Automotive

Review: 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid adds a new dimension to the top-seller

Review: 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid...
We are very impressed with the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid, but it's difficult to justify the premium spent to get the hybrid when compared to the standard gasoline models
We are very impressed with the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid, but it's difficult to justify the premium spent to get the hybrid when compared to the standard gasoline models
View 14 Images
We are very impressed with the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid, but it's difficult to justify the premium spent to get the hybrid when compared to the standard gasoline models
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We are very impressed with the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid, but it's difficult to justify the premium spent to get the hybrid when compared to the standard gasoline models
This generation of the Honda CR-V was introduced in 2017, and for 2020 Honda brings a CR-V Hybrid option
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This generation of the Honda CR-V was introduced in 2017, and for 2020 Honda brings a CR-V Hybrid option
The Honda CR-V is a top-seller in the small sport utility crossover segment
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The Honda CR-V is a top-seller in the small sport utility crossover segment
The CR-V Hybrid raises fuel economy compared to its gasoline counterpart without compromising the things that have made the Honda CR-V popular
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The CR-V Hybrid raises fuel economy compared to its gasoline counterpart without compromising the things that have made the Honda CR-V popular
The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that combine to output 212 horsepower
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The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that combine to output 212 horsepower
AWD is standard in the hybrid model thanks to the electric motor powering the rear axle
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AWD is standard in the hybrid model thanks to the electric motor powering the rear axle
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid
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Like most Hondas, from standstill to the first eight or 10 miles per hour, the CR-V Hybrid feels pretty peppy
The EPA says that the 2020 CR-V Hybrid is capable of 38 mpg combined
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The EPA says that the 2020 CR-V Hybrid is capable of 38 mpg combined
Fuel economy is a big part of the reason to buy a hybrid, of course, and the returns for this Honda are probably not good enough for most people to see significant savings at the pump
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Fuel economy is a big part of the reason to buy a hybrid, of course, and the returns for this Honda are probably not good enough for most people to see significant savings at the pump
Like the standard gasoline model, the interior of the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is roomy and accommodating
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Like the standard gasoline model, the interior of the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is roomy and accommodating
Driver's controls in the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid are nearly identical to the gasoline model with the exception of a couple of hybrid-specific items like the "power" guage in the cluster and the EV drive mode button near the shifter
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Driver's controls in the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid are nearly identical to the gasoline model with the exception of a couple of hybrid-specific items like the "power" guage in the cluster and the EV drive mode button near the shifter
Our test model 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid included all the bells and whistles with a fine interior layout
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Our test model 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid included all the bells and whistles with a fine interior layout
Cargo room in the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is about six cubic feet smaller than the standard gasoline models
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Cargo room in the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is about six cubic feet smaller than the standard gasoline models
Even though slightly smaller, most will not find the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid's cargo area to be anything less than adequate
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Even though slightly smaller, most will not find the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid's cargo area to be anything less than adequate
View gallery - 14 images

The CR-V was introduced in its fifth-generation in 2017 without a hybrid model on offer. It’s not clear whether Honda held that hybrid until now in order to build suspense or if the hold-back was in order to get the hybrid just right. We aren’t sure how successful it was on those counts, but can tell you whether we think this hybrid was worth the wait.

At a Glance

  • Roomy and versatile just like the standard gasoline model
  • Because of the hybrid drivetrain’s design, all-wheel drive is standard
  • Real-world fuel economy returns aren’t as good as one might hope
  • Acceleration is sluggish, especially by today’s hybrid tech standards

The Honda CR-V is a top-seller in the small sport utility crossover segment but it faces some strong competition, so Honda needed to ensure a shot at the top spot by being in the most competitive fields for this class. That now includes electrification, especially hybrid options, with the Toyota RAV4, the CR-V’s chief rival, having a hybrid version that has won acclaim and set a high bar.

The CR-V Hybrid raises fuel economy compared to its gasoline counterpart without compromising the things that have made the Honda CR-V a top seller. Interior roominess, a large cargo space, and good all-around usefulness have been the CR-V’s best attributes from the beginning, and those remain with this new CR-V Hybrid model. Everything remains the same, in fact, in terms of headroom, legroom, etc. The exception is cargo space, which gets 6 cubic feet (170 L) smaller, a mostly imperceptible loss for most people.

The CR-V Hybrid raises fuel economy compared to its gasoline counterpart without compromising the things that have made the Honda CR-V popular
The CR-V Hybrid raises fuel economy compared to its gasoline counterpart without compromising the things that have made the Honda CR-V popular

What changes is fuel economy thanks to the hybrid-electric powertrain. The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that combine to output 212 horsepower (158 kW) in all-wheel drive. AWD is standard in the hybrid model thanks to the electric motor powering the rear axle. That power output compares to the 190 hp of the standard gasoline version and sounds impressive, but the added weight of around 300 lb (136 kg) for the CR-V Hybrid, as well as its more fuel-conscious acceleration-averse nature actually make it feel less powerful. Like most Hondas, from standstill to the first eight or ten miles per hour, the CR-V Hybrid feels pretty peppy, but after that, it loses all oomph and becomes disinterested.

That lack of panache in the powertrain translates to better fuel economy, though. The EPA says that the 2020 CR-V Hybrid is capable of 38 mpg (6.2 L/100km) combined. In our week of driving, which admittedly always results in lower than EPA combined results, our mixed driving totaled only 29 mpg (8.1 L/100km) overall. That’s far below expectations, even for our usual misses here. Highway MPG totals are far easier to test reliably and we usually get close to or above EPA numbers when testing with most vehicles. With the CR-V Hybrid, which the EPA rates at 35 mpg (6.7 L/100km) on the highway, we did get better results, but still fell under par. Our highway test netted only 31.5 mpg (7.46 L/100km) in all. For comparison, the RAV4 Hybrid we tested in 2016 achieved about the same return.

Fuel economy is a big part of the reason to buy a hybrid, of course, and the returns for this Honda are pretty good when compared to its gasoline option, but probably not good enough that most people will see a significant savings at the pump. The gasoline model is EPA rated at 34 mpg (6.9 L/100km) on the highway and we saw that without trouble in this generation when equipped with the turbocharged engine. The difference in fuel economy, at least on the highway, is negligible and won’t justify the higher price tag of the hybrid model upgrade. Around town, however, the hybrid will inherently be more fuel efficient and will without question likely save fuel. How much fuel? Not easy to say, but probably not enough to easily justify the US$1,200 price premium it carries, That’s an apples-to-apples upgrade (CR-V AWD to CR-V Hybrid AWD) price jump. Going front-wheel drive gasoline CR-V would save more than double that.

Our test model 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid included all the bells and whistles with a fine interior layout
Our test model 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid included all the bells and whistles with a fine interior layout

Where the CR-V in any format shines is in its daily usability. It’s roomy, it’s easy to understand, it’s got competent controls, and it has easy-to-use technology. It doesn’t shine in any one area particularly brightly, but it isn’t dull in any either. It’s good, basic, and all-around well done.

So the difficult point here is justifying the hybrid powertrain over and above its gasoline counterpart. We are otherwise very impressed with the CR-V on the whole. It’s a best-seller for a reason, having an excellent mix of what clearly appeals to consumers and the hybrid model doesn't change that.

Product Page: 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

View gallery - 14 images
3 comments
IdealistPragmatist
I went from an 07 Mariner Hybrid to a '12 CR-V. What I really miss from the hybrid was being in electric mode when in bumper to bumper traffic in a traffic jam, My '12 CR-V got 32mpg on a trip recently, and is great on forest service roads. But it saddens me that there's no plug-in variant at the least, nor full electric. I love the '12's 71cu' cargo space, which has gotten bigger in more recent models, and ultimately don't see a point in buying a gas powered car when I'm in the market for another in 5 years. This glacial pace with getting AWD SUVs to the market is a shame (excepting the Model X setting you back $100k
DaveWesely
I've owned a 2002 CRV and still have a 2004 Civic Hybrid. Recently purchased a Chevy Spark EV. The EV beats them all. The CRV was nice, but was replaced by a Nissan Rogue, which is larger and gets 33 MPG (One less than the CRV Hybrid.). The Civic hybrid is incredibly under-powered, not because the ICE engine is small, but because the electric assist was under-powered as well. Apparently Honda hasn't changed that on the new CRV Hybrid. Hybrids are a thing of the past. They carry all the negatives of an ICE vehicle, without the advantages of a BEV. It's time Honda gets its game together, otherwise they will become a historical footnote.
Karmudjun
I am not impressed with Honda's CR-V "roominess" in the least, but I am not the build to think their products are roomy. 6'4" and arthritis make folding down (yes, DOWN into an SUV) more difficult than I ever imagined. I'm too much of a tightwad to move on to another vehicle as yet, but I know I will think more about my frame, the overall power (my current CR-V is peppy in 1-20 mph traffic, sluggish over 35 mph) and the storage. I've been eyeing hybrids for years but all the models are lacking in one of those criteria for me. I too might prefer a plug in variant hybrid - not full electric as I do sometimes drive more than 60 miles in one day.