The first hybrid CR-V—ever
The irony couldn’t be more real. As I was driving a 2020 CR-V Hybrid from Tucson, Arizona, to Los Angeles, President Trump announced the U.S. was buying barrels of crude oil after its price plummeted nearly 30 percent in one day. Although the move was made in an effort to boost the economy given the novel coronavirus outbreak and its effect on markets around the world, gas prices have been relatively low in the U.S. for a number of years, and Trump wants them even lower. Oil prices were at their lowest in over a decade, and here I was, driving the first hybrid SUV Honda has offered in the U.S.
The CR-V Hybrid represents a big step for Honda. It’s the first electrified CR-V and the first all-wheel-drive hybrid vehicle for the automaker. Although the Insight and Accord Hybrid have been around for a few generations, Honda hadn’t ventured into the green SUV world, and this CR-V is part of the brand’s goal of having two-thirds of its global sales electrified by 2030, with hybrids accounting for 50 percent of those sales. (In contrast, in 2019 only 7 percent of global sales were hybrids.)
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: What’s Different
The hybrid powertrain is available in all four trims—LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring. Besides the powertrain, there are few differences between the gas CR-V and the hybrid. Aesthetically, the exterior Honda badges on the front and back have a blue surround on hybrid models, the rear bumper has been redesigned to hide the exhaust pipe, and there are hybrid badges on the sides. All CR-V hybrids except the LX get five-LED foglights. Inside, the biggest difference is the lack of a spare tire; hybrids get a tire repair kit and miss out on the two-level cargo floor the gas CR-V has. The CR-V Hybrid’s gear shifter has been replaced by pushbuttons, and the screen on the instrument panel adds graphics and information on the powertrain’s work. Also exclusive to the hybrid are four driving modes—Sport, Econ, EV, and Normal.
The biggest differences lie under the skin. The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid uses the same two-motor system as the Accord Hybrid, which gets a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine that produces 143 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque. An electric motor produces 181 hp and 232 lb-ft, which means that its 212 combined horsepower make it 22-hp more powerful than the gas version. That power is sent to all four wheels by way of an e-CVT transmission. A 1.3-kW-hr lithium-ion battery lies under the cargo floor, taking the space of the spare tire in the gas model. All CR-V Hybrids come with standard all-wheel drive, and it’s the same mechanical system used in the gas model, not an electrified rear axle.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: MPG
You buy a hybrid because you care about the environment and want to save on gas, and the CR-V hybrid delivers 40/35/38 mpg city/highway/combined. That’s better than the gas AWD CR-V’s 27/32/29 mpg but not quite as good as the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (41/38/40 mpg) or the Ford Escape Hybrid (43/37/40 mpg).
Although hybrids don’t really shine on the highway, I was surprised by the low fuel economy numbers I got during my drive back from Tucson to Los Angeles. According to the CR-V’s computer, I averaged 26.7 mpg after driving 516.1 miles. My choice to take the scenic and slightly longer Interstate-8 route didn’t really help the CR-V Hybrid’s case—at one point the route includes a steep hill climb of more than 4,000 feet—but by the time I cruised down to sea level and got home, the mpg numbers were way off the EPA’s ratings.
During the launch in Tucson I got to briefly drive the RAV4 Hybrid and CR-V Hybrid back to back on the same roads. After the 11.1-mile loop, the Toyota averaged 46.7 mpg, and the Honda registered 38.8 mpg—a dramatic difference. We’ll have more rigorous testing on the RAV4 Hybrid and CR-V Hybrid soon, so stayed tuned for that.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: How Does it Drive?
After spending one year in our 2018 Honda CR-V LX long-termer, there were few things I disliked about its driving chops. We enjoyed the CR-V so much, we named it our 2018 SUV of the Year, and last year it won a Big Test comparison against eight other compact SUVs. So, how does the CR-V Hybrid handle?
