2012 Honda CR-V: First Drive

November 16, 2011

In these days of tighter family budgets, and in many cases a desire to be more understated, compact crossover vehicles like the Honda CR-V have a lot of appeal. Parents know that they provide more versatility—and freedom, by some gauges—than sedans, and they’re a little smaller and more manageable than the hulks that ‘minivans’ have become.

Thankfully, Honda hasn’t much changed the exterior dimensions of the 2012 Honda CR-V. It still fits neatly into most compact-car parking spots and has a low cargo floor that doesn’t require a lot of reach or lift.

The exterior of the new CR-V has evolved, somewhat. Front and rear styling has been spruced up a bit, with the front end noticeably more Accord-like. Honda has essentially taken the same package—same wheelbase, same basic silhouette and proportions—but made a few crucial changes so as to completely reconfigure the interior. The high point of the roof has been dropped just a bit, and the floor and cargo floor have been lowered nearly an inch. Designers also modified the positions of the front seats to give the CR-V a somewhat more sedan-like driving position, and they added a wider range to seat-height and steering-wheel adjustments. Also by changing the angle of the rear pillar somewhat, they freed up just a little more rearward visibility.

We really like the simplified layout of the instrument panel. It avoids both the chunky, overwrought-and-cluttered look of the larger Pilot SUV’s interior, as well as the odd asymmetries of the Civic and the confusing rotary knob of the high-end Accord models. The look is simply clean, with a shelflike, ‘lean-layered’ concept and climate controls just below audio controls, with a small, five-inch ‘i-MID’ trip-computer and audio screen just above it all. There’s a big, round speedometer, with peripheral controls just below that, and the center console runs between the front seats and has been redesigned to include cupholders, a tray, two storage compartments, and a USB port.

The 2012 CR-V still has seating for five, and its interior feels almost minivan-like in how passenger friendly it is. Front seats are buckets that are on the soft side, but supportive enough for a long day. And the rear split bench seat has more generous dimensions and better padding than most in this class; you still won’t fit three adults happily across, but there’s plenty of thigh support, as well as legroom and headroom, to keep everyone happy.

Back seat folds flat with one pull!

One of the keys to why the CR-V’s back seat is so comfortable is that when you fold the seatback forward, you’re not merely mashing a thinly padded cushion down. Pull forward on a strap, and with one, very fluid motion the lower cushion tumbles forward into the footwell, the headrest angles forward, and the rear seatback flips forward, all tucking nearly behind the front seat, to a completely flat position. The seat-folding arrangement—much as Honda’s setup in the Fit subcompact and Odyssey minivan—really is a CR-V strength.

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