Improvements to the 2012 Honda CR-V's interior, cargo configurability, ride quality and standard-equipment list should keep the compact crossover atop car shoppers' must-test lists.
The CR-V drives more like a car now and has a new interior, but the exterior design stands out as being much more interesting than the current model. The front has a forward slope to it, with a large grille that actually cuts into the headlights. This is bold stuff, but without being ugly-bold like the Honda Crosstour. It won't offend.
The back end is even more of a departure, taking the vertical taillight theme from the previous generation even further. It reminds me of Volvo's sleek XC60 crossover.
From the side I thought the CR-V was longer than before, but my eyes were playing tricks on me. The CR-V is almost an inch shorter than the model it replaces, while the wheelbase stays the same. The CR-V isn't as tall, though, and that's definitely noticeable as you look over the roof.
Compared with the rest of the class — and certainly with the outgoing CR-V — the 2012 is modern and sophisticated. While it isn't a significant step up from the Chevy Equinox or Hyundai Tucson, it shares head-of-the-class status with those two in terms of quality.
Where it shines above the rest is in the comfort level for all passengers in a small space.
While the Equinox is comfortable, it's a much larger vehicle: 187.8 inches in length versus the CR-V's 178.3 inches. That's a considerable difference. However, despite this difference in exterior size the CR-V has more passenger volume. The Equinox has roughly 100 cubic feet, while the CR-V is rated at 101.5 cubic feet for the EX and higher trims and 104.1 cubic feet for the LX model.
The Tucson is smaller inside and out, and you'll feel it in the cramped interior and firm seats.
Inside the new CR-V, there's 0.4 inches more driver's seat height adjustment and 0.8 inches more travel for the tilt/telescoping steering wheel than there was in the previous version.
The front seats are very comfortable. One of the recently redesigned Civic's positives is its comfort as a daily driver, and the CR-V is similarly cozy. The vehicle I tested was a loaded EX-L with leather seats, which won raves from my co-pilot as well. There's plenty of thigh support, and if the Civic's cloth seats are any indication, the CR-V's should be more than acceptable.
Another major change for the better is a center console that runs from the armrest all the way to the dashboard. The outgoing CR-V wasted the space between the console and dash with an open floor. This new console has a large storage compartment (it could fit a small shopping bag from Starbucks and then some) and two cupholders below the shifter. There are also small storage bins on the side of the console — near where a driver's knee would be — below the cupholders that can hold a spare water bottle or other items you want to stash away.