Car Reviews

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid First Drive Review: The CR-V to get

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The 2023 Honda CR-V represents an all-new era, and this time round it’s attempting out one thing radically completely different: It’s really attempting to look good. By way of 5 generations, Honda’s pioneering and best-selling compact SUV has checked off nearly each field when it comes to practicality, making it troublesome for customers to give you an goal cause to say “no.” Subjectively, nonetheless, their designs have finest been described as “utilitarian,” “nameless” or, most just lately, “ugly.” Most dad and mom don’t purchase their stroller or automobile seat on the idea of appears, why ought to a vehicular parenting software just like the CR-V be any completely different?

Being the best-selling compact SUV for yearly of its existence would point out that line of considering is a well-liked one, however actually, why can’t a CR-V additionally look good whereas nonetheless checking off all these practicality bins? We’re glad to report that the reply seems to be, “It might.” Styling will without end be subjective, however this era is a lot extra cohesive and visually interesting than its blobby, sensible-shoes predecessor, it’s exhausting to not dwell on it. Particularly when performed up because the Sport trim ranges now unique to the 2023 Honda CR-V hybrid, there’s a clear sophistication to the design that harkens again to Honda’s ‘80s and ‘90s glory days. It will not be a Mazda CX-50, however there’s now an opportunity somebody may really select a 2023 CR-V on the idea of the way it appears. How about that?

And right here’s the higher information: There’s no tradeoff for these beauty. The CR-V is simply as a lot of an uber-practical parenting software because the car it replaces. The again seat reclines to eight positions somewhat than two, and options 0.6 inches of additional area between the primary and second rows because of an elevated wheelbase, leading to extra room for legs and baby seats. The latter additionally profit from LATCH anchors not buried between the seatback and backside – they as a substitute reside in little plastic alcoves that couldn’t be simpler to entry. Sadly, the CR-V’s fifth decrease LATCH anchor that allowed for simple heart baby seat placement has been eliminated, however that was an awfully hardly ever used characteristic.      

The specs say that cargo space quantity behind the again seat is successfully unchanged with this newest era, which places it just under the phase behemoths from Kia and Hyundai. We’ll have to attend for an excellent old school baggage take a look at to see how that shakes out when it comes to real-world stuff, however there are a number of apparent cargo-related notes. Most cargo quantity is now best-in-segment at 76.5 cubic-feet, however the again seat doesn’t fold flat. Additionally, capability will be the similar no matter powertrain, however the turbo mannequin’s spare tire is changed by the battery pack within the hybrid. The Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4 hybrids handle to maintain their spares.

Apart from that one tradeoff, nonetheless, the 2023 Honda CR-V is at its finest because the hybrid, which we’re reviewing right here for the primary time. Whereas the turbo base engine carries over nearly unchanged, the hybrid is new. That features a new 2.0-liter inline-four, a bigger traction motor and energy generator, numerous refinements, and an elevated mixed output of three horsepower and 15 pound-feet of torque to 204 hp and 247 lb-ft. Now, eager observers will notice that the ’22 CR-V Hybrid specs say it produced extra horsepower, however that was achieved with a now-outdated Worldwide Group of Standardization (ISO) horsepower measurement. Utilizing the brand new measurement, the previous CR-V Hybrid was certainly much less highly effective.  

The most important enhancements to the hybrid powertrain can’t be discovered on a spreadsheet, nonetheless. To place it merely, it’s simply higher to drive. Honda engineers managed to simulate shifts when the gasoline engine kicks on, offering a extra pure driving expertise and eliminating the blender-like droning of the outgoing automobile. This makes the CR-V really feel extra like a Kia Sportage or Hyundai Tucson hybrid to drive than a still-droning Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, regardless that it stays a completely completely different hybrid powertrain than all the above.

As soon as once more, the CR-V’s hybrid powertrain virtually solely depends on the electrical motor to energy the wheels – the engine is barely straight related when at a relentless cruise to maximise effectivity, and to that finish, a brand new, second discount gear permits it to function at increased speeds. In any other case, the engine acts solely as a generator, and contemplating there is no such thing as a conventional transmission, it would be finest for effectivity and acceleration for the engine to remain planted at a just-right RPM to maintain electrons flowing to the motor. Hassle is, as already said, it sounds horrible. Or, as CR-V chief engineer Koji Ito places it, “not in sync with human feeling.”

So the brand new CR-V hybrid sounds prefer it’s altering gears, and the engine notice even has a little bit of that old-school Honda zing about it because it approaches 100 on the instrument panel’s energy meter. The bizarre factor is, although, it by no means loses any momentum as a automobile sometimes would when altering gears because the engine isn’t really related to the wheels. The electrical motor retains churning and pulls vitality from the battery in these cut up seconds when the engine “shifts.” Ito acknowledges there’s a tiny fraction of acceleration and effectivity misplaced by doing so, however says the drivability profit is value it. We concur. Not solely does this setup higher its hybrid predecessor, it really makes for a extra pleasing acceleration expertise than the bottom turbo engine and its still-droning conventional CVT. It’s not simply the shifting, both. Every little thing concerning the hybrid powertrain is quieter and extra refined. 

As for gas effectivity, the 2023 CR-V hybrid achieves 43 miles per gallon metropolis, 36 mpg freeway and 40 mpg mixed with front-wheel drive, which wasn’t accessible earlier than. The all-wheel-drive system, which is now able to a 50:50 energy distribution versus the previous 60:40 cut up, can obtain 40 mpg metropolis, 34 mpg freeway and 37 mpg mixed. That’s 1 mpg mixed worse than earlier than, however at such elevated mpg figures, it barely issues. All-wheel drive is an choice on the Sport and normal on the Sport Touring, and by the best way, these are the one trim ranges accessible because the hybrid. The EX and EX-L are solely paired with the turbo.

One other key hybrid-related replace is the brand new B mode that will increase regenerative braking to a degree that’s maybe 80% of the best way to one-pedal driving. It gained’t carry the CR-V to a whole cease as many EVs can do, but it surely does make a distinction when it comes to effectivity and in-traffic driver fatigue. It’s chosen by sliding the standard shifter previous D into B (the previous CR-V Hybrid’s push-and-pull button shifter has been retired, thank goodness), and the motive force can then fine-tune it by deciding on one in all 4 ranges utilizing steering wheel paddle shifters. The automobile gained’t default again to the max setting while you begin the automobile once more when you had been beforehand utilizing it, which is a bit irritating.

As for the remainder of the driving expertise, the 2023 Honda CR-V is notably a extra refined and secure automobile than its predecessor. Pushed back-to-back, it was stunning how a lot the previous CR-V wobbled about with extreme lateral physique motions. In keeping with chassis engineer Yuki Morita, correcting that was a high precedence for this era, and stiffening the physique was the first answer, ensuing within the 2023 CR-V feeling a lot extra secure and poised. It additionally allowed engineers to undertake lower-friction elements all through the steering system, which will increase its smoothness and permits precision to stay fixed at the same time as effort has been lightened. Some could lament the CR-V’s steering has misplaced a few of its fast, comparatively darty character, however Morita says that was largely performed on the previous mannequin to counteract the insufficiently inflexible physique and subsequent physique motions. In complete, the CR-V is now significantly better to drive.

It additionally has a significantly better inside. By way of aesthetics, it’s arguably a good greater enchancment than the outside. The CR-V cabin has all the time been a bit van-like in design, and the outgoing one suffered additional with plastic trim finest described as “wood-adjacent.” The brand new inside, against this, is lots much less Odyssey and much more Civic, proper right down to the hexagonal metallic air vent trim that slices ever-so-coolly throughout the sprint. So yeah, higher than no matter that wooden stuff was. It might simply be a matter of notion, however this new inside design does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to making the brand new CR-V really feel like much less of a parenting software.

It is not simply aesthetics, both. There’s improved inside storage – your cellphone is much less prone to fly out of the wi-fi charger, and there’s area alongside for a second cellphone to relaxation and/or be charged by adjoining USB-A or USB-C ports. Wi-fi Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, however you could not want them as a lot because the CR-V’s native infotainment system has been wildly improved from its glitchy, sluggish and menu-riddled predecessor. It’s principally the identical 7- or 9-inch items you’ll discover within the Civic, with one key exception. Included with the Sport Touring’s 9-inch touchscreen, the built-in navigation system not appears like Honda outsourced the job to TomTom, and truly works with the hybrid powertrain to extend effectivity and/or efficiency. As an example, if the programmed route forward exhibits an uphill grade, the automobile will successfully financial institution some battery energy to mitigate the engine load.  

Customary security know-how has additionally been improved, because it was with the Accord, Civic and HR-V. The ahead collision warning system is much less prone to throw up false alarms, the adaptive cruise management behaves extra like a human driver and the lane-centering steering help does a greater job of doing what its identify describes. There are additionally 4 further airbags: two knee airbags up entrance and rear facet airbags.

None of this new-and-improvedness comes low cost, nonetheless, because the 2023 Honda CR-V is notably costlier than its predecessor. A lot of this has to do with Honda altering the trim lineup:

  • The bottom LX trim stage is discontinued since solely about 10% of consumers went for it (to everybody else’s credit score, the previous EX was a significantly better worth). That also would’ve accounted for about 36,000 gross sales contemplating what number of CR-Vs had been bought final 12 months.
  • The brand new base trim stage is now the well-equipped EX, however even that’s about $3,000 costlier than final 12 months, beginning at $32,355, together with the $1,245 vacation spot cost.
  • The hybrid-powered Sport is the following rung up the ladder at $33,695, and actually solely provides, past its powertrain, completely different styling thrives, a leather-wrapped wheel and rear USB-C ports. We’d undoubtedly begin our buying there.
  • The EX-L turbo ($35,005) and Sport Touring hybrid ($39,845) share many of the similar luxurious upgrades, however the hybrid goes additional with normal all-wheel drive, 19-inch wheels, in-car WiFi, that fancy navigation system, a heated steering wheel and a surprisingly good Bose sound system.

Mainly, if you need a hybrid powertrain and don’t care a lot about tools or making the best-possible style assertion, the Honda CR-V hybrid is not a good selection. You will get a base trim Sportage, Tucson or RAV4 hybrid for a lot much less (that’s if you could find one on lots and not using a hefty markup). When stacked as much as the comparable variations of rivals, such because the RAV4 SE, Sportage SX Status and Tucson Restricted, the CR-V is definitely competitively priced.

Is it a category chief, nonetheless? We’d want a full comparability take a look at to find out that, but it surely positive looks like the CR-V hybrid would a minimum of put up one heck of a battle. On the very least, there’s no doubting that its sharp new appears have the potential to spice up its reputation even additional.


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