2012 Honda CR-V at the 2011 L.A. Auto Show

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  • Competes with: Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5
  • Looks like: Honda finally got a new design right
  • Drivetrain: 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, five-speed automatic transmission, front- or all-wheel drive
  • Hits dealerships: December 2011

It seems Honda isn’t going to let one of its best-sellers suffer the same fate as the recently redesigned Civic. The all-new 2012 CR-V has a strikingly different look inside and out while gaining interior room without getting larger outside. It seems like a win as the compact SUV segment starts to heat up with new entries from Ford and Mazda debuting in L.A. alongside the Honda.

More 2011 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

You can read our full review of the new 2012 Honda CR-V here. Below is our overview of the new crossover that just debuted to the public at the 2011 L.A. Auto Show.

To the eye, the CR-V may seem bigger, but it’s slightly shorter in length and height and has more interior volume and cargo room. It’s more than 10 inches shorter than a Chevy Equinox with more interior room. The Equinox has roughly 100 cubic feet, while the CR-V is rated at 101.5 cubic feet for the EX and higher trims and 104.1 cubic feet for the LX model.

It has the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed automatic as the 2011 CR-V. Through various adjustments to the engine tuning, the 2012 CR-V gains 5 extra horsepower, putting it at 185 horses and 163 pounds-feet of torque. Yet better aerodynamics and other tweaks increase the mileage substantially, to 23/31 mpg city/highway (up from 21/28 mpg). The Hyundai Tucson is rated at 23/31 mpg, and the Equinox is rated at 22/32 mpg. The just-announced 2013 Mazda CX-5 will get an exceptional 26/33 mpg but with a smaller-output engine.

For the 2012 CR-V, Honda is debuting an all-new all-wheel-drive system. It delivers up to 100 percent of the power to the front or rear wheels. It’s a lighter system helping attain big mileage gains for all-wheel-drive CR-Vs, putting it at 22/30 mpg, which almost tops the class. The comparable Equinox is rated 20/29 mpg, the Tucson gets 21/28 mpg , and the Subaru Forester is rated at 21/27 mpg with standard all-wheel drive. The just announced Mazda CX-5 will return 25/30 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Inside, the dashboard is more sophisticated in style with an all-new gauge cluster and standard LCD screen. The center console now runs from the armrest all the way to the dashboard compared with the outgoing model leaving wasted the space between the console and dash with an open floor.

Cargo room behind the backseat has increased 1.5 cubic feet to 37.2 cubic feet. Maximum cargo capacity with both rear seats folded, however, is down 2 cubic feet to 70.9. But the numbers don’t tell the full story.

The rear seats now fold flat into the floor versus the previous generation’s, which folded down and then tumbled forward against the front seats. The RAV4 is rated at 36.4 cubic feet with the second row in place and 73 cubic feet with it down. The Subaru Forester, at 33.5 and 68.3 cubic feet, and the Chevy Equinox, at 31.5 and 63.7 cubic feet, respectively, are both smaller.

We expect pricing among the trim levels to be similar to the current generation’s pricing.

Trims include the base LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi and EX-L RES. Honda categorizes equipment packages like navigation and rear entertainment systems (that’s the EX-L RES version) as separate trim levels.

The LX is well-equipped with high-tech new standard features, including a 5-inch information screen, a backup camera, Bluetooth, a USB input, Pandora internet radio capability, cruise control, 16-inch steel wheels and power windows.

There’s also standard text messaging functions that work with most new BlackBerry phones and a few Android phones, but not the iPhone.

The EX adds a six-speaker stereo, a moonroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, a one-touch up/down driver’s window, body-colored door handles and side mirrors, and a security system.

The EX-L adds leather seating, a 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, a seven-speaker stereo with satellite radio, and heated side mirrors.

The EX-L Navi features a navigation system with a 6.5-inch screen, voice recognition and live traffic info.

The EX-L RES doesn’t come with the navigation system but adds a 7-inch screen to the ceiling for the backseat and DVD player that stows in the center console.

Honda has done an impressive job of updating the CR-V for a more demanding shopper, but it also has a lot of competitors stepping up their game.

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Former managing editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon. Email David Thomas

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