The 2012-2016 Honda CR-V was a game-changer for the compact SUV segment.
The last full year for the previous-generation Honda CR-V was in 2011. That’s when dealers sold almost 209,000 new models. In 2012, after the fourth-generation model finished its first full year on the market, sales had spiked to more than 311,000 units. To put that into context, the Toyota RAV4 gained about 1,000 sales during the same time. It ended 2012 with not quite 172,000 units sold. The CR-V’s archrival didn’t break the 300,000-sales mark until 2015.
The differences between the third- and fourth-generation Honda CR-V, and between the CR-V and RAV4 of the same period, were that important for new-car customers. Today, they also can be pretty important if you’re shopping for a used SUV. Just consider the advantages that we’ve covered below.
It All Starts with Standard Technology
One of the most relevant changes for used-car shoppers has to do with the CR-V’s standard technology. Although the 2011 model offers a rearview camera and Bluetooth for hands-free calling, those features are optional and limited to the most expensive CR-V trim. They’re also bundled with the available navigation system, which raises the cost even more. The 2012 Honda CR-V was the first with Bluetooth and a rearview camera as standard content on the LX entry trim. Further, both technologies are enhanced for the fourth generation. The Bluetooth system for the 2012 CR-V adds audio streaming, and the conventional single-view camera from the 2011 models becomes a multi-angle unit.
The standard display for the advanced camera is part of the new “i-MID.” This “Intelligent Multi-Information Display” is a 5-inch screen that additionally shows audio and other vehicle information. As for the standard audio system for the 2012 CR-V, that includes a four-speaker audio system with a USB port, auxiliary input jack and compatibility with Pandora internet radio. The CR-V provides SMS text-messaging support for a further handy bonus. This can “read” incoming text messages and reply with preselected responses.
To help manage all these features, a multifunction steering wheel is standard with audio, phone and i-MID controls. Steering-wheel-mounted cruise control is standard as well.
Two new infotainment options stand out for the 2012 CR-V. First off, the CR-V’s navigation system switches from last year’s DVD-based memory to Flash-based technology for quicker operation. For easier navigation on the highway, you can select a split-screen view on the 6.5-inch touch screen. That allows the system to show a conventional map view on one side and a 3-D visualization on the other. You can operate the navigation system with voice, touch and joystick controls. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system also debuts. Great for family road trips, it works with a 7-inch drop-down LCD display.
Like most mainstream vehicles from the same era, the fourth-generation CR-V doesn’t offer high-tech driver-assistance measures beyond its rearview camera. But it does have a standard expanded-view driver’s side exterior mirror. And it received strong crash-test ratings. The 2012 CR-V earned a Top Safety Pick grade from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a 5-Star Overall Safety Score from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Keeping True to Its SUV Roots
The fourth-generation Honda CR-V then complements those benefits with increases in SUV-style capability.
No one will mistake the CR-V for an off-roader. Yet it does offer an upgraded version of Honda’s “Real Time” all-wheel-drive system. The newer, electronically controlled system reduces wheel slip compared to the mechanical setup it replaces. All fourth-generation CR-V models, even the ones with standard front-wheel drive, come with new hill-start assistance technology. This prevents the vehicle from rolling backward as you move your foot from the brake to the gas pedal when the CR-V is on an incline.
In the cabin, Honda engineers adjusted the layout to maximize space when the whole family’s on board. The fourth-generation CR-V has slightly more passenger volume than the third-generation model. It also has an extra 1.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. Total cargo space is down 2 cubic feet, but that leaves an ample 70.9 cubic feet with the standard 60/40-split back seats folded.
Less Gas for More Power
The 2012 Honda CR-V enjoys small bumps in output and efficiency from its updated powertrain. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 185 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. This represents increases of 5 horsepower and 2 pound-feet of torque. Compared to the previous generation, the fuel-economy grades for the 2012 CR-V go up by 2 mpg city and 1 mpg highway for front-wheel-drive models. EPA ratings for models with all-wheel drive rise by 1 mpg city and 2 mpg highway. As a result, the 2012 ratings for front-wheel-drive CR-V were 23/30 mpg city/highway. The numbers for the all-wheel-drive model are 22/29 mpg city/highway. The 2012 Toyota RAV4? Its highest EPA ratings, with front-wheel drive, trail the CR-V’s by 2 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway.
Carrying over with a Touch of Luxury
The 2012 Honda CR-V was impressive enough that no changes were made for the 2013 or 2014 model years. Those models continued to deliver not only the benefits we’ve already mentioned, but also a number of high-end luxuries. For example, a power moonroof is available in EX and EX-L trim levels. In that final, range-topping trim, standard content includes leather-trimmed seats, a heated front row, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Next-generation Technology for the Fourth-generation CR-V
The Honda CR-V saw some fairly significant changes when it was refreshed for the 2015 model year. These include stylish new design elements such as LED daytime running lights that are standard above the entry trim. The fourth-generation CR-V also introduced a Touring trim level at the top of the lineup. It has its share of luxury content, but perhaps more notable are the Touring model’s new safety technologies. They include forward collision warning, automatic forward braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and Honda’s camera-based LaneWatch blind spot system. It captures live video from a rearward facing camera on the passenger-side exterior mirror, then stream it live to the infotainment screen.
For all fourth-generation CR-V trim levels, a new standard powertrain combines a direct-injection 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The engine makes the same 185 horsepower as in 2014, but with an 11 percent increase in torque. The 2015 CR-V provides 181 pound-feet. At the same time, the CR-V’s EPA ratings climb to 27/33 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models improve to 26/32 mpg city/highway.
Some Final ‘Special’ Advice
If you’re in the market for a fourth-generation Honda CR-V, you may come across the 2016 Special Edition. Though it offers a lot of the basic advantages we’ve already mentioned, you should know that this model slots right above the LX entry trim. The “Special” content includes 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a two-tone exterior, a security system and privacy glass for the second-row and rear windows. Originally priced at $800, the package should increase the cost of a pre-owned CR-V by much less.