In the last few years SUV buyers have continued to ditch their large bulky SUVs for smaller, more fuel-efficient models like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. One quick glance at the top-ten sales charts is proof, as models like the once-popular Ford Explorer have been swapped out by the Escape and CR-V. As more buyers switch to the small SUV/ crossover segment, the competition has become even more heated than ever before. This year two of the most popular models the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape are new. Honda released an all-new 2012 CR-V late last year and Ford's all-new 2013 Escape is just starting to arrive in dealers. We haven't had the chance to get behind the wheel of the all-new Escape yet, but Honda just gave us a chance to drive the new CR-V for a few days in Los Angeles.
How Does it Look?
On the outside, the fourth-generation CR-V picks up where the third-generation left off. While the first two-generations of the CR-V featured exteriors that we're anything but stylish, the third-generation CR-V fixed one of the biggest reasons why buyers chose not to buy previous CR-Vs, its boring styling. The fourth-generation CR-V continues this evolution and is even more stylish than the outgoing model. Its exterior actually draws some cues from Volvo's crossovers. Just take one quick look at the rear fascia; it looks pretty similar to the Volvo XC60, which is not a bad thing.
What's it Got Under the Hood?
While many of the CR-V's competitors offer more than one engine, the CR-V continues to offer only one engine, which is the same 2.4L four-cylinder as the last model. It packs 185 horsepower and is mated to a standard five-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can choose between front-wheel-drive and a new all-wheel-drive system. FWD models get 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, while AWD models get 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
How Does it Drive?
With more power under the hood than ever before, the 2012 CR-V doesn't disappoint. It packs enough power to get your around town and its engine offers the level of refinement that Honda is known for. Of course with less power on paper than the turbocharged 2.0L Ford Escape and the V6 RAV4, the CR-V will likely suffer a bit with every seat occupied and a weekend's worth of gear thrown in back. But on everyday trips, the CR-V has more than enough power to get you around. The biggest complaints we had behind the wheel of the CR-V were its tires and the lack of steering feel. The CR-V's handling was superb, but its tires couldn't quite keep up and the lack of steering feedback removed some of the CR-V's confidence on the back roads of the Santa Monica mountains.
How's the Interior?
Crossover buyers that need three-rows of seats will need to look at other crossovers like the Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander, but if you only need room for five, the CR-V should be on your list. The CR-V's interior is comfortable and spacious. It doesn't feature the cheap hard plastic that plagues the Civic and also doesn't have a dashboard that's covered in buttons, like other Honda models. The CR-V also comes standard with a rear-view camera. The only options we would like to see available on the CR-V would be a panoramic moonroof and a push button start system. The positioning of the audio system's main controller also seemed like a bit of a reach.
Would We Buy One?
The fourth-generation Honda CR-V is one of the shinning models in Honda's current lineup. While the Civic has been criticized for its interior materials and bland exterior, the CR-V is at the top of its lineup and should be checked out by anyone looking for a small, fuel-efficient crossover.
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