Certain cars don't need any introduction, and the 2023 Honda CR-V is one of them. Much like the Civic, Accord, and Pilot, the popular compact crossover is a favorite among American households. Boasting a spacious cabin, large trunk, and modern amenities, the CR-V has evolved to keep up with families since its introduction in 1997.
The CR-V may be all new for 2023 but it promises the same ownership experience as the five generations that came before it: Honda reliability, practicality, and comfort. In the end, whether you're a car enthusiast or someone who doesn't ever think about their car after the date of purchase, it's those qualities that build brand loyalty. And also what's helped Honda sell over 200,000 of these in the U.S. so far in 2023.
2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid Specs
Honda's new, more chiseled design language debuted in the all-new CR-V and was followed by the all-new Pilot earlier this year. Its large front grille seamlessly incorporates the headlights and has a mildly aggressive look. It's a bold departure from the sleeker, less rugged previous generation. The hybrid-only Sport Touring trim features additional molding under the grille and two silver-accented intakes at each corner. Not all of these openings are functional, but they do enhance its looks. The silhouette reveals a tall yet sharp CR-V, with a higher belt-line, slightly flared wheel fenