Honda is a lower-case automaker in an all-caps world. Better known for its engineering prowess than its marketing chops, it tends to do things quietly.
In its understated way, Honda has set some big energy-efficiency goals for itself.
By 2030, it plans to be selling two electrified vehicles to every conventional vehicle it sells.
To get there, it is electrifying its entire mainstream fleet.
The results are encouraging. In the past three years, U.S. sales of Honda hybrids have grown dramatically. Between 2018 and 2019, its electrified fleet experienced a year-over-year gain of nearly 70 percent.
This year, it continues the push with a hybrid version of its popular CR-V compact crossover.
Since its most recent makeover in 2017, the CR-V ($25,050) has been available with a pair of four-cylinder engines. This year, last year’s base engine goes away. Now, most CR-Vs are powered by last year’s premium option, a turbocharged 190-horsepower 1.5-liter four.
The smooth-running four is mated to a continuously variable transmission that simulates the shift pattern of an automatic and minimizes the elastic feel and soaring engine note common to the breed.
The engine makes most of its power at lower RPMs, which makes it a good match for the CVT.
Acceleration is brisk and seamless, though high-end performance lags; passing safely in a CR-V packed with gear will require a long, straight stretch of roadway.
Honda’s hybrid system comprises a 2.0-liter gas engine paired with two electric motors. Peak total horsepower is 212 hp. And, because one of the motors can power the rear wheels when necessary, all hybrids come standard with all-wheel-drive.
Stronger, more efficient
The new CR-V Hybrid ($27,750) offers the same utility, family friendly features and overall quality as its non-hybrid cousin. However, it is stronger by 22 horsepower and more frugal by a wide margin.
The 1.5-liter engine earns EPA ratings of 30 mpg combined (28 city/34 highway); the hybrid
is rated at 38/40/35.
Non-hybrid models are rated to tow up to 1,500 pounds; the hybrid is not tow-rated.
Hybrid driving impressions will have to wait; Honda sent us a high-end, AWD Touring trim to test.
The CR-V is a five-passenger CUV. It consistently wins high marks for the qualities that matter most to American families. It’s frugal to buy and own. It comfortably accommodates up to five occupants, including four fully grown adults.
The CR-V’s cargo capacity is among the best-in-class and its cabin bristles with nooks and crannies designed for casual storage.
Agile and responsive
It is also one of the segment’s most responsive vehicles. Agile and balanced, it corners with confidence. Body lean and other unwanted motions are well controlled. Steering responses are quick and accurate.
Some may find its ride too firm, but the results are hard to argue with. Even while keeping the CR-V’s 3,500 pounds in check, the suspension tames even rough and irregular road surfaces.
For 2020, all CR-Vs receive a mild facelift that produces a more rugged and more dynamic appearance.
Inside, the center console is redesigned to boost more flexible storage choices and simplify access. In-cabin tech includes a color TFT driver-information interface and an available 7-inch touchscreen Display Audio interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
The infotainment system is fairly basic and easy to use. There’s no tuning knob for the radio, forcing users to use the touchscreen.
Every CR-V is equipped with adaptive cruise control, automatic climate control, LED running lights, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, two USB ports and a four-speaker audio system with a 5-inch color display.
Wheels are 17-inch alloys.
For 2020, all CR-Vs are equipped with Honda Sensing, Honda’s suite of safety and driver-assist features.
Unless you plan to tow, strong consideration should be given to the hybrid, especially since Honda sweetens the deal with attractive pricing. A cost differential of just $1,500 separates the base hybrid and the least expensive AWD non-hybrid.
Seems like a great way to quietly move the needle in the direction of an electrified future.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at email@example.com.
2020 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring
Vehicle base price: $26,050
Trim level base price: $34,750
As tested: $35,845 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Our Touring test vehicle came equipped with no options.
Tow rating: 1,500 pounds (non-hybrids only)
EPA rating: 29 combined/27 city/32 highway
Regular unleaded gasoline specified