Pros: New sporting look; Honda reliability; comfortable driving position; big interior pace

Cons: Outdated powertrain; uninspired looks

The Honda CR-V, which has been around since 1995 on the U.S. market, is in its fourth generation with the current iteration, unveiled in late 2011 as a 2012 model. The CR-V was an early entry into the now extremely popular CUV market.

The 2012, although slightly different-looking than the third generation, is not seriously changed. The fourth-generation CR-V features an updated version of the 2.4-liter inline-4 engine mated to the same five-speed automatic transmission found in the third generation. The power output on the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder has been slightly increased for the fourth generation, up to 185 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque. The 2012 CR-V is available in LX and EX versions with various upgradable packages, including full-time all-wheel drive, leather and satellite navigation.

Comfort & Utility

The interior of the CR-V is not much like that of any other CUV on the market. Other CUV interiors replicate the space and utility of larger SUVs, but the CR-V's interior is more like a three-quarter-scale Honda Odyssey minivan interior. Front passengers enjoy a tall seating position yet have plenty of headroom. The gearshift juts out from the center of the dash, much like the minivan, and beneath it Honda has included several storage spaces. Between the two front seats, Honda has installed a large center console storage unit with sliding top, which, again, is just like the Odyssey.

In the back, the CR-V is resembles a more conventional CUV and features a 60/40 split rear seat that folds almost flat. With the rear seats up, the CR-V provides 37.2 cubic feet of storage space. With the rear seats folded, that space is increased to a substantial 70.9 cubic feet.

Technology

The CR-V LX model has more standard equipment for 2012, including air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth, an intelligent Multi-Information Display, remote entry, a multi-angle rear-view camera, a 160-watt, four-speaker audio system and motion-adaptive electric power steering.

The CR-V EX also has an upgraded six-speaker audio system, power moonroof and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The CR-V EX-L adds a leather-trimmed interior, 10-way power driver's seat, dual-zone climate control and 328-watt seven-speaker audio system with XM satellite radio. Available features for the CR-V EX-L include the Honda satellite navigation with voice recognition and traffic features or a rear DVD system; you have to choose one or the other, however.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2.4-liter inline-4 engine in the 2012 CR-V produces 185 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque. Although these power output numbers are higher than they were for the third generation, fuel economy has actually improved slightly for 2012. A selectable Econ mode can the way the CR-V accelerates to make it more efficient, and Honda's Eco Assist feature, which uses "green" visual cues around the speedometer to indicate when the vehicle is being driven most efficiently. The EPA-estimated fuel economy rating for the front-wheel-drive CR-V is 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. The all-wheel drive CR-V is rated at 22/30 mpg.

Safety

Every 2012 CR-V has standard electronic stability control, ABS with brake assist, side curtain and front side airbags. There is also an occupant position detection system on the passenger's side, and the front seats are designed to help reduce injury severity in case of an accident.

Driving Impressions

A compact SUV built off the Honda Civic's platform with its added height, weight and all-wheel drive doesn't sound like a great driving experience, and the CR-V might not turn anyone's head as it pulls up in front of a restaurant. However, the CR-V's ride is peppy, reliable and pleasurable, and the interior feels spacious and solid. Overall, the CR-V is stable, solid and confident on the road in virtually any weather and at any speed.

Other Cars to Consider

Mazda CX-5 - Starting at $20,695, the 2013 CX-5 is the newest addition to the CUV market. The base CX-5 features Mazda's 2.0-liter SKYACTIV 4-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission. Impressively, the CX-5 has been rated at 35 mpg on the highway.

Ford Escape - Starting at $21,440, the Escape is the bestselling CUV in the U.S. market. Customers considering the Escape against the CR-V would be advised to wait until the release of the all-new 2013 Ford Escape, which will be better-looking and more fuel efficient.

Chevrolet Equinox - Starting at $23,530, the Chevrolet Equinox is a surprise contender on the CUV market. The Equinox is bigger than the CR-V but is just as fuel efficient thanks to its six-speed automatic transmission.

AutoTrader Recommends

Customers who are looking for a roomy, fuel-efficient CUV with a proven reliability history will be happy with the CR-V, which starts at $22,495. We recommend upgrading to the EX-L but sticking with the 2WD model, priced at $27,245, and adding the navigation system for a total cost of $28,745. That's about the same as the 4WD model ($28,495) and most people will use the navigation more than they'd use four-wheel drive.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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