2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD Navi review: The excitement of no surprises

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi in Mountain Air Metallic

Now here’s a surprise. The 2012 Honda CR-V isn’t very exciting. Not even much excitement with the 2012 CR-V EX-L Navi with all-wheel drive.

But then, excitement isn’t its job. The CR-V’s task in life is to be quietly reliable, comfortable and useful.  And that it does very well, thank you.

The Honda CR-V is all-new for 2012, and that’s genuinely all new. Some “all-new cars” slide by with carry-over engines and drivetrains. The 2012 CR-V, however, has an engine modified to edge power up from 180 horsepower to 185 horses, while torque increases two foot-pounds to 163. The changes include reducing internal friction with new surface coating and piston rings and going to a lighter 0W20 viscosity oil. Honda engineers also made changes to the intake and exhaust manifolds, but actually decreased the compression ratio (from 10.5:1 to 10.0:1) to reduce the chance of engine knock arising from a change to taller gearing in the transmission. The overall bottom line however is an increase fuel economy, from 21/28 mpg city/highway to 22/30 mpg, for the all-wheel drive CR-V.

2012 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi dash

The 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L Navi has two multi-information displays, with a rearview camera standard. (Click to enlarge)

The basic chassis layout remains the same, with MacPherson strut in front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear, but the electric power rack-and-pinion steering has something new. The 2012 CR-V has something called “Motion-Adaptive EPS.” It goes one step beyond the vehicle stability’s dragging of one brake or another to control skids or instability in braking by automatically using the electric power steering system to start steering inputs that are intended to prompt the driver to steer in the proper direction. The CR-V is the second Honda to use the system.

The design of the 2012 Honda CR-V, however, is all new, with a multi-bar grille with a more horizontal theme that its predecessor, making the CR-V look lower and wider. The CR-V keeps the front skid-plate look under its front bumper, though we don’t think we’d want to hit anything with it. But with its upward curve, however,  it’s less likely to hit a curb than would a lower front end.

2012 Honda CR-V ECON button

The 2012 Honda CR-V ECON button is located on the dash to the left of the steering wheel. (Click to enlarge)

At the rear, the 2012 Honda CR-V keeps the high-mounted vertical taillights of its predecessor, but the droopy rear side window of its predecessor has been replaced by a window with a more teardrop shape that fits neatly into the contour of the rear roof pillar.

More changes for the 2012 CR-V include a concession to the modern family, making Bluetooth HandsFreeLink phone interface standard equipment. All 2012 CR-V models, regardless of trim levels, will have SMS text messaging that can receive and read texts from compatible cell phones aloud over the audio system. No sending of texts yet, but it will help the family on the go change plans on the fly.

While also enjoying tunes with the iPhone-compatible Pandora internet radio interface.

2012 Honda CR-V cargo area

With the rear seat folded, the floor of the 2012 Honda CR-V’s cargo area is almost flat…but not quite, (Click to enlarge)

Also standard on the 2012 CR-V is a full-color multi-information display screen with a multi-angle rearview camera with guidelines. Note: A review camera, standard. The screen is easy to read and the navigation system on our test 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L easy to use. (A rear DVD entertainment system is available but only as an one-or-the-other with the nav system).

Above the full-color display is another, smaller screen showing basic information, the readout easily changed via the larger screen below. We usually kept it on the fuel economy/distance to empty mode.

The interior has the usual Honda efficiency. The shifter mounted on the dash makes more room available on the center console which has big cupholders and a cavernous center storage bin with USB and aux sockets and a 12V power point.

The front seats have armrests that never get in the way—are you listening, VW—and the seats themselves are wide and comfy. The height of the rear seats off the floor allows generous legroom.