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PREFERRED CR-V OF CHOICE: 2020 HONDA CR-V HYBRID

Honda has been in the hybrid game for quite some time. In fact they were the first to introduce hybrid technology to the North American market back in December of 1999 with their Honda Insight. Obviously technology has advanced and so has our taste in style, but that first generation Insight was the start of something rather intriguing – sure it was slow and looked like a space ship, but it achieved over 60-miles to the gallon and was even offered in a manual transmission.

So as the years went by and technology evolved, so did Honda. With all of their hybrid technology focused towards their sedans like the Accord Hybrid, Insight, and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, it was time to apply some of that brainpower towards one of their more popular crossovers. The CR-V Hybrid isn’t technically new, but it is new to us with it now introduced to North American. We’re already familiar with some of its competitors like the Ford Escape Hybrid and Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, but its biggest one is the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

Much of the CR-V’s finesse carries over into the hybrid model bringing in a well-executed, tasteful interior and refine driving liking. Swapping out the powertrain from its standard turbocharged engine to a hybrid system didn’t affect much of its styling either. With the addition of a couple extra hybrid badges and LED stripped fog lights, they’re nearly identical in every way. Adding just over 200lbs, the hybrid system used here isn’t quite like the engineering of the Toyota RAV4’s hybrid system that uses a front-wheel drive setup with an electric motor assisting the rear wheels. The CR-V’s system is almost like the Chevrolet Volt in a sense where the gasoline engine is used more as a generator to power the electric motor, charge the batteries and in some instance supply that extra boost of performance when the going gets gone. However, unlike the Chevrolet Volt, the CR-V does not plug into an outlet and it uses a traditional all-wheel drive system with a prop-shaft and a clutch to engage the rear-wheels during the event of enthusiastic driving such as hard acceleration or slippery conditions.

Using the same hybrid system that is found in the Honda Accord Hybrid, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder has been slightly updated with the end results being a combined power output of 212-horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque. Compared to the turbocharged ways of its standard 1.5-liter engine, the hybrid is a slightly better performer but doesn’t necessarily outperform it either. Most of the engines job here is to work as a generator supplying electrical current to the electric motor. In cases during highway driving and heavy acceleration will the engine engage in some exercise to assist in moving the wheels, for the most part however, it is left to be electric motors right hand man and recharging its battery pack. This technology package increases its smoothness when it comes to acceleration and linear power application from a stop – we can even see the same return in performance as the gas power CR-V of 7.5-seconds to 60-mph. It is at highway speeds we start to notice the struggle of torque distribution and power application when it came to having to acceleration between 50-mph and 70-mph. Its low-end torque is where its efforts of the electric motor really sparkle with an enhanced, bubblier feel that makes driving around town more pleasant. At highway speeds however, its ability to put forth the same effort is lost, struggle to supply sufficient power for swift passing applications.

Like a traditional hybrid, the CR-V features an EV mode that can allocate pure electricity to the driven wheels that will only last upwards to a mile or to the moment slight acceleration is detected. There is a sport mode should one feel frisky and steering wheel paddle shifters that controls the level of regenerative braking harshness – when left in normal it automatically resets, but while under sport mode it manages its desired position and remains in its selected spot. With all the buzzing humdrum, Honda increased its sound insulation with active noise cancelling software tied into the audio system that helps keep most of the hybrids noisiness from imposing on your quiet mellow. 

With increased weight, there is a sense of a better CR-V – the suspension is firmer to handle the additional load. The ride continues to offer a competent, comfortable feel even with our Touring’s upgraded 19-inch wheels. There’s also a sense of hardy controllability and receptive responsiveness from the steering.

Improving the standard CR-V’s fuel economy, the hybrid claims to achieve 40-mpg in the city and 35-mpg on the highway – a bump from the standard 27-mpg city and 32-mpg highway. In real world application this wasn’t quite the case for us with a return of 33-mpg of highway driving and 34-mpg combined with our city regime. In comparison to our Toyota RAV4 Hybrid test, we averaged 45-mpg on the highway and 37-mpg combined – a difference of 12-mpg’s and 3-mpg’s. Disclaimer however, as we enter our triple digit summer, hybrids and the Arizona heat aren’t necessarily a good combination as the engine has to constant run to sustain our demand of a 67-degree cabin.

Staring at $27,750, the hybrid carries a $2700 premium over its turbocharged cousin and is available in all the same four trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. The EX Hybrid is expected to be the more popular choice starting at $30,260 and will feature more standard equipment like blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto Connectivity, bigger 18-inch wheels and touch screen infotainment. Our sampled Touring; costing barely $100 more than our previous sampled turbocharged tester, the hybrid variant is the preferred choosing among the CR-V lineup costing $35,950.

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS

Model: 2020 HONDA CR-V HYBRID
Trim: TOURING
Base Price: $27,850
Starting Trim Price: $35,950
As Tested: $35,950
Color: RADIANT RED

PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 2.0-LITER FOUR-CYLINDER I-VTEC & ELECTRIC ENGINE HYBRID
Horsepower/Torque: 212-COMBINED HORSEPOWER / 232 LB-FT COMBINED TORQUE
Transmission: ELECTRIC CONTINUOUS VARIABLE TRANSMISSION
Drivetrain: ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 40-CITY / 35-HWY / 38-COMBINED
AS TESTED: 34.3-MPG COMBINED / 33.3-MPG HIGHWAY (200 MILE TEST)
Fuel Range: 370 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±7.5 SECONDS

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