Everything You Need To Know About The 2023 Honda CR-V

Car Culture / Comments

The CR-V wants its sales crown back from Toyota.

A new generation of Honda CR-V is coming and is looking to set a new standard for the affordable family crossover. The first generation debuted with one model trim in 1996 for the US market and has evolved steadily through five generations, but now it's taking a leap to become something larger and more sophisticated while Honda leans into hybrid technology. The sixth-generation CR-V arrives wider and longer than previous generations, and with new and more mature and chiseled styling that follows in the footsteps of the latest Honda Accord and Civic models. We visited the new CR-V in a secret location recently in Los Angeles to check out the next iteration of what Honda describes as "America's favorite SUV" and came away optimistic that it will be a winner for the Japanese brand.

CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright

1. A Hybrid Revolution

Honda understands that there won't be an instant change from gas power to all-electric, and all-electric might not even be the endgame. The fact is that anyone claiming otherwise is selling an electric car, but electric-gasoline hybrids will be the stepping stone to a future with cleaner air. With that in mind, Honda tells us that it expects 50% of sales of the all-new 2023 Honda CR-V crossover to be hybrid. That's in line with how Honda has structured its trim levels, as now there are four trims available - two with gas-only engines and two with a hybrid configuration, and the most powerful are the hybrid models. In the photos, the red CR-V is gas-powered and the blue is a Sport model.

The gas-only engine is a 1.5-liter turbo engine that makes 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque, while the 2.0-liter inline-four and two-motor hybrid system generate 204 hp and 247 lb-ft on the new ISO net standard that hybrids will be measured with from now on. Honda is quick to point out that the ISO system measures lower than the SAE net system, and the 2023 model year CR-V hybrid is more powerful than the previous generation's.

CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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2. Base Levels Are Loaded

The base LX model designation has been dropped for the new-generation CR-V. The EX is now the base model and comes with a sharp yet slick seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. The gray or black cloth upholstery with an eight-way power driver's seat is not a base model penalty in the new CR-V, and it rides on 18-inch wheels. All through the range, the rear seats have adjustable recline with eight angles to choose from. The 1.5-liter turbocharged engine is shared with the leather-upholstered EX-L model, which is a trim level above the hybrid Sport model. That means the trim ladder goes EX, then Sport, then EX-L, then Sport Touring.

Safety is critical for Honda through the trim levels, and a new Honda Sensing suite of safety and driver-assist technology is standard and uses a new wide-angle camera and millimeter-wave radar. Our favorite move that Honda has made is blind-spot monitoring is standard on all the CR-V trims, as are 10 airbags.

CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright

3. Space To Grow Into

This writer's family car is a CR-V bought new in 2016, and we had a young one in the family we didn't realize would grow so tall in just a couple of years. The new CR-V will accommodate family growth spurts comfortably as the first thing we did was jump in the front and set the driving position for a six-foot-one adult, then jump in the back. The good news is that there was plenty of legroom to spare. A third adult in the back row isn't going to be too happy on a long journey, but the space is there if needed. An increase in elbow room in the front is appreciated, as is the improved 36.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seats. In EX and EX-L trim, Honda has taken advantage of the lack of batteries and allowed the rear load floor to be lowered to expand the cargo space to 39.3 cu.-ft.

Our concern, however, is that the compact crossover won't be so compact for the 2023 model year and will become awkward to maneuver in tight parking lots. We'll have to see how that shakes out when we drive it.

CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright

4. New Seats, New Driving Position

Honda has developed new Body Stabilizing Seats for the CR-V that we hope will prove to be as generally comfortable as Nissan's Zero Gravity Seats over longer journeys. Along with the seats is a steering wheel angle that's more like sedan-like for "a more comfortable, sportier driving position." If Honda hadn't worked on visibility so much, completely adjusting the position of the A-pillars to improve packaging, this would have us more concerned as one of the joys of a good crossover is that higher seating position and feel. No doubt we'll have something to say about that when we drive the new CR-V. We'll also have something to say about the adjustable recline on the rear seats that's standard through the trims.

CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright

5. Growing Up In Style

Traditionally, the Honda CR-V has some quirky styling going, particularly in its silhouette, that tends to inspire a love or hate reaction. Either way, though, it tends to date quickly. However, the CR-V is growing up for its sixth generation, and its styling with it. From every angle, the crossover is more subtle and sophisticated and in the same vein as the new Civic and Accord models. One of the most important changes is in the windshield pillars, which have moved 4.7 inches rearward, 2.8 inches outward, and 1.4 inches lower. That creates better visibility, and from the driver's seat, it is noticeable, as are the new door-mounted side mirrors, which are also better positioned for visibility.

One of the quirkiest parts of the CR-V has been the hockey-stick-shaped rear lights, and we love that Honda has retained but restrained them for the new model. Part of us is disappointed the new styling is more homogenous, but we also appreciate how handsome the new model is.

CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright

6. Infotainment Improved And Simplified

The CR-V EX and Sport trims come with a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen with a user interface that has been simplified and, as Honda is rightfully keen to point out, has physical knobs for volume and tuning. The EX-L and Sport Touring models come with a nine-inch touchscreen with a physical volume knob and upgrade Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to become wireless. So you can charge your phone and use the wireless connectivity, the upper trims come with wireless charging. The CR-V Sport Touring comes with a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system Honda says is custom-engineered for the new interior. We remain skeptical of any Bose system and hope to be surprised by tight rather than boomy bass and nicely rolled-off highs rather than the shrill treble we're used to.

A thoughtful touch inside is a space in the storage area in front of the shifter that's wide enough to accommodate two smartphones side-by-side. Both phones are then close to two illuminated USB ports, a 2.5-amp USB-A, and a 3.0-amp USB-C port.

CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright

7. Chassis And Drivetrain Upgrades

Honda tells us that the new CR-V also aims to be an upgrade in ride quality and ability. The extra length in the wheelbase is promised to make a difference in ride quality, while the extra width improves stability. A 15 percent torsionally stiffer body is promised to show an improvement in ride, handling, and overall refinement. There are also suspension and steering updates aimed to improve the ride quality and driving dynamics, including the variable-ratio steering system using a repositioned steering rack to improve feel and accuracy.

The CR-V's continuously variable transmission (CVT) has been refined to reduce noise and vibration, and now features Step-Shift programming that simulates gear changes at full throttle. We'll hold our opinion on that until we drive it, but fake shifting in CVTs has yet to impress us. A well-tuned CVT should be all-but-invisible to the driver and passengers. On equipped models, Honda has tuned up its Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System to improve traction management in slippery conditions and added Hill Descent Control as standard across the lineup.

CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright

Conclusion: We Love The Promise

This generation CR-V is a bold step for Honda. Its looks will no doubt help sell even more of the crossover for Honda, as will its extra room inside and its hybrid power train. If the refinement in comfort and ride holds up as the sum of all its parts, it should be a steep improvement on the previous generation and position the CR-V for a crack at taking the hotly contested Best-In-Class crown for compact crossovers. What we don't have yet is pricing or fuel economy details, which will be the final piece of the recipe.

CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright
CarBuzz / Ian Wright

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