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The Honda CR-V Hybrid Evaluation: An Ideal Sporty & Effective Car

The CR-V, Honda’s most popular model, has been completely renewed for the 2023 model year. This marks the debut of the sixth-generation of the small SUV. The prior generation CR-V was already one of the finest compact SUVs, but Honda did not just give it a restyle; there is now an even bigger emphasis on the hybrid version as Honda prepares to transition its lineup to fully electric vehicles.

Similar to the previous version, the 2023 CR-V is offered with two powertrains. The LX, EX, and EX-L models are fueled by the same 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as before. However, the two-motor hybrid system has been updated with a more potent electric motor that produces 181 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque before factoring in the fuel engine. The second electric motor serves as a 161 hp starter generator, but instead of transmitting power to the wheels, it smoothens out the start-stop function of the fuel engine. The hybrid system is paired with a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine, which has also undergone some enhancements to its power and sound. The CR-V Hybrid has a combined 204 hp and 247 lb-ft., with the power being channeled to either the front or all wheels through a continuously variable transmission.

The CR-V Hybrid has an EPA rating of 43 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, and 40 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 37 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. Honda has confirmed that it will introduce a hydrogen powered CR-V Fuel Cell version with a plug-in feature in 2024.

The previous generation CR-V Hybrid had no towing rating, but now the traction motor has an additional low gear to enhance the CR-V Hybrid’s towing capability, which is rated at 1,000 pounds – still below the non-hybrid version with its 1,500-pound rating. The CR-V Hybrid also gains a bit more off-road capability thanks to a new hill-descent control feature and a new Snow driving mode. Additionally, a new Sport driving mode is introduced, improving the throttle response and elevating the amount of engine noise transmitted to the cabin through the Active Sound Control system. The previous generation CR-V Hybrid did not produce a great sound under hard acceleration, thus Honda has thankfully made substantial improvements with the new CR-V Hybrid.

There are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, which do not alter the transmission but allow the driver to increase or decrease the regenerative braking system. There is also a “B” drive mode, almost doubling the amount of regenerative braking. In the B mode, the CR-V Hybrid decelerates significantly once the foot is lifted off the accelerator, but it falls short of providing one-pedal driving, as it does not bring the vehicle to a complete halt.

The CR-V Hybrid arrives with more power than the gasoline-powered version, and if the additional power and efficiency are not enough to sway the decision towards the hybrid, there is still one other major benefit. The hybrid is exclusively available in the sportier Sport and Sport Touring versions, bringing a slightly more aggressive and bolder exterior than the gasoline-powered iterations.

Given the inclination towards efficiency this time, driving the CR-V hybrid is most enjoyed in the Sport mode, as the powertrain is more lively and responsive. Despite the increased emphasis on efficiency, the CR-V has not lost its fun-to-drive nature. The suspension achieves an ideal balance between comfort and sport, effectively absorbing road imperfections while exhibiting limited body roll on twisty roads. The steering, light yet responsive, is on par with the segment. Overall, the CR-V Hybrid dispels the notion that hybrids are dull to drive.

The 2023 CR-V is slightly longer now, with a 2.7-inch increase in length to a total of 184.8 inches. Over half of this additional length lies between the wheels, as the wheelbase is now 1.6 inches longer at 106.3 inches, providing an extra 0.6 inches of legroom. The rear bench, which now reclines by up to 10.5 inches, is more comfortable, making it the ideal seat for a road trip. There is also a bit more cargo space at 36.3 cubic feet behind the second row, expanding to 76.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The only downside is the absence of a panoramic sunroof, which is available in some competing models.

The CR-V Hybrid’s cabin has received an update with improved technology, a more modern design, and enhanced materials. The Hybrid Sport variant comes with a 7-inch touchscreen, while the top-tier Sport Touring model is equipped with a 9-inch system. Both versions feature Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but the larger screen also incorporates wireless connectivity and a wireless phone charging pad. The new infotainment system, similar to the one in the Civic, offers better graphics and faster response times than its predecessor.

In terms of safety, the CR-V Hybrid is equipped with the Honda Sensing driver aids as standard, now with updated forward radar and camera sensors boasting a wider field of view. This brings about 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, along with traffic jam assist. The Sport Touring model adds low-speed automatic emergency braking and parking sensors.

The starting price for the 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid is $34,245, inclusive of destination charges for the Sport model. Opting for all-wheel drive adds an extra $1,500 to the price. Sitting at the top of the lineup, the Sport Touring model also comes standard with all-wheel drive, priced at $40,395.

Ultimately, the 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid makes a compelling case for choosing the hybrid version over the less potent gasoline versions. Not only does the hybrid version offer more power and fuel efficiency, but it also presents a bolder appearance compared to the gasoline models. Given the choice, the CR-V Hybrid would be our preferred option.

Image Source: Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock

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