Depending on the driving mode, the experience is very different. In Normal mode, there’s decent power for an SUV this size. The low-end torque helps the CR-V Hybrid get going, but press down the throttle, and the engine will roar—and not in a good way. That was especially true on the I-8 hill climb, but there was never a sense of struggle; although the engine note was loud, the power delivery was always there.
Switch to Sport mode, and the experience becomes a bit more dynamic. There’s more punch coming from the powertrain thanks to a more aggressive throttle mapping. Econ mode turns things down significantly; it severely limits power to get the most fuel-efficient drive. EV mode lasts only about a mile, and performance in this mode really depends on the charge of the battery and the throttle input. Naturally, Sport mode was the most fun but comes with a big hit to fuel economy.
The CR-V Hybrid’s suspension is just as good as the gas CR-V, delivering a comfortable ride with low body roll and few vibrations in the cabin. Its steering is light but precise and delivers plenty of feedback on what’s happening at the wheels. The ride is also quiet, with little wind or tire noise—even at freeway speeds.
The paddle shifters are a cool feature. Instead of working with the transmission, they let the driver choose between three different levels of regenerative braking. Normal braking is also strong, with a good feel from the pedal and terrific stopping power.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Interior
Because the current-gen CR-V was designed with the hybrid model in mind, there are almost no compromises in terms of interior space. The only difference is that buyers won’t get a spare tire and lose the two-level cargo floor. Other than that, though, everything remains the same.
For 2020 all CR-Vs (hybrid or gas) get a redesigned center console that now offers more storage space. There are three different configurations that will allow items as big as a purse to fit in. Additionally, Touring trims get a wireless phone charger. Interior space continues to be one of the CR-V’s strongest points, with great passenger space and ample cargo room. Hybrid models still get the 60/40 split-folding second-row seats, and they fold completely flat.
After driving almost eight hours from Tucson to L.A., I found the seats to be quite comfortable and I didn’t really feel tired or in need of a stretch. The cushion and quality of the leather are terrific. Touring models also get faux wood along the center console, dashboard, and door panels, which ups the look of the cabin. One thing I’d like to see is a newer infotainment system; the old system is slow and needs better graphics.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Safety
All Honda CR-Vs, regardless of the trim or powertrain, come with standard Honda Sensing, a suite of safety and driver assistance technologies that reduce stress and increase safety for all passengers. Included in Honda Sensing are collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control for stop-and-go traffic, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation. I used adaptive cruise control on a big part of my drive home, and it made the trip even more comfortable. The CR-V always stayed between the lane lines and slowed down precisely when I approached another car on the freeway.
All 2020 CR-Vs received the Top Safety Pick award from IIHS, even after the institute came up with stricter standards for 2020.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Value
Honda strategically priced the CR-V Hybrid to compete against the RAV4 Hybrid and Escape Hybrid, and it comes in the least expensive of the three. Consequently, the hybrid powertrain in the CR-V is just a $1,200 premium over the gas versions with AWD.
The CR-V AWD Hybrid LX starts at $28,870and includes keyless entry, push-button start, one USB port, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The EX starts at $31,380 and adds 18-inch wheels, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two USB ports, dual-zone climate control and body colored mirrors with turn signals. For $33,870, the EX-L trim adds a heated steering wheel, ambient lighting, leather seats, a power tailgate, auto dimming rearview mirror, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter. Finally, for $37,070 the Touring adds 19-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, wireless charging, navigation, roof rails, rain-sensing wipers, and a hands-free liftgate.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Should I Buy It?
The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is a versatile and spacious crossover that builds on the already likable CR-V. Its value and handling make it an attractive SUV, but we wish its real-world fuel efficiency numbers were better.
Gas prices may be low, but with Honda’s first hybrid SUV on the market, the CR-V will continue to be a popular model.
|2020 Honda CR-V AWD Hybrid|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/143-hp/129-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; plus 181-hp/232-lb-ft electric motor, 212-hp combined|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,650-3,750 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||182.1 x 73.0 x 66.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.0-7.5 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||40/35/38 mpg|