Kennedy: Redesigned Honda CR-V ready to hold its market share

Kennedy: Redesigned Honda CR-V ready to hold its market share

January 21st, 2012 by Mark Kennedy in Business Around the Region

Staff writer Mark Kennedy took a test drive in a new Honda CRV.

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FAST FACTS


Model: 2012 CR-V 2WD EX-L.

Exterior color: Polished metal metallic

Interior: Gray leather

Engine: 2.4 liter, four-cylinder

Horsepower: 185

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Fuel economy: 31 highway, 23 city

Dealer: Economy Honda Superstore

Price (as tested): $28,555 (plus $2,074 in dealer-installed options)

Parked at the intersection of Value Street and Utility Avenue is the durable Honda CR-V small SUV. Small, of course, is a relative term since the CR-V has more than 100 cubic feet of passenger space.

For 2012, the CR-V has undergone a major redesign that includes new sheet metal, an upgraded interior, more engine power and, importantly, better fuel economy. How does 31 mpg highway sound for a family-hauling SUV?

Copies of the hot-selling new CR-V are disappearing from local car stores almost as quickly as they arrive. We intercepted a polished metal metallic CR-V EX-L at Economy Honda Superstore earlier this month with the help of general manager Corey Choate.

Our test SUV had been equipped with dealer-installed, premium options such as a tailgate spoiler,

body molding, a cargo tray, skid plate bling, luggage crossbars and a chrome exhaust tip. For the first time, Honda is offering a factory DVD system in the CR-V, and our test car was so equipped. A navigation system and all-wheel-drive were the only major options not included on our test unit.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The new CR-V gives the impression of being a stretched and contoured version of the 2007-2011 generation models. While subtle, the exterior redesign is more fluid and less boxy than its predecessor. A bigger grille and headlight treatment help correct the quirky underbite formed by a protruding front bumper in the fascia of the old model.

It's inside the cockpit, though, where the CR-V's new design really pops. A curvaceous new dash design, with marbled plastic inlays, would look at home in a luxury SUV. The leather-clad seats in our EX-L tester were supportive without being too snug. Forward-facing visibility is impressive.

The CR-V's back seat is spacious enough for three adults. With the back seat folded down (a easy process thanks to thoughtful new release levers in the cargo area), the CR-V becomes a surprisingly spacious hauler. There is no third-row seat option.

Electronic features are also a plus. Our EX-L boasted dual-zone climate control. An ingenious mobile phone interface allows text messages to pop up on a display screen. Instead of thumb-dialing a response, a selection of preset answers is available for a one-touch return message.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Unlike other car companies, Honda offers only one engine in its entry-level, a 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder. For the great majority of buyers, who don't need excess towing capacity, a six-cylinder option is overkill. (If you do need the added power, the V-6 Toyota RAV4 is a popular choice.)

In our rush-hour test-drive on Brainerd Road, the CR-V was plenty powerful, even after we added a couple of eager passengers. The new CR-V is noticeably quieter than the previous generation, an upgrade that adds to the refinement of the vehicle.

The CR-V is available in all-wheel-drive, which automatically shifts power to the rear wheels when slippage is detected. Every trim line of the CR-V -- even the base model -- now comes with a back-up camera.

BOTTOM LINE

Since it debuted in 1995, the CR-V has grown into a perennial American favorite, often found among the top 10 selling vehicles in the United States. More than 200,000 CR-Vs were sold in the United States in 2010.

That's a tough act to follow for the new-generation CR-V, but our test drive leads one to believe it's plenty up to the task. The CR-V is the Swiss Army knife of small SUVs, so packed with value and utility that it takes all the heavy lifting out of a new vehicle purchase.