Thursday, April 12, 2012

Honda sales champ has good reason to gloat

Sacramento, California – Quick, what was the best-selling light truck in car-crazy California last year?

I’m guessing those that guessed the Honda CR-V are in the minority. The Honda sales champ accounted for 21,863 new-vehicle registrations in the Golden State last year, according to the California New Car Dealers Association.

Pretty impressive. Even more impressive: The CR-V has undergone an extensive make-over for the 2012 model year. Simply put, the fourth-generation CR-V is a major improvement over the third.

The latest CR-V has been restyled for the better, has greater fuel efficiency, handles better and contains more standard features. For those who have been delaying purchase of a CR-V – a relatively small group, judging from the recent sales numbers – now is the time to get the best one Honda has yet made.

You can get a base LX with two-wheel drive for around $22,000 and change or run up through the 10, count ’em, TEN! trim levels to get exactly what you want. My tester was the top-level EX-L version with all-wheel drive and a navigation system. Even with that and a ton of standard goodies, the starting price is a reasonable $29,795.

That standard list, by the way, is loaded with luxury-level perks – heated front seats, leather surfaces and a rearview camera to name just a few. That’s bolstered by an extensive lineup of primo safety features.

Gas mileage is OK at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Cargo capacity when the 60/40 fold-down seatbacks are in the down position is cavernous. Five large people have plenty of room when the CR-V is in full-people-transport mode.

Styling on the CR-V is pleasingly angular and modern, giving it about as much sexiness as you can expect in a mainstream SUV these days.

On the roll, the tester was smooth and quiet, and dare I say agile like a midsize sedan. The 2.4-liter in-line 4 VTEC engine is peppy with 185 horses, and even its loudest groans at full power were relatively by the time they made it inside the cockpit.

Car reviewers go through this process of trying to find something wrong with the cars they test, but this CR-V makes that a serious challenge.

I don’t know, maybe I’d feel better if Honda was giving them away or selling them on the lots for a hundred bucks.

Yeah, I know: That’s going to happen in my dreams.

But the wide-awake reality is this: The latest CR-V shapes up as the affordable SUV of your dreams. I expect Honda dealers will continue to ring them up in big numbers throughout the remainder of 2012.

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