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First Drive: 2012 Honda CR-V

Aiming to gain the advantage.

by on Nov.16, 2011

Honda weighs in with the fourth-generation CR-V getting its official launch at the L.A. Auto Show.

The folks with the fancy MBAs like to call it the “first-mover advantage.”  Discover a need or niche and fill it before the competition does.  If your product resonates with consumers you’ll likely get a lock on the market.

And that’s precisely what happened when Honda introduced the original CR-V, 15 years ago, creating what is now one of the fastest-growing niches in the automotive market: the compact crossover.  The Honda CR-V has been the perennial favorite among American shoppers – though the king has tumbled down the hill in recent months as the result of production shortages caused by the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan last March.

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Now, as its plants slowly get back to normal, the Japanese maker is ready to roll out a fourth-generation of its compact CUV, but whether the 2012 Honda CR-V can regain its lead remains to be seen.  It has a lot going for it, like an easy-to-use, 1-touch system for folding down the rear seats. But the crossover also suffers from a few glaring flaws — notably a numb new steering system — that could provide an opening for the next-generation 2012 Ford Escape, the outgoing domestic model already outselling the CR-V.