Honda expects two-thirds of its global sales to come from e-vehicles by 2030, with hybrid cars making up 50 percent. The new 2020 CR-V Hybrid joins a stable of alt-fuel Honda vehicles available today, including the Accord, the Clarity, and the Insight. It’s clear Honda has high hopes for the CR-V Hybrid and expects it to earn the same sales-leader status as the traditional model. There’s no doubt that existing CR-V lovers will find just as much to like here, with the added benefit of better fuel economy. That said, the first-of-its-kind CR-V Hybrid has a few flaws such as less cargo space and a dated infotainment system that make for tougher competition with the top seller in the segment, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
Features, Pricing, and Design
The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid comes in four trim levels—LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring. It combines an Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter inline-four engine with two motor generators to achieve 212 of total horsepower and 232lb.-ft. of torque. One motor is geared directly to the engine while the other motor is geared to the differential providing four driving modes—Sport, Econ, EV, and Normal—and steering wheel paddle-like deceleration selectors to adjust the system’s regenerative drag.
Power is directed to all wheels (AWD) through an Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT). A 1.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the rear cargo area is charged through the engine and regenerative braking. The CR-V Hybrid delivers an impressive 40mpg city/35mpg highway/38mpg combined fuel efficiency.
The base LX trim starts at $25,050 and comes with standard exterior features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, intermittent windshield wipers, power side mirrors, an intermittent rear window wiper, remote entry, and LED daytime running lights.
Standard interior amenities include automatic climate control, power locks and windows with driver side auto up/down, a telescopic and tilt steering column, a sliding armrest for front and rear seats, push button start, a retractable cargo cover, fabric seats with manual adjustment, and fold-down 60/40 split rear seats.
Standard tech features include a four-speaker audio system with speed-sensitive volume compensation, a 5-inch in-dash color LCD, Bluetooth and Pandora compatibility, two USB ports, and a 12-volt outlet. Driver-assist technologies include a multi-angle rearview camera, brake assist, forward-collision and lane-departure warning, collision mitigation and road departure mitigation, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise with low speed follow.
The EX trim that starts at $27,560 adds heated front seats, a 12-way power driver seat with lumbar support, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a moonroof, blind-spot monitoring with a cross-traffic monitor, 18-inch alloy wheels, a 7-inch in-dash touch screen, HondaLink remote access, two rear USB ports, an eight-speaker audio system with Sirius XM and AM/FM HD Radio, LED fog lights, and remote engine start.
Stepping up to the EX-L trim costs $30,050 and adds a power tailgate, leather-trimmed seats, a front passenger 12-way power seat, front seat memory, a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, a dimming rearview mirror, and ambient lighting.
We tested the top-of-the-line Touring trim priced at $35,950 that includes a hands-free tailgate, auto LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 19-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a Honda satellite navigation system with voice recognition, a nine-speaker premium audio system, a wireless phone charger, front and rear parking sensors, and Honda roadside assistance.
Casual observers won’t be able to tell the difference between the CR-V Hybrid and its gas-only sibling, save for a bit of badging. It has the same pleasing but unexciting exterior styling, and the interior features tasteful wood trim and feels upscale for the segment.
The CR-V Hybrid loses its spare tire due to the battery placement under the rear cargo hold and replaces it with a tire repair kit. The seats also can’t be lowered fully to expand cargo capacity, which causes the hybrid to lag behind its gas-consuming cousin on utility in favor of fuel efficiency.
The LCD instrument cluster loses a tachometer but adds graphics and information on the powertrain, displaying the switch between electric-only mode used to start rolling and the gas engine mode that kicks in at higher speeds. The hybrid version also switches out the shift lever for a push button gear selector that takes a little getting used to.
Interface and Connectivity
The 2020 Hybrid model has the same dated infotainment system as all CR-Vs and continues to be Honda’s weak spot. Honda’s control knobs for volume or climate control are easy to use while driving, but the touch screen for the infotainment system is another story.
The semi-matte surface shows fewer fingerprints but creates a fuzzy appearance for icons and the camera view. We found the system harder to use while driving than those of competitors. The screen response time also lags a bit, and some controls are buried layers below the main menu.
Like most automakers, Honda relies on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for cloud-based connectivity and they’re standard across the line except for the LX trim. Although Honda only expects 10 percent of sales from the base trim, it seems shortsighted when building brand loyalty for this massive segment—and since the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid offers it.
Our Touring trim has Honda’s satellite navigation system, but Android Auto and CarPlay provide constantly updated maps. Our tester also came with the HondaLink telematics system that falls short on features compared with competitors such as Hyundai.
As a CR-V owner, the hybrid version we tested felt familiar and comfortable, but with added perkiness in its performance. Our gas-powered 2019 CR-V peaks at 190hp and 179lb-ft of torque; the hybrid version bumps up power significantly at 212hp and 232lb-ft of torque.
In Sport mode, the hybrid powertrain reacts to accelerator pumps with a pep that’s lacking in the regular model, but the CVT complains loudly and gives the sense that the engine is straining. Otherwise the CVT allows for smooth acceleration and deceleration, something that is occasionally jolty in other hybrids we’ve tested.
The transition from electric to combined gas/electric power is equally smooth, with the sound of the engine taking over from the buzz-hum pedestrian warning tone of the electric mode. Honda added insulation to the CR-V Hybrid that makes for a more serene drive, and the audio system’s noise-canceling keeps the engine hum at bay.
While the gas mileage is better than its traditional version, the CR-V Hybrid lags competitors. Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid gets 41mpg city/38mpg highway and the Ford Escape Hybrid garners an impressive 43mpg city/37mpg highway.
It’s easy to see why the CR-V has been a longtime favorite in the midsize crossover segment. It’s a reliable workhorse that’s pleasant to drive, and the Hybrid model adds performance and fuel efficiency to the mix. While the Touring trim we tested costs nearly $3,000 more than the regular CR-V Touring, it’s less than a loaded RAV4 Hybrid Limited by about $2,000. If not for a few drawbacks such as the dated infotainment screen, loss of cargo space, and lack of a spare tire, it would be a very close call, but ultimately the RAV4 wins out.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Specs