After releasing information on its Fit EV, Honda's second order of business during its press conference was to introduce the 2012 Honda CR-V. The new sport/utility has a more refined, mature look than the previous model. The biggest styling change, the one that catches the eye, is on both sides at the rear. This is where the bottoms of the windows come up to a point, and the rear roofline no longer follows the same line as the greenhouse. The initial photo didn't do the vehicle justice; while I was initially skeptical, it does look a lot better in person. However, this new side/rear-end treatment is probably the most controversial aspect of the CR-V.

With the fourth generation of the popular SUV, set to be delivered to dealerships December 15, Honda seeks to improve upon the features that made it popular, while improving refinement. It remains a five-passenger model, still powered by a four-cylinder -- a 2.4-liter with i-VTEC, with 185 hp and 163 lb-ft of torque, backed by a five-speed automatic. Fuel economy is better now, an improvement of 2 mpg city, 3 highway for front-drive models (now 23/31), and up 1 mpg city/3 highway for AWD models (22/30 mpg). Also standard is Motion-Adaptive electric power steering. The Honda's all-wheel-drive system is said to be all new, as is Eco mode. According to Honda, other improvements include a smoother ride, quieter interior, and a more comfortable cabin.

Inside, more features will be offered as standard: Bluetooth, Pandora, multi-angle rearview camera, and an SMS text-messaging system. The cabin still looks very familiar -- there's no doubt it's a Honda -- but the overall look is more upscale than it was in the past. Honda also worked to improve ease of use of the interior, making the Easy-Fold split rear seat standard and lowering the cargo floor. According to Honda, these seats will nearly fold flat. Options include a power moonroof, upgraded stereo systems, navigation, and DVD rear entertainment. One odd decision, though, was that the rear entertainment system will not be available on CR-Vs equipped with navigation. No surprise, there is a long list of safety equipment, something else Honda is known for. Stability control, VSA, ABS with Brake Assist, front, side, and side-curtain airbags, and ACE body structure are all standard.

There have been numerous improvements and upgrades to the CR-V, but unfortunately, Honda didn't announce pricing. The company did say, though, that the MSRP will be highly competitive.