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Honda CR-V Hybrid Review: A Perfect Sporty & Efficient Car

Image Source: Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock

Honda’s best selling model, the CR-V has been completely revamped for the 2023 model year, representing the introduction of the sixth generation of the small SUV. The last generation CR-V was already one of the best compact SUVs, but Honda didn’t just give it a restyle, instead there’s now an even bigger priority on the hybrid version as Honda gets ready to transition its line up to fully electric vehicles.

Just like before, the 2023 CR-V is available with two powertrains. The LX, EX and EX-L models are powered by the same 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as before. But the two-motor hybrid system gets updated with a more powerful electric motor that generates 181 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque before you factor in the gas engine. The second electric motor is a 161 hp starter generator, but instead of sending power to the wheels, the second motor smooths out the start-stop function of the gas engine. The hybrid system is mated to a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine, which also improves its power and soundtrack. The CR-V Hybrid has a combined 204 hp and 247 lb-ft. and the power is sent to either the front or all wheels via a continuously variable transmission.

The CR-V Hybrid is rated at 43 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 40 mpg combined with front-wheel drive or 40 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 37 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. If you’ve been wondering when Honda will introduce a CR-V plug-in hybrid, it has confirmed that it will introduce a hydrogen-powered CR-V Fuel Cell version a plug-in feature in 2024.

The last generation CR-V Hybrid did not have a tow rating, but now the traction motor has an additional low gear to improve the CR-V Hybrid’s towing capability, rated at 1,000 pounds. That’s still below the non-hybrid version with its 1,500 pound rating. The CR-V Hybrid also gets a little more off-road capability thanks to a new hill-descent control feature and a new Snow driving mode. There’s also a new Sport driving mode that improves the throttle response and also increases the amount of engine noise sent to the cabin, via the Active Sound Control system. The last generation CR-V Hybrid did not sound great when you pressed hard on the accelerator, so fortunately Honda has made some big improvements there with the new CR-V Hybrid.

There are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, but instead of altering the transmission, they let the driver increase or decrease the regenerative braking system. There’s also the “B” drive mode, which almost doubles the amount of regenerative braking. In the B mode, the CR-V Hybrid slows down considerably once you remove your foot from the accelerator, but it’s just short of one-pedal driving, since it doesn’t bring you to a complete stop.

The CR-V Hybrid arrives with more power than the gas powered version, but if the extra power and efficiency aren’t enough to make you choose the hybrid, there’s one other big benefit. The hybrid is only available in the sportier Sport and Sport Touring versions, which adds a slightly more aggressive and bolder exterior than the gas powered versions.

Naturally we enjoy driving the CR-V hybrid mostly in the Sport mode since the powertrain is more lively and responsive. Although more emphasis is placed on efficiency this time, that doesn’t mean that the CR-V has lost its fun to drive character. The suspension finds the perfect balance between comfort and sport by easily absorbing and cracks in the road, but also with limited body roll when encountering a twisty road. The steering is light, which is on par with the segment but also responsive. Overall the CR-V Hybrid helps kill that stigma that hybrid’s are boring to drive.

The 2023 CR-V is now slightly longer than before, with its length increased by 2.7-inches with a total length of 184.8 inches. More than half of that extra length does between the wheels, since the wheelbase is now 1.6-inches longer at 106.3-inches. That extra space between the wheels provides an extra 0.6 inches of legroom. The rear bench is now more comfortable as well, since it can recline by up to 10.5 inches, making it the perfect seat for a road trip. There’s a bit more cargo space as well at 36.3 cubic feet behind the second row or 76.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Our only gripe is that we wish the CR-V was available with a panoramic sunroof like some of its rivals.

Inside the CR-V Hybrid’s cabin has received a glow up with updated tech, a more modern design and improved materials. The Hybrid Sport comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen, while the top spec Sport Touring model gets a 9-inch system. Both versions have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but the larger screen also gets wireless connectivity and a wireless phone charging pad. The new infotainment system is the same that you will find in the Civic and it’s a much better system than the last generation with its improved graphics and faster reaction times.

On the safety front, the CR-V Hybrid comes standard with the Honda Sensing driver aids, which gets updated forward radar and camera sensors with a wider field of view. That brings updates to the automatic emergency braking system, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and forward collision warning system. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also standard, in addition to traffic jam assist. The Sport Touring model adds low-speed automatic emergency braking and parking sensors.

The pricing for the 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid starts at $34,245, including destination for the Sport version. If you need all-wheel drive, that adds an extra $1,500 to the price. The Sport Touring sits at the top of the lineup and also comes standard with all-wheel drive. It’s priced at $40,395.

At the end of the day, the 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid makes a strong case to choose the hybrid version over the lesser powered gas versions. Not only do you get more power and fuel efficiency with the hybrid version, but the CR-V Hybrid also has a bolder look than the gas versions. If we had to choose, we would go with the CR-V Hybrid.

Image Source: Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock

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