Driven! 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

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Since its introduction for the 1997 model year, the Honda CR-V compact SUV has become Honda’s best-selling model and the most popular small crossover on the American market. After 5 million units sold, the CR-V finally gets a hybrid. In retrospect it’s surprising that Honda took so long to come out with a hybrid option, but the CR-V Hybrid is going to enter the market as a heavy hitter.

  • CR-V Hybrid bests the gas-powered CR-V by 22 hp and best-in-class 53 lb-ft of torque.
  • All-wheel-drive and the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance and safety features are standard on all trims.
  • Fuel economy EPA-rated at 40 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 38 mpg combined.
  • Retail pricing starts at $28,870 and peaks at $37,070, including all fees.

Nuts and bolts of the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

Honda CR-V Hybrid EngineThe 2.0-liter engine with hybrid electric motor provides 212 hp and best-in-class torque of 232 lb-ft. (Photo: Jeff Zurschmiede/Ride)

The core of the CR-V Hybrid is a 2.0-liter Atkinson Cycle gasoline engine paired with an electric traction motor. The combined drivetrain output is 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque. That’s more power than the Accord or Insight hybrids deliver, and the differences don’t stop there.

The CR-V Hybrid includes mechanical all-wheel-drive, but it doesn’t have a transmission. Where all other Honda hybrids use a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the CR-V uses direct drive through reduction gears. This system eliminates a major source of parasitic power loss, helping the CR-V deliver more of its power to the wheels. The CR-V Hybrid is capable of driving up to one mile in EV mode before its battery requires the gasoline engine to engage. Driver-controlled regeneration settings allow instant transition from free-wheel coasting to aggressive throttle-off slowing.

2020 Honda CR-V HybridLED headlights are standard on all trims of the CR-V Hybrid. (Photo: Jeff Zurschmiede/Ride)

To implement all-wheel-drive, Honda connects a driveshaft at the front differential to send power to the rear axle. A clutch on the rear axle allows the all-wheel-drive system to disengage and save fuel when it’s not needed. The all-wheel-drive system can engage in a fraction of a second when wheel slip is detected.

The EPA estimates that the CR-V Hybrid will return 40 mpg in city driving, 35 mpg on the highway, and 38 mpg in combined driving.

Technology powerhouse

CR-V Hybrid Infotainment ScreenHonda placed the seven-inch infotainment screen high on the dash for easy visibility. (Photo: Jeff Zurschmiede/Ride)

The most important technology news in the CR-V Hybrid is the inclusion of the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance and safety features as standard equipment on all trims. Honda Sensing includes automatic collision mitigation braking, active lane keeping assistance, automatic road departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control. Honda offers this package on almost all models for 2020, and the system will be standard on every Honda vehicle in 2021.

Additional safety and convenience tech in the CR-V Hybrid includes standard LED headlights, automatic high beams, keyless entry and starting, remote starting, and Honda’s multi-angle rearview camera with guidelines. Higher trim levels include blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, LED fog lights, and front/rear parking sensors.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Driver Compartment The CR-V Hybrid has an intuitive and easy-to-use set of controls. (Photo: Jeff Zurschmiede/Ride)

With the exception of the base LX trim, all CR-V Hybrid models include a seven-inch display infotainment system with support for Android and Apple phone integration. Bluetooth is standard, and both GPS Navigation and Qi wireless device charging are included in the top Touring trim.

With plenty of prior experience, the tech in the CR-V Hybrid is flawlessly intuitive. Honda Sensing simply works as you expect. In the cabin, Honda has learned from previous criticism of their buttonless touch screens, so they included a real volume knob in the CR-V Hybrid audio system.

Driving the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

Honda CR-V Hybrid on Sand The all-wheel-drive system on the CR-V Hybrid is exactly appropriate for a CUV. It’s not complicated, but it will get you through the basics of off-pavement driving. (Photo: Jeff Zurschmiede/Ride)

We didn’t find anything to criticize in the CR-V Hybrid’s on-road manners. Honda has been building this CUV for 23 years. They’ve got it nailed in terms of ride quality, steering, and everything that matters.

The CR-V Hybrid is also quiet in the cabin, even on rough pavement. Audiophiles and long distance commuters will want to buy up to the top-grade Touring trim with the premium audio system to complete the experience.

You won’t miss the transmission. Honestly, you can forget about it. Between the added torque of the electric motor and the smooth-running gas engine, it’s a non-issue. Engaging the AWD system is similarly transparent. Uptake is smooth and instantaneous when you leave dry pavement. Honda prepared a sandy field to demonstrate the system and the CR-V was able to keep moving smartly even in deeply rutted sand.

CR-V Hybrid Driver Area Driving the CR-V Hybrid is easy and pleasant. (Photo: Jeff Zurschmiede/Ride)

One feature to experience on a test drive is the adjustable regeneration system. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow the driver to adjust regen intensity at any time. More intensity causes the CR-V to slow dramatically when the driver lifts his or her foot off the throttle, which is useful in commute traffic. If you would rather coast, a few quick pulls on the left-hand paddle reduce the regen action to a minimum.

How does the CR-V Hybrid measure up?

The CR-V Hybrid is designed to go head-to-head with the popular Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid. Of course, Honda had a new RAV4 on hand for direct comparisons and they were proud of the distinctions. The Honda cabin feels better than the RAV4, and the driving experience also showed the CR-V in a positive light. The CR-V is more comfortable than the RAV4, but not as comfortable as some other comparable products like Mazda’s CX-30.

Going by the numbers, the three compact CUV hybrids are comparable. The Toyota costs a little more, coming in at $39,025 for a Limited trim with the Advanced Technology package. The Ford costs a little less, at $36,740 for the Titanium trim. However, the Ford gets better mileage at 43 mpg city.  The Toyota gets better highway mileage at 38 mpg to the Honda’s 35. Toyota wins on cargo capacity at 37.5 cubic feet, compared to the Honda’s 33.2 and the Ford’s 30.7.

A solid choice

As Honda’s top-selling vehicle, Honda sweats the details on the CR-V, and they clearly did their homework developing the first-ever CR-V Hybrid. From the powerful engine package to the refined cabin, this is an SUV anyone can be happy to live with.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is an attractive and smart choice. (Photo: Jeff Zurschmiede/Ride)

The CR-V Hybrid provides good value from the base LX trim at $28,870 to the top Touring trim at $37,070. Even at the base model, the CR-V Hybrid offers all-wheel-drive, LED headlights, smart key, and Honda Sensing. Moving up the trim walk, each of the four trim levels adds attractive features, and you don’t have to buy the top of the line to get the SUV you want. Although with only $8,000 separating the entry-level from the luxury model, there’s very little reason to skimp.

Finally, many buyers will be considering the CR-V Hybrid as a family vehicle. Note that NHTSA crash tests rated this SUV with five stars, and IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick this year. On top of the fuel economy and performance, that makes the CR-V Hybrid a smart choice by any measure.

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