Honda CR-V Hybrid 2020 review for the first time: The electrified version is something worth buying

CR-V is the foundation product of Honda in the US. Since its debut here in 1997, the automaker has sold more than 5 million copies. Last year alone, the CR-V accounted for nearly 60% of the brand’s SUV sales. Obviously, customers appreciate the combination of reliability and affordability, efficiency and spaciousness of this vehicle.

Based on the inherent goodness, the Honda CR-V Hybrid 2020 is more economical, powerful and refined than conventional models. In short, it’s an even better CR-V.

The foundation for Honda’s electrified future

Despite offering various hybrid models over the years, Honda has never had a petrol-electric SUV in its lineup in the US, but the CR-V Hybrid ultimately changed that. The introduction of this crossover is part of a greater effort to reduce emissions and improve efficiency. The automaker is aiming to electrify two-thirds of its global vehicle lineup by 2030.

To that end, this CR-V features a two-engine hybrid system under the hood, essentially the same system used in the Accord Hybrid. At the heart of this powertrain is the fuel-efficient Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter 4-cylinder petrol engine. For those electric motors, one is used for propulsion while the other is responsible for starting and generating energy. The 1.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is mounted under the rear deck and stores and releases energy according to driving conditions. The system’s total horsepower is 212, a praiseworthy increase from the 190 horsepower you get in one CR-V standard. The clock max torque is at 232 pound-feet.

Like Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, The CR-V Hybrid comes as standard with all-wheel drive. Ford, meanwhile, offers you a choice of drivetrain – Escape The hybrid can be used with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Honda CR-V Hybrid 2020

It’s hard to explain how Honda’s two-engine hybrid system works, but it works incredibly well.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

As for fuel economy, this Honda is estimated to return 40 miles per gallon city, 35 mpg highway and 38 mpg combined. According to the EPA, similarly equipped versions of both Toyota and Ford are slightly more efficient during each test cycle, but when driving in the real world you probably won’t notice the difference. The CR-V is powered by a conventional engine with all-wheel drive rated at 27 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. This means the hybrid model is almost 25% more efficient in hybrid driving, a huge difference.

The CR-V Hybrid has a number of driving modes, all of which are easily accessible via a series of chunky buttons mounted to the right of the gear selector. Sport mode increases throttle response and adopts Active Sound Control, which makes the engine more powerful. As the name suggests, Econ mode optimizes the vehicle’s performance, creating a somewhat sluggish feeling in the process. There’s also an EV mode, which allows the CR-V Hybrid to operate entirely on electricity but only for short distances.

Because this vehicle is not pure electric or plug-in hybridIts only driving, battery usage range is very limited, only about 1 or 2 miles, depending on conditions. It’s designed to drive silently through parking structures or into your garage without waking up your family, not for carbon-free cross-country driving trips.

Honda CR-V Hybrid 2020

CR-V Hybrid has a unique instrument cluster.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Responsive and refined

Not only does this powertrain feel smoother and sound less noisy than the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine found on the standard CR-V, it also delivers great performance. Thanks to the electric torque, the hybrid car is capable of breaking out, pulling well at all speeds.

This CR-V’s powertrain is much more pleasant than Honda’s previous hybrid efforts. I remember testing the Insight sedan a few years ago, and while efficient, its drivetrain was great. Engine speed and noise level are not related to the level of gas you are using. Sometimes, while gently accelerating, the engine will produce all kinds of racquets, other times just plain idle. Its behavior was a bit uncomfortable. Fortunately, the CR-V Hybrid’s drivetrain doesn’t have these bad habits. It’s quiet and smooth, fading into the background.

That commendable improvement applies to the rest of the crossover’s driving behavior. The CR-V Hybrid feels solidly and reliably solid, with no rattling or reverberation to dampen the experience. Its handlebar has a unique weight and thick rims are easy to hold.

The regenerative brake is another high point. The pedal has the right weight, neither too rough nor too squash, plus it’s easy to adjust. The regenerative braking in some hybrids feels inconsistent, with the switch between the quick electric brakes and the frustratingly clear friction brakes.

Spot the difference

The visual difference between the CR-V Hybrid and its gasoline-only counterpart is minimal. Up front, you’ll find standard LED headlights, slotted fog lights and a blue Honda logo. The front fenders feature a hybrid badge and at the rear, the Touring models have a unique bumper. There’s also a “hidden” exhaust tucked underneath the rear spoiler, though it’s still easy to spot.

Inside, the CR-V Hybrid benefits from Honda’s familiar button-shift lever instead of the cumbersome mechanical style on the standard model. It also has a unique instrument cluster that shows how well the hybrid system is performing. A pair of steering wheel-mounted paddles lets you adjust for the positive level of the regenerative brakes, a handy feature.

The CR-V Hybrid is offered in 4 grades: LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. Depending on the model, it also offers features like wireless device charging, embedded navigation and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also offered, as well as leather trim and dual-zone climate control. The Honda Sensing safety system is also standard around the globe, with features like adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist.

Honda CR-V Hybrid 2020

CR-V Hybrids has a wheel selector with a button instead of a mechanical gear lever.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Just like the regular CR-V, this petrol-electric version has a great interior. The front seats are comfortable and the second bench is spacious. The materials used are top-of-the-line, and the usability of the interior is admirable. My only real concern is about the old fashioned infotainment system, which is unattractive and confusing.

One of the best is even better

Honda CR-V Hybrid 2020 is available at dealers right now. The base price for one of these fuel-absorbing crossovers is $ 28,870, including $ 1,120 in arrival charges. That’s just $ 1,200 more than the regular LX with an all-wheel drive.

For the Touring model loaded here, it costs $ 37,070, which is a bit more than the entry-level version, but still a fair amount. If you don’t mind paying that modest surcharge, this CR-V hybrid is one of the things you should buy. It’s more refined, in some ways better to drive and, of course, much more efficient.

Editors notes: The travel costs associated with this story are covered by the manufacturer, which often occurs in the auto industry. Roadshow staff reviews and opinions are ours and we do not accept paid editorial content.

First published March 17.

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