When the competition gets tough, the tough get competitive

2012, Honda, CR-V

In 1995 the CR-V was introduced in Japan. The first generation CR-V was brought to America in 1997. Every five years Honda brings a new generation CR-V to America. This is the fourth generation Honda CR-V. The CR-V is the most popular, best-selling, SUV in its segment.

I have talked to many designers and they say the hardest car to design is a car that is beloved by generations, and millions, of car owners. The CR-V would be in that category. Honda says their customers were concerned about two things; price and fuel economy. Anything more than that had better be with those two priorities in mind.

I am an accountant by trade. Before I started writing about automobiles and energy I worked as an accountant for an oil company.

The CR-V has been in the United States since 1997. This car has been a success since day one. The CR-V is sold in 160 countries and has sold 4.9 million units worldwide. In 2012 Honda says they expect to sell over 200,000 units in North America alone. With that many sales over that length of time Honda should have amortized the CR-V platform ten times over by now.

Of course they will have ongoing costs, but the big fixed costs should be amortized by now. My theory is that if you are going to wait five years to bring out another generation vehicle, and sales are that strong, the CR-V should be markedly better each generation (every five years), at the same price, or lower.

Honda says that the purchaser of the CR-V is getting older. If you bought the first generation CR-V when you were forty years old, you would be fifty-five years old if you bought the fourth generation.

All CR-Vs are powered by a 2.4-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower (5 more than the 3rd generation) and 163 lb-ft. of torque (2 more than the 3rd generation, 2007 model). The engine is paired with a standard 5-speed automatic transmission. Mori says that increased air intake and less friction were key components in creating the extra five horsepower.

The Honda CRV customers said the two most important aspects of a new CRV were that the price point stay the same and that the fuel economy to get better. Honda says the price will be $21,000-$30,000, about the same as the previous generation. Fuel economy has increased.

EPA-estimated fuel economy is rated at 23/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined (FWD) (an increase of +2/+3/+2 mpg compared to the refreshed 2011 CR-V), and a compact SUV-class leading 22/30/25 miles per gallon (AWD) (an increase of +1/+3/+2 mpg compared to the 2011 CR-V). The CR-V uses regular gasoline. My colleague and I got 23.8 miles per gallon driving the hills outside San Diego. There was also some extra idling time while we chatted up a cute Police Officer that gave us a stern warning. (If he had given us a ticket his title wouldn't have been capitalized).

We were told that the econmode dampens performance, so why not use a 6-speed? Akihiko Mori, Chief Engineer of Vehicle Dynamic Testing, said that Honda considered the size and weight of a six-speed and the 5-speed automatic transmission with econmode provided the best performance and fuel economy.

The ambient color around the speedometer changes from white to green when you are driving economically. The air conditioning is always optimized for fuel efficiency when you are in the economode. We didn't do a back-to-back test to see what the miles per gallon would be if we drove with economode and without economode. I drove a portion of the route with economode and got 25.6 miles per gallon. The increase could have been because there wasn't as much idling.

You really need to see a 2011, third generation, to see the night and day difference. The previous generation dash was boxy, almost Nissan Xtera like. The fourth generation is sleeker, more feng shui. It flows from one door to the other. There are little touches, such as the side mirror adjusters that have been repositioned to the door handle instead of on the side of the steering column.

The center console is bigger and higher. I need a bigger console to hide all the new ipads, iphones and all the other technology I carry that makes my life immeasurably easier, or so I'm told. The center is clean and well proportioned with lots of holders for water and coffee. There is a place to hide a water bottle, or the cell phone you're not supposed to be talking on, near the right knee of the driver. The new generation length and height have been decreased without sacrificing cabin space.

The drivers side mirror has been expanded by a 1/4 inch in length and width. The way it was designed gave it an extra seven degrees greater view in the mirror's blind spot. Sit in the 2011 model and you will see the difference in blind spot right away.

There is a real tire in the under belly of the CR-V, unlike some of the other SUVs in this segment. Some cars have run-flat tires, or just a tire patch kit. The 2011 Honda CR-V ground clearance was 6.7 inches, best in segment of the competitors.

The seats do not fold flat in the back. There are child latches that are not covered when the seats are down. You will need to put a dog bed in the back so that the dog doesn't get his paw caught in the latch.

For the first time in a honda or acura model there is an all-wheel drive electronic system with torque distribution. At the launch of the car the torque will shift to the rear wheels on good dry pavement. Depending on road conditions if slippage is detected in the front tires the rear gets 100%.

Pandora is new for the CR-V. For the few people who have a compatible blackberry you can text smstexting from your CR-V. It's not Honda's fault, it's a piece of hardware in the phone that is required, not software. Most phones don't have it.

There are eight exterior colors; Crystal Black Pearl, Opal Sage Metallic, Urban Titanium Metallic, Alabaster Silver Metallic, Polished Metal Metallic, Twilight Blue Metallic, Glacier White Pearl, Taffeta White. Glacier White Pearl is exclusively available on the CR-V EX and EX-L models. Taffeta White is exclusive to the CR-V LX.

There are three interior colors; sporty black, beige, fresh urban gray. The CR-V will be made in East Liberty, OH.

If you look at the segment CR-V competes in it is the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV 4, Chevy Equinox, Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-5, and the Hyundai Tucson. I haven't driven the CX-5. The Forester still has a 4-speed automatic transmission. I have seen the new Escape and Honda has competition in exterior design and interior styling.

There are three trim levels; LX, EX and EX-L. The LX has a 5" color screen and one-touch fold down rear seat. The EX-L adds privacy glass with moonroof, the EX-L gets everything in the LX and EX-L plus leather, ten-way power seats and wireless headphones.

The truck market will grow five percent over the next five years. Honda has recreated the CR-V just in time. This could be the most competitive year yet. But when the competition gets tough, the tough get competitive.

By Lou Ann Hammond

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Images of the 2012, Honda CR-V

2012 Honda CR-V
2012 Honda CR-V
less blind spot
less blind spot
softer look, more user-friendly
softer look, more user-friendly
latch hooks are open, and the floor is not flat
latch hooks are open, and the floor is not flat