2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

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2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid First Drive Review: Taking On The Big Boys

Five years ago, Toyota decided to introduce a hybrid version of its best-selling RAV4 crossover, catching other automakers off guard. It may be a few years late to the game, but the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid has just arrived ready to cross swords with the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and the Ford Escape Hybrid in the compact crossover segment. New for 2020, this is the first time Honda has offered a hybrid SUV in the United States and it will be needed if the company has any hopes of dethroning Toyota as the sales king.

The CR-V Hybrid is part of a greater facelift for the 2020 model year that also improves the standard CR-V. But while the gasoline CR-V's drivetrain remains unchanged, the hybrid borrows its heart from the popular Accord Hybrid. The main benefit of this new hybrid drivetrain is an EPA-rated 40-mpg in the city. But Toyota and Ford's hybrids will also hit this mpg figure, so the CR-V will have to offer more in order to be competitive. Honda flew us out to Tucson, Arizona to uncover the CR-V Hybrids strengths.

Is the 2020 Honda CR-V a good SUV?

  • Exterior Design 8 /10
  • Performance 9 /10
  • Fuel Economy 9 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 10 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 7 /10
  • Reliability 9 /10
  • Safety 10 /10
  • Value For Money 9 /10
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2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Models

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Hybrid LX
2.0L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Hybrid EX
2.0L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Hybrid EX-L
2.0L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Hybrid Touring
2.0L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)

See all Trims and Specs

Exterior Design: A Nip Tuck

All CR-V models have been facelifted for the 2020 model year with new headlight and wheel designs. The top Touring trim gets new 19-inch wheels, which are an inch larger than last year's model. You can tell a CR-V Hybrid apart from a standard one via its unique bumper design, rectangular 5-element LED fog lights (EX trim and above), blue-tinted Honda badge, unique rear bumper, and hybrid badges. We dig the CR-V Hybrid's wide stance and upmarket appearance but buyers looking for a more off-road-oriented design may prefer the RAV4.

Two all-new colors are available on the CR-V Hybrid including Sonic Gray Pearl and Radiant Red Metallic (pictured here). Both colors looked great although we'd like to see Honda offer a black package to delete some of the car's chrome elements.

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Engine, Performance, & MPG: 40 Is The Magic Number

Instead of the standard CR-V's 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, the hybrid uses a 2.0-liter i-VTEC Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder producing 143 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque on its own. When combined with two electric motors, a generator/starter motor, and a 181-hp propulsion motor, the CR-V Hybrid produces a total output of 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque. While just shy of the RAV4 Hybrid, this is the most powerful (and efficient) version of the CR-V. Just like the Accord Hybrid, the CR-V Hybrid sends its power out through four fixed-ratio gear sets and a lockup clutch rather than a traditional transmission. But unlike the RAV4 Hybrid, which uses an electric motor in the rear, the CR-V Hybrid has a true mechanical all-wheel-drive system.

Power may be a side effect of the hybridization but the main result is the best fuel economy of any CR-V model. The EPA rates the CR-V Hybrid at 40/35/38 mpg city/highway/combined. These numbers fall short of the RAV4 Hybrid and Escape Hybrid but are still well above the segment average.

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Interior Design: Upscale As It Can Be

All CR-V models receive updated interiors with a new center console design and integrated wireless charger on the top Touring trim level. The new center console armrest offers several configurations to accommodate items as large as a purse. Honda's interior materials are high-quality, including rear leather seating surfaces on the Touring trim. Honda's use of imitation wood gives the cabin an upmarket feel but certain features such as ventilated seats, heated rear seats, and a surround-view camera have been left out because Honda would like to reserve them for the Acura brand.

Honda says the hybrid packs the same 105.9 cubic feet of interior space as the standard CR-V, which is class-leading in the segment. Hybrid models can be distinguished via a new digital cluster with a hybrid-specific power flow meter and a shift-by-wire gear selector with push-button controls. A five-inch display comes standard on the LX trim but all other trims get a seven-inch display that still feels small and a bit laggy compared to competitors. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available on all but the base trim while the speaker count ranges from four to nine depending on trim.

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Trunk & Cargo Space: Passengers Before Stuff

The CR-V Hybrid delivers commendable but not class-leading cargo capacity. 33.2 cubic feet of storage space is available behind the second row and the rear seats can be folded nearly flat to accommodate 68.7 cubic feet of space. This may not be the largest capacity amongst compact crossovers but the CR-V does boast 40.4 inches of rear legroom, which is the most of any vehicle in this segment. So if carrying passengers is a greater priority than cargo hauling, the CR-V bests all of its rivals.

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Driving Impressions: Not Just A Boring Hybrid

Honda's propensity for building fun and economical vehicles hasn't been forgotten on the CR-V Hybrid. It offers a commendably enjoyable driving experience with direct steering, controllable body roll, and accessible power (especially in sport mode). Honda has included Eco, Sport, and EV modes to cater the driving experience to your liking. Eco mode kills the fun a bit but helps you reach that magical 40-mpg figure by dialing back throttle response. EV mode only works below speeds of around 20 mph but may help you silently traverse a small neighborhood, while Sport mode tightens up the steering and increases throttle response.

With no transmission getting in the way, the CR-V Hybrid delivers power readily when you apply throttle. At anything other than full throttle, the engine sound is unintrusive and the cabin feels more insulated than the RAV4. Ride comfort is smooth but we did feel a fair bit of vibration over Arizona's torn up backroads. As will other hybrid Honda models, the CR-V features two paddles on the wheel to control the regenerative braking. This system will not stop the vehicle completely but it can be used in traffic to avoid wearing down the breaks and recoup energy into the battery.

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We were able to test the capability of the CR-V Hybrid's Realtime AWD system by driving a figure-eight in a horse rodeo ring. While we doubt many owners will ever push the car in this manner, we were impressed by the AWD system's sure-footing compared to the RAV4 Hybrid, which was on-hand for comparison. The RAV4's AWD system uses an electric motor to send power to the rear wheels and it didn't feel as predictable as the CR-V's mechanical system. It may be a slightly irrelevant test but perhaps Honda's AWD will be a bit more capable should the weather get snowy.

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Price & Trims: Undercutting The Competition

Pricing for the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid starts at $27,750 plus a $1,120 Destination Charge (a total of $28,870). This is $2,500 more than the standard CR-V but if you factor in the hybrid's standard AWD, the price differential shrinks to just $1,200. Over the course of your ownership period, it should be easy to pay off the hybrid premium with your fuel savings. The EX trim bumps the price to $31,380 (with destination), the EX-L costs $33,870, and the Touring trim tops out at $37,070. This is less expensive than the RAV4 but the Toyota does offer features not available on the CR-V such as ventilated seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic moonroof, and a bird's-eye camera.

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Verdict: Worth Consideration

Honda is up against some stiff competition in this segment and even though it has arrived late to the game, it has a compelling product here . The CR-V Hybrid boasts a comfortable ride, refined cabin, involved driving experience, a massive rear seat, and an affordable price point, making it worth consideration in this space. There are some weak points including the infotainment, cargo capacity, and lack of luxury features, but they don't stop us from recommending the CR-V Hybrid to anyone looking for a new crossover.

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