The latest edition of Honda's successful CR-V compact crossover doesn't mess with the approach that has served the little SUV so well for four generations, with innovative packaging and a high-quality driving experience. Consider Motor Trend's review of the 1997 Honda: "The CR-V is a marvel of interior packaging, with more functional passenger and cargo space than most other sport/utes under $30,000."

Other updates for 1999 didn't interfere with the most amusing CR-V feature: an on-board picnic table. Our review of the 1999 CR-V was gushing: "Blessed with easy entry/exit and an elevated seating position, it's a breeze to maneuver in traffic, a snap to park, quite adept at light off-road duty in AWD configuration, and still provides great room for four adults on long runs and five for short stints."

Even so, we couldn't help but suggest Honda drop a V-6 under the CR-V's hood for a sport-tuned variant -- something we have yet to see.

Once Honda refreshed the second-generation model, we reviewed the 2005 CR-V, appreciating a growing list of standard and optional features plus excellent fuel economy and communicative steering. We weren't fans of the cheap interior materials, though.

By the 2007 model year, Honda's CR-V was renewed again, with an upgraded 166-hp four-cylinder engine that didn't really change performance: "Combine that with the 60 or so pounds the CR-V gained, and it's no surprise it doesn't blow the doors off the competition."

That trait hasn't changed, unfortunately, for the 2012 model, which still uses a five-speed automatic transmission: "Honda has made the five-speed's gears longer for better efficiency, to the detriment of passing performance. Drop the hammer, and you'll often find yourself in a higher gear than you'd like, and below the powerband, which peaks rather high in the rev range."

The 2012 Honda CR-V faces a vastly different market from then one in which the 1997 Honda CR-V first entered. Despite the new competitors, the new Honda CR-V appears to pick up where its predecessor left off, maintaining the basic characteristics that have made it so popular.