Honda is often times a technology leader, but in the case of the Hybrid SUV’s, it’s been a bit slow. But good news is here for those who love the CR-V and want all the goodness a Hybrid can bring – for 2020 we have the all-new CR-V Hybrid. And with Toyota turning up the heat in the segment with the excellent RAV4 Hybrid, it’s perfect timing.
CR-V Hybrid Exterior – The Best Looking CR-V Ever!
For 2020, all CR-V models get a makeover, including bolder front and rear styling and redesigned wheels. And like the Civic Coupe we recently tested, Honda seems to have perfected their style – while this is easily recognizable as a CR-V, this SUV now looks as they say in the 3 Bears – just right.
At the front is a more aggressive look, with large opening for the fog lights integrated into the lower fascia, and a more prominent grille. The slender LED headlamps are gorgeous, with Hybrid-only bar-type fogs that have lots of visual pop. And for those in the know, the Hybrid sports a blue-toned logo in the center of the grille.
Speaking of Hybrid badging, there is some on the vehicle, unlike our recent Toyota Avalon Hybrid which had none. Well, this is Honda’s first SUV hybrid for the U.S., so a little celebration is in order.
While the profile is familiar, our Touring trim tester enjoyed new 19-inch wheels that look great and fill out the wheel wells.
The rear end also looks more rugged, with new dark-tinted taillights, and on Hybrid models, a unique rear bumper with a hidden tailpipe – paying off that Eco-friendly image. Maybe our favorite part of our tester’s styling was the handsome Sonic Gray Pearl color. A bit of a Dove Gray with a hint of blue, this is a fresh modern color, and it is stunning on the CR-V. It all adds up to a beautiful vehicle.
CR-V Hybrid Interior – Special and Luxurious
Inside, the CR-V takes a step forward as well. Step into the Touring model, and the first thing that hits you is a waft of expensive leather – the smell reminds us of the high quality hides you get on more expensive European makes. There’s a tasteful pattern stitched into the seats that make it look even more upscale. Even the matte-finish faux wood looks great.
While all CR-V models get a redesigned center console with better storage options for 2020, the Hybrid stands out with a unique push-button gear selector. We’ve sampled this on other Honda models, and while we prefer a traditional lever, we are getting used to it, and it works fine. Just not very sporty.
That said, the seats offer excellent comfort, and the switchgear from the familiar instrument panel to the tablet-style display and climate controls underneath are typical Honda – well designed, easy to operate and with a slick, well-engineered feel.
You also feel like you’re getting top-shelf amenities. In the Touring, you get goodies like standard Qi-compatible wireless phone charging, 7-inch touchscreen display with satellite-linked navigation. With standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, we used our Waze app instead, and were very pleased with the display’s sharp graphics. It all sounded great too, thanks to a 9-speaker, 330-watt audio system.
The Touring continues to spoil you with goodness, including dual -zone climate control, electronic parking brake, 8-way power driver’s seat with 4-way power lumbar support, heated front seats, rear USB ports, rains sensing wipers and parking sensors.
Those in back enjoy more than just a charged smartphone. There’s a spacious rear seat as well, and while our Touring model may be luxurious, it’s still a family SUV, and the rears fold down easily and reveal a cavernous storage space. While you lose a little due to packaging of hybrid gear – gone is the adjustable cargo floor – you still have plenty of room. On the plus side, the hands-free access power tailgate makes for easy loading, while roof rails mean you can get your choice of roof accessories for surfboards, bikes, or camping gear.
CR-V Hybrid Performance – Smooth and Surprising
So far, the CR-V Hybrid is pretty much like the CR-V Touring, but the driving experience really does set it apart. It’s also an interesting comparison to the RAV4 Hybrid. While both tout high MPG, the RAV4 has really been pushing the performance potential of their new hybrid, and it is a unique set up with two EV motors driving the rear wheels, and it is an impressively quick performer.
Like the RAV, the CR-V is standard all-wheel drive, but takes a more traditional approach to the hybrid powertrain – in fact it’s mostly borrowed from the Accord Hybrid. No complaints here – it’s an excellent system.
The CR-V really scores major points in the around-town driving. It spends much of its time in EV mode, and when it does, it is not only whisper quiet, its smoothness works beautifully with the CVT transmission. With 212 horsepower and 232 lb.-ft of torque it moves away quickly, (if not RAV4 speedily), but the impression is one of hushed luxury. When you are in EV mode at low speeds it even produces a Jetsons-like warble to warn pedestrians you’re nearby. Neat stuff!
We would punch in Sport mode for added thrills, but it really wasn’t necessary – it’s impressive in standard mode. And when the gas engine kicks in, it’s quiet and subtle, with only a slight rasp (a nice one) to let you know gas power is helping out.
The Hybrid does give a nice jump in efficiency, the non-hybrid 1.5T engine rated at 27/33 City/Highway mpg climbs to 40/35 in the hybrid model. We averaged 34 mpg in mixed driving. That said, we were at 38 mpg for the RAV4. Both are impressive for relatively large vehicles carrying around a hybrid powertrain.
Speaking of weight, the CR-V Hybrid is about 200 lbs. heavier than the non-hybrid model, but we actually liked the ride and handling better – that extra weight gives the Honda a more planted feeling and a more grounded ride, which was also quite supple and smooth.
To Hybrid or Not to Hybrid? That is the Question.
We think so. You can get into a CR-V Hybrid LX for $27,850, compared to the CR-V LX AWD for $26,650 – a $1,200 difference.
We’d probably at least go for the EX Hybrid at $30,630 to add the Blind Spot Warning and Cross Traffic Monitor, Dual-zone Climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power moonroof and more. The EX Hybrid is $1,470 more than a non-hybrid model.
Our CR-V Hybrid Touring started at $36,050 (compared to $34,850 for a non-hybrid Touring AWD), and with no available options, plus $1,120 for Destination, rang the bell at $37,170.
We’d say the hybrid is a modest increase in price for an impressive increase efficiency, plus a much nicer driving experience. Worth the money.
A larger question of money is the RAV4 Hybrid, which offers stronger performance and even more efficiency. But it’s an expensive date – a comparable RAV4 Limited Hybrid comes in at $40,965. That’s a $3,800 jump, hard to justify.
We were very impressed with the 2020 CR-V Hybrid Touring. We think it’s the best-looking CR-V ever, the most refined CR-V ever, and gives you all the goodness of a hybrid with almost no penalties.
If you’re looking at CR-V’s, Hybrids, or just want a great SUV, the 2020 CR-V Hybrid is a great choice!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.