’s be realistic – you won't. The good news is that the CR-V came in with an average fuel consumption figure of 24.4MPG. In my book, that's a good realistic average for a two-row, four-cylinder crossover/SUV in the CR-V's class.

Then, there's the bottom line. A good crossover/SUV has to be good value for the money. While most fully loaded models run well above the $30,000 mark, this EX-L with the DVD Rear Seat Entertainment system does not. The total price for the tester is just $29,805. If you don't need the DVD rear entertainment system and would rather have the navigation instead, the difference is only $800. You can also save $700-1,500 for not having either one. If you don’t like leather, the EX model starts at $26,455 without the DVD Rear Entertainment System and/or the Navigation. You get the idea…

Rarely, do we celebrate a crossover with good value, lighter weight and a huge cabin. The Honda CR-V is worth celebrating. The CR-V is a mainstream choice in a highly competitive marketplace. One would have to look around to see why. Wherever I went – throughout the Twin Cities and up to Saint Cloud – a CR-V would be right nearby. Not just the latest models; all four generations of CR-Vs. That should tell you how mainstream and popular this model has become.

2012 Honda CR-V 4

The new CR-V is a very comfortable, capable, and competent crossover/SUV for today's consumer. Compared to what I have driven over the past few years, the CR-V is a very solid choice to make.

As for the critics, if they drive the CR-V and take a step back away to consider the needs of mainstream consumers, they may just end up with the same conclusion as I have.

The CR-V gets my respect. Rodney Dangerfield can now breathe a sigh of relief.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by American Honda Motor Co., Inc..

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.