What it is: Honda’s main entry in the highly competitive mid-sized crossover market.
Base prices range from to $22,295 to $28,295.
Mileage ranges from 22 miles per gallon in the city to 31 miles per gallon on the highway.
What’s worth knowing: Honda is known for superb engineering and reliability, but the Japanese automaker has been bested lately by competing models from Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia that offer more flash for less money. American makes have been getting better, too. And home rivals Toyota and Nissan are always feisty competitors. In redesigning the CR-V for 2012, Honda’s mission has been to reassert a strong value proposition and make this crossover seem like a great buy.
Who it’s for: Pragmatic drivers who want a reliable mid-sized hauler and don’t need dash or sizzle.
What’s good: On one hand, the CR-V evokes the better qualities of a minivan, via the comfy captain’s chairs up front and the one-touch, fold-down second-row seats, which you could easily flip forward with a bag of groceries in your hand. Honda has also targeted younger buyers with a bunch of standard technology features, such as Bluetooth, Pandora Internet radio (which requires your own account and streaming device) and a rear-view camera. The four-cylinder engine is fine for most drivers, handling is crisp, and the sleeker design of the new CR-V is a bit more masculine than the bulbous model it replaces.
What’s bad: Honda has cut corners in ways most drivers may not notice, but many reviewers do. There’s no push-button ignition, for instance, even though that’s a feature competitors increasingly offer. The automatic transmission is an older five-speed variety, when more modern six-speeds or continuously variable transmissions, which offer better performance and mileage, are becoming standard.
How it stacks up: The CR-V is a thoughtful and well-executed vehicle that most buyers will be happy with. Drivers who want a V-6 should check out competitors like the GMC Terrain, Chevrolet Equinox, or Toyota RAV4. The RAV4 also has an optional third-row seat, though it’s only available on pricier trim lines. While the CR-V has optional all-wheel drive, the Nissan Xterra has better off-road chops. The Volkswagen Tiguan is more upscale, but also more expensive. And the forthcoming 2013 Ford Escape is likely to give them all a close race.
What to do if you want one: To compare value, check out competitors like the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and slightly larger Kia Sorento. But don’t be overly wowed by gizmos—inherent quality is what will make you happy as an owner in the long run.
Rick Newman is the Chief Business Correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a longtime car buff. He covers corporate and consumer trends from the magazine's New York bureau. Rick is also the magazine's car reviewer and writes what he calls "micro-reviews" here on a regular basis.
Follow Rick on Twitter, @rickjnewman.