by Jay Traugott
When hybrid variants of existing models first came onto the scene several years ago, their respective fuel economy figures were not always a whole lot better than their pure internal combustion engine siblings. Things are very different today. Within the next few years, expect to see hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and pure electric vehicles replace straight-up gasoline engines entirely. In the meantime, hybrid model variants have dramatically improved and the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is proof.
Based on the fifth-generation CR-V, launched for 2017, the CR-V lineup returns for 2020 with a mild mid-life facelift and, more importantly, the long-awaited hybrid variant. It couldn't have come at a better time because the CR-V's long-time rival, the Toyota RAV4, sports a formidable hybrid variant of its own that has quickly become a segment leader. Can the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid dethrone its fellow Japanese rival in both sales and fuel economy? Time will tell, but Toyota should definitely pay attention.
1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Hybrid
For 2020, all Honda CR-Vs receive some light exterior updates such as a more pronounced chrome grille, revised front bumper, and LED fog lights for higher trim levels. The CR-V Hybrid, meanwhile, receives distinctive bar-type fog lights with five LEDs. Hybrids are also set apart with some special badging, specifically a blue Honda logo placed in the center of the grille and a unique rear bumper. Interestingly, the CR-V Hybrid features a hidden tailpipe.
Like the non-hybrid CR-V, hybrid models are offered in the same trim levels, EX, EX-L, and Touring. All 2020 CR-Vs, however, ride on 18-inch wheels while the top-of-the-line Touring trim comes with 19-inch wheels. Honda has also expanded this year's color palette with Sonic Gray Pearl and Radiant Red Metallic.
While the overall design is the same, there are a few slight differences between the CR-V and its hybrid cousin. For starters, there is a push-button gear selector with switches for the Econ, Sport, and EV modes located nearby. The Econ mode alters throttle inputs to help maximize fuel efficiency, while the Sport improves throttle response for more energetic driving. Honda even added something called Active Sound Control which enhances engine sound. EV Mode, meanwhile allows the CR-V Hybrid to function on electric-only power but only when the battery has sufficient charge.
The CR-V Hybrid's instrument panel also has a display for power/charge status and a driver-selectable display for power distribution and regeneration. And speaking of regeneration, all CR-V Hybrids have deceleration selector paddles on the steering wheel for the purpose of increasing the amount of regenerative braking from the hybrid system's electric motor when decelerating.
The Honda Sensing safety suite of driver-assistance technologies is standard for all 2020 CR-Vs, including Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation, and Lane Keeping Assist. A 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Navigation also come as standard.
The CR-V Hybrid comes powered with a familiar powertrain: a 2.0-liter, 16-valve Atkinson cycle engine with greater than 40 percent thermal efficiency, and two electric motors. This is the same powertrain found in the Accord Hybrid. Total output in the CR-V Hybrid is rated at 212 horsepower – a full 22 hp more than non-hybrid CR-Vs. All-wheel drive is standard because the electronic clutch sends power to the rear wheels when traction is low.
Official EPA fuel economy ratings have yet to be released, though Honda estimates a 50 percent increase in city fuel economy rating compared to the regular CR-V. If so, then expect the CR-V Hybrid to return about 45 mpg during city driving.
The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is expected to go on sale early next year. Pricing has yet to be announced, but we don't expect a major difference between hybrid and non-hybrid models. The outgoing 2019 Honda CR-V, for reference, has a starting price of just below $25,000.
Competition is fierce in this compact crossover segment, but since the CR-V and its Toyota RAV4 rival were among the first to market over 20 years ago, both have a loyal following. The all-new Ford Escape will also be a formidable foe because it was just completely redesigned whereas the CR-V is already a few years old. This facelift and, more importantly, the addition of the hybrid variant will help keep the CR-V one of the segment's best-sellers.