Year-End Crossover Mashup: 2012 Honda CR-V vs. 2012 Kia Sportage

There’s  no better small crossover choice than the hot-selling 2012 Honda CR-V. With that said, Korea is on a roll and they have shaken up the compact crossover market with the turbocharged 2012 Kia Sportage SX.




The all-new 2012 Honda CR-V features a more sophisticated appearance.  Body-lines are deeply sculpted and the front end is bold, giving the overall exterior design an aggressive stance in comparison with the previous generation.

Introduced for the 2011 model year, the 2012 Kia Sportage’s design carries over largely unchanged.  Still, my tested SX model’s LED-accented headlamps, dark-finish 18-inch alloy wheels and dual exhaust outlets give the compact crossover a menacing appearance.

Inside, the CR-V combines beauty and versatility in an appealing package, especially in my top-level EX-L w/Navigation tester.  Ergonomics are nearly perfect with every control falling readily at hand, especially for radio and climate functions.  The EX-L’s standard heated, leather-appointed front seats are comfortable, and there is an abundance of room in all five seats.

The top-level Kia Sportage SX, like the Honda, provides a lavish and versatile environment for its occupants.  High-quality plastics grace the Sportage’s dashboard while supple perforated leather envelops both rows of seating.  My SX tester’s optional premium package includes features not available on the CR-V such as a panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled driver’s seat, and push-button start with smart key access.


For 2012, the Honda CR-V’s 2.4-L i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine carries over attached to a standard 5-speed automatic transmission.  This remains the only powertrain choice in the CR-V.The 2.4’s 185 horsepower and 163 lb-ft. of torque providing adequate acceleration and passing power in most driving situations.

The CRV’s new electronic Real Time AWD system provides a greater sense of control over the previous generation’s mechanically-activated “dual-pump” offering.  Rather than require a small degree of wheel slip to activate, the new AWD system monitors all four wheels for any loss of traction and can shift power fore or aft accordingly.

The 2012 Kia Sportage SX features a standard 2.0-L turbocharged, direct-fuel-injected 4-cylinder engine.  The boosted mill’s 260 horsepower and 269 lb-ft. of torque are channeled through a 6-speed automatic transmission and Dynamax electronically-controlled AWD system.

The refined setup provided superb midrange passing power, but suffered from turbo lag and dull throttle response.  Once the turbo spools up, the 3,466-pound Sportage SX AWD rocketed forward with authority.


The 2007-2011 Honda CR-V provided an ideal balance of ride and handling, and the redesigned 2012 model is no exception.  With its MacPherson strut front/independent multi-link rear suspension setup and new Motion-Adaptive Electric Power Steering system, body motions are well controlled and highway stability is excellent.

The 2012 Kia Sportage, like the CR-V, features a MacPherson strut front/independent multi-link rear suspension setup.  Unlike the CR-V, Sportage EX and SX models employ high-performance dampers which in my SX tester provided excellent stability and a communicative nature in high-speed corners.  The ride quality on broken pavement can be jarring.


Perhaps the strongest selling point for the 2012 Honda CR-V is its versatility.  Passenger volume stands at an expansive 104.1 cubic feet, and cargo volume with the new Easy Fold-Down 60/40 split rear seat folded is 70.9 cubic feet.  A revised doorsill design with an improved step-over angle allows for easier ingress and egress.

Although the Sportage’s passenger volume registers 100 cubic feet, the interior tends to feel a bit more claustrophobic, especially for rear seat occupants.  Cargo volume with the rear seat folded is 54.6 cubic feet, a figure that is far behind the Honda.


Through 500 miles of mixed city and highway loops, my 2012 Honda CR-V averaged 22.9 MPG on regular unleaded fuel.  Long highway stretches saw upwards of 33 MPG while around-town driving typically averaged 18-19 MPG.  Honda claims the new AWD CR-V’s 22/30 city/highway MPG rating is the best among other all-wheel-drive vehicles in its class.

The 2012 Kia Sportage SX averaged 20.9 MPG on the same driving loops, due in part to my propensity to keep the turbocharged engine on-boil.  Its plentiful midrange power becomes addictive, and fuel economy suffers as a result.  Still, on the highway, the Sportage averaged 30 MPG, and it’s worth noting that the engine can also run on regular unleaded fuel – a rarity for forced-induction motors.


With an as-tested price of $30,825, my 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L AWD w/Navigation tester presents excellent value within its class.  High levels of standard feature content, excellent crash test scores and a historically strong resale value all line up to make the CR-V a popular all-around choice with few drawbacks.

My 2012 Kia Sportage SX AWD test car’s $31,440 MSRP is only slightly dearer than the CR-V, and includes the aforementioned Premium Package’s niceties.  Throw in Kia’s standard 10-year limited powertrain warranty and five-year bumper-to-bumper warranty coverage and the value proposition grows even stronger.

Whether you’re a practical enthusiast (Sportage) or enthusiastically practical (CR-V), either vehicle should perfectly suit most crossover shoppers’ tastes.

On the recommendation scale of:

–   Buy it

–   Lease it

–   Rent it, or

–   Forget it

I give the 2012 Honda CR-V a BUY IT!

The 2012 Honda CR-V should please many looking for a family-friendly crossover.  Excellent build and materials quality, a history of excellent reliability and fantastic long-term resale value make it a great candidate for an outright purchase or finance.

I give the 2012 Kia Sportage a LEASE IT!

Fantastic as the Sportage may be for enthusiasts, it may be just a touch too rough around the edges for everyday use, at least for some buyers.  Resale value has been good, but not nearly to the level of the CR-V.  Still, it’s a great choice for those who want some excitement in their ride.

Daniel Buxbaum has had a life-long passion for all things automotive. His background as a Porsche, Audi and BMW service advisor brings a more technical approach to his writing. Dan’s passion for automotive journalism secured him a position as regional manager and contributing writer for Parts & People, a multi-region automotive trade publication. Dan is also an active member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) and Motor Press Guild (MPG).