Honda has decided to reveal this photo of the 2012 CR-V "concept." We use that last term loosely, because prior experience tells us that Honda's "concept" vehicles are virtually identical to the actual production vehicles. As proof, compare the 2012 Civic concepts that bowed in Detroit to the final production-ready cars.

The CR-V saw a mild facelift for the 2010 model year, but the redesign for 2012 is far more significant. The visual transformation begins with an entirely new nose, which incorporates more rectangular headlights, a new grille that mimics that of the Accord, restyled foglight housings, and a sporty upswept skid plate. The CR-V's body sides wear new strakes and creases, while the hatch now bows in a convex shape, as opposed to the flatter rear of the 2011 CR-V. The hatch line is echoed by the C-pillar, which takes on a boomerang shape thanks to a triangular rear side window.

The redesign makes the new CR-V appear sportier and chunkier than the version extant, although we expect that the tinted headlights, gloss-black rocker panels, and big five-spoke wheels are too showy to make it to the production car. No images of an interior have been released, but speculation suggests the new CR-V may potentially offer a third-row seat as an option.

Honda is mum on whether the CR-V will receive any mechanical upgrades, although the 2012 model is said to be more fuel-efficient than the current model. That could mean revisions to the CR-V's 2.4-liter inline-four engine, or perhaps a switch from the standard five-speed automatic to a six-speed unit. The 2011 CR-V is rated at 21/28 mpg (city/highway) in front-wheel-drive configuration, or 21/27 mpg with four driven wheels.

The CR-V doesn't need any help attracting customers, with healthy sales of 203,714 units in 2010 and 110,916 through the first six months of 2011. Still, an upgrade for the 2012 model year will help Honda's most popular SUV stay fresh as other manufacturers launch or redesign competing compact crossovers. Expect the new 2012 CR-V to go on sale by the end of 2011.

Source: Honda