When it finally starts rolling off the Ontario assembly and into dealers across the country in January, the 2012 Honda CR-V will have suffered an unexpectedly lengthy gestation period. It has been delayed by parts shortages due to the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March and record deadly floods in Thailand last month
While excruciating for Honda dealers and fans, the wait will have been worth it for consumers. Virtually every aspect of the 4th-generation CR-V has been upgraded. It is good timing as the compact SUV segment that was getting underway when the first CR-V arrived in 1997 is now the 2nd biggest in the country after compact cars.
Truck sales now account for more than 57% of the market, with compact SUVs making up 30% of that, having grown 50% in the past 5 years!
Every major volume manufacturer has a player in this game, many of them new within recent months. The good news is the new CR-V can stand toe-to-toe with any of them thanks to clever packaging, aggressive pricing and intelligent engineering. The goal from the 1st day of development was 3 pronged: the feeling and efficiency of a car, the functionality of a minivan and the confidence of an SUV. The resulting package is slightly shorter and lower, lighter and offers more space, performance and fuel efficiency.
The 2012 CR-V is new from bumper-to-bumper. The engine is the only significant component carried over from the outgoing model but it has been extensively updated.
The driver sits taller, facing an entirely new instrument panel. The cargo area is the largest in the segment with a lower floor and impressive depth below the window line. Bluetooth with streaming audio and text-messaging capability and a rear view camera are standard and while prices have not been locked in this far in advance of full production, Honda says it will hold to 2011 model year pricing despite the addition of $1,500 to $2,500 worth of new equipment or features dependent on trim level.
The exterior styling is similar to, but an advance on, the current CR-V. The biggest changes evident appear at the front and rear. The interior bears no resemblance to the old model other than the steering wheel is in the front left position — and that wheel is now populated with controls for various audio and other functions, even on the least expensive model. The dash is divided into Driving and Information ‘interfaces’ or zones. The driver gets all the necessary information and controls and both he and the passenger have access to everything else, including the now standard information screen, which will display text messages when a smart phone is connected. A rear view camera with a choice or three viewing angles and expanded driver side mirror are also included on all rim levels.
The console has a number of clever touches and more than ample storage inside and alongside. The second row seats also showcase some clever thinking. Tug on a handle in the cargo area or a strap at the base of the seat and the head restraint and seat back fold and the seat bottom flips forward and the whole thing lies down with no further intervention or effort. The rear seat back is split 60/40 and the cargo area is an impressive 589 litres with the 2nd row seats in use.
Internal friction in the 2.4-litre 4 cylinder engine has been reduced by 5.4%, this and other changes have put 5 more horses in the corral. Reduced weight, attention to aerodynamics, especially beneath the relatively tall vehicle, and a myriad of other detail have resulted in mileage ratings of 9.2 litres/100 km in the city and 6.6 on the highway reductions of 12% and 8.9% respectively.
A new Real-Time AWD system, weighing 17% less and benefitting from 59% less drag, has been developed. Whereas the old 1 waited for the front wheels to slip before transferring power to the rear, the new version automatically sends some power to the rear every time the CR-V starts off from rest — up to 100% if necessary. When it reaches cruising speed all power is sent to the front wheels for maximum fuel efficiency and stability. It also works in concert with the standard electronic stability control system to minimize under-steer and over-steer in the corners
The CR-V is equipped with a ‘training’ system called ECON, which changes the instrument panel lighting from white to green when the driver is operating in a fuel efficient manner. There is also an ‘eco’ button to the left of the steering wheel which softens throttle response and transmission operation for u to 10% more mileage lights change from white to green when driving efficiently.
The rear suspension had been upgraded, bending rigidity increased by 7% and torsional rigidity by 9%. Engine and road noise have been considerably improved as was clearly evident in back-to-back drives over a variety of surfaces with the new and existing models. The only complaint after this 1st drive of a few hundred kilometres was a great deal of reflection from the top of the instrument panel in the more steeply sloped windshield of the new CR-V.
The 2012 Honda CR-V will be available in LS, EX, EX-L and Touring trim, the latter replacing the EX-L with leather offered previously. A five-speed automatic transmission and hill start control are standard on all models and the new all-wheel-drive system on EX-L and Touring models. AWD will be available on the LX and EX models.
Standard equipment on all trims includes: heated seats, ABS, ESC, 4-wheel disc brakes, heated power mirrors, Bluetooth, compass, cruise control, tilt and telescope steering wheel, outside temperature indicator, power locks and windows, remote keyless entry, USB jack, 5-inch-Imev display, and steering wheel controls for audio and a rear view camera
The LX trim has $2,500 more content than the current model, the EX $1,900, EX-L $1,750 and the Touring $1,500 more. Prices will cover the $25,00-$35,000 range.
Parts shortages tough on Honda
Beset by one hiccup after another, the new 2012 Honda CR-V appears set to hit dealers in January.
Originally scheduled for release this fall, the 4th-generation of what might have been the original compact SUV was 1st delayed by the tragic earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March that shut down the facilities of many suppliers in Japan.
That same earthquake also caused considerable damage to the company’s R&D headquarters in Tochigi.
Working at a fevered pace, Honda and the suppliers managed to get the supply chain back intact in record time. Production of many Hondas was getting back to normal, including the new 2012 Civic in Alliston, Ontario.
The same facility was ramping up for the new CR-V when tragedy struck again, this time in Thailand last month where massive flooding, the worst in 50 years, literally put out of business facilities producing electronic components used in every single Honda and Accord product built around the world, as well as those of many other companies.
That same flooding also shut down production of some Honda motorcycles and small power equipment. By Nov. 2, Honda production around the world was down by 50%.
It was not a case of cleaning up and resuming production, these plants were completely submerged and are not expected to be back in operation for many months if not years. Honda couldn’t wait that long — dealers were already crying for more Civics and can’t wait for the new CR-V. New suppliers with sufficient capacity and quality were identified and located, Civic output is nearing normal and CR-V production is scheduled to begin in January with deliveries to dealers to follow immediately.
Jerry Chenkin, executive vice-president of Honda Canada, says it has been a "very trying year," a "perfect storm" of sorts with production of its 2 best-selling vehicles severely restricted just as new models were being introduced "by terrible events that were out of our control."
The Civic has been the best-selling car in Canada for more than 12 years and the CR-V continuously in contention for runner-up honours in the 2nd biggest segment of the Canadian market — compact SUVs. Honda has sold more than 5 million CR-Vs, 260,000 of them in Canada.
Last year saw record sales of 25,000 and this year appears set to outpace even that level — without the new model and dependent upon the supplier issue.
The CR-V is sold in 160 countries, but those sold in Canada are produced exclusively in Ontario. The Ontario plant will add 400 additional jobs when full production of the Civic from Plant One and CR-V from Plant 2 get underway.
70% of all Hondas sold in Canada are built in Canada and 94% of all Honda and Acura products sold here are built in North America.
The parts shortages have been especially tough on Honda and the Ontario plant, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year after producing in excess of 5.4 million vehicles, about 80% of them exported from Canada.