2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Popular Crossover Gets Electrified

By Ron Moorhead

Photo by Ron Moorhead

The Honda CR-V has become the most popular crossover vehicle in the U.S. and now for the first time is available in Hybrid form. Though it has been available in Europe and Asia for more than a year, the 2020 CR-V Hybrid is the first of Honda’s electrified crossovers here in the States.

The CR-V hybrid is available in four trim levels, LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. Like other Honda models, each step in trim level adds more equipment and features. It seems the EX, with a starting price of $31,380, might be the most popular as it has most features buyers are looking for in their ride. Step up to the EX-L, at $33,870, if you want leather seating surfaces and power lift gate.

All models get as standard equipment Honda Sensing suite of active driver aids which includes lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition, collision-warning and autonomous braking with pedestrian detection.

Power incorporates a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine along with the two electric motor system found on the Accord Hybrid and a 1.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This combination offers up quick acceleration and long range. The 2020 CR-V Hybrid has a combined 212 horsepower rating, with 232 lb.-ft. of torque.

The CR-V is the first of Honda’s AWD to offer a hybrid system and utilizes Honda’s system that sends torque to the rear wheels when the system detects loss of traction to the front wheels.

From the exterior, the 2020 CR-V differs from other models by having a unique front and rear bumper design. The front also receives different LED fog lamps. Of course, the Hybrid is outfitted with hybrid badges all around the vehicle.

We found the manual shifting action to be quite unique as well, in that it feels as though the electric powered motors come into play as the driver shifts up and down through the “gears.” We were just glad Honda engineers gave us a manual mode; at least we can pretend we are in control of gear selection.

The technical explanation of this down-shift is in the electric regeneration system which charges the battery as you slow down or apply the brakes. The regeneration increases (charging the batteries) as you use the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters to shift down. You experience the sensation of a downshift. There is an EV-only mode, however the range is significantly lowered.

Even though the Hybrid system and batteries increase the overall weight 200 pounds, the 2020 Honda CR-V handles quite well. The suspension system is engineered to handle the increase while giving the CR-V handling characteristics that controlled the twisting Northern California coastal mountain roads. On the highway, the suspension handled the less than stellar California road surfaces, smoothing out the imperfections and providing a comfortable ride.

The Honda CR-V Hybrid uses an electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT). Though the CVT-ness is becoming less of an issue for us, we continue wish the motorboat feeling under hard acceleration would be solved. Honda engineers are getting closer to solving this conundrum.

The 2020 Honda CR-V may not be king of the hill in the fuel economy for its class, and unless you are a hyper-miler, who cares? With the responsiveness coupled with 40 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, the CR-V is a winner. After all those other CUVs in this class rack up just a mile or 3 more. We will take the tradeoff.

The Honda CR-V Hybrid has four driver-selectable modes: Normal, Sport, Econ and EV. Sport adapts throttle response for quicker response and even changes the vehicle’s sound to be more aggressive. During our drive you could feel this hybrid SUV was a bit livelier. Econ mode eases the powertrain response to enhance economy.

As the EV mode insinuates, the CR-V Hybrid switches to electric only mode that works at lower speeds. The system monitors speed and if the vehicle speed goes too high or there’s not enough battery reserve the system toggles back to normal operation.

As each driving day ended, we gained a new respect for the Honda CR-V Hybrid. We are not sure we would opt for a hybrid system over a traditional just yet. However, it will continue to be an interesting ride, nonetheless. 

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