2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L Review

April 4, 2012
2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L
2012 Honda CR-V AWD EX-L CRV_Front CRV_Interior CRV_Rear
Cargo Capacity
Passenger Count
Off-Road Capability
Power & Handling

The Good

  • Ingenious storage/cargo options.
  • Easy to drive.
  • Bonafide seating for 5 adults.

The Bad

  • Average fuel economy.
  • Stiff, sporty ride.
  • 4-cyl. Engine lacks power.

The CR-V is a solid, not spectacular, all-around performer suited for active people who may eventually start a family. It could be the only car they’ll ever need.


I’d always considered the CR-V a small SUV, but the 2012 iteration comes across as anything but. From the inside, it felt bigger, more comfortable, and, consequently, more versatile despite the fact it is marginally shorter in length and height than the last version. From my perch in the driver’s seat, the vast glass windshield and center storage stack between the front seats made the cabin feel huge. Fortunately, it still drives like a spunky vehicle.

Department of Interior
The interior spaciousness of the CR-V extends to the second row seats, where, thanks to a flat floor with no hump, the center passenger has plenty of legroom and the split-folding seats can easily accommodate three 6-foot-tall adults. The squared-off shape of the SUV opens up the rear cargo area, creating a cube of space that can swallow four 5,000 cubic inch backpacks stuffed for a weeklong trek. Remove the wheels of a road bike, and it should fit inside the rear—no need to fold down the second-row seats.

My favorite storage discovery was a deep box under the center armrest between the front seats. It’s big enough to hold a daypack or hide pricey electronics or gadgets while parked at work or at a trailhead for a quick hike or ride. During my test drive in Los Angeles, I used the space to hold my laptop when I dashed into stores and coffee shops.

Honda ECON Mode
I pressed a high-profile green button on the dash to engage the CR-V’s “ECON” mode, which changed the dynamics of the throttle to maximize fuel economy. Seeing as the EPA sticker for the SUV estimates a combined city/highway mpg of 25, I expected the Honda to hit the high 20s. Instead, I averaged 23.5 mpg over 87.5 miles of city and freeway driving (and I was in L.A. on a weekend, so the traffic was moving swiftly.) Worse, the ECON mode castrated the CR-V’s 2.4-liter engine. Mashing the gas to make a traffic light on a steep grade in the Hollywood Hills didn’t work. After that, I turned off the ECON mode for the last 20 miles.

In regular mode, the Honda’s engine felt just fine, and it produced enough—but not an excess of—torque to punch out of corners and jump around traffic on surface streets. On the freeway in a pouring rain at 70 mph, the car moves nicely enough to be a decent road-tripper, despite the relatively stiff ride. However, sprinting around a semi took planning and patience, since I couldn’t floor it and go.

I said “relatively” in reference to the ride because in the crossover/small SUV market, the trend is to skew to a softer, more car-like ride. Not Honda, which maintains a smidgen of original SUV toughness and taut feel with its chassis and suspension.


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