- Tom Lankard
- Price As Tested:
“All-new version improves on previous model.”
At first blush, the 2012 CR-V interior comes across as an elegant upgrade from the 2011's. Some buyers might be disappointed, however, when they get in touch with some of the materials Honda has used in apparent cost-cutting efforts.
Seats are comfortable, with adequate if not remarkable thigh support. The leather is a little short of luxurious but no less so than what trims seats in competitively priced comparatives SUVs. Door armrests are padded. Door-mounted map pockets are molded to hold a beverage can or water bottle, but aren't especially deep, so no cups, please, unless topped with sipper caps.
That one inch lower roofline, though, as helpful as it might be for slipping through the air, also means occupants lose an inch of headroom from the 2011 model and fall behind the primary competitors, the Toyota RAV4, the Hyundai Tucson, the Ford Escape and the Chevrolet Equinox, by at least that much. Occupants hold their own in legroom, however, except for the Equinox, which gives occupants around an inch more than the new CR-V.
The center console now extends forward all the way under the pod holding the shift lever, adding usable storage space in the form of a longer and deeper, covered storage bin, one large enough, the Honda folk promise, to conceal a good sized handbag. Small trays are tucked into each side of the lower part of that extended console. The lower portion of the dash curves outward from the more subdued shift lever pod in graceful arcs toward the doors, which themselves repeat the arc cues.
The screen that serves either as the control panel for the audio or the nav system display parks front and center in the upper dash directly below a deeply recessed, smaller screen that handles the duties of the onboard computer and the rearview camera on the EX-L with the nav system. Not only is there a rearview camera, but it's a multi-angle unit that lets the driver choose between a top view and either a 130-degree or a 180-degree view. All views have superimposed guidelines to aid the driver when backing up, although they are fixed and don't bend to indicate track at the current steering wheel angle as they do on some systems.
On each side of the large circular speedometer that dominates the instrument cluster is a thin light strip that glows green to signal when the engine is optimizing fuel economy. It's attractive, looking like a giant parentheses around the speedometer. Mostly intuitive knobs, buttons and rocker switches on the dash and steering wheel manage audio and climate control functions. The automatic climate control system on the EX-L works well. Pressing a Sync button resets the two-zone system to one temperature, which is useful, but the indicator light showing this minor issue has been fixed is so bright as to be distracting, the sort of thing we'd expect to see in a cheap compact car.
As new and fresh as the dash looks, it also hints at Honda's efforts to shave costs on the 2012 CR-V. Nearly all surfaces are hard plastic. The surfaces are visually pleasing, with upscale-looking graining and metallic-like finishes, but the feel is, shall we say, maybe not cheap but clearly low cost.
On the other hand, Honda spared little when it came to engineering the rear spaces. The cargo area, which by the way holds more foot-square boxes than all the competitors but the RAV4, sports four tie-downs and a very thoughtful, molded-in bracket down near the floor at the rear for storing the EX's and EX-L's retractable cargo cover when it's not in use. Honda also managed to give the rear seats true, one-step fold-down systems, activated by pulling either a lever on the sides of the cargo area or a strap on the outboard side of the rear seat bottoms. However, the bad news is that when the rear seats are folded the cargo area is no longer perfectly flat as it was on the previous-generation model. This may make the CR-V less attractive to dog owners. The previous-generation CR-V led the class on this feature, but the new-generation model does not appear to do so. Last but far from least, the backs of the rear seats are beveled on the outboard edges so the shoulder straps on the seatbelts naturally slip around the seatbacks when they're raised from their folded positions. This is such a simple yet elegant solution to this perennial gripe about folding rear seats that it's amazing it hasn't been thought of before now. Kudos to Honda's engineers for making life just a little easier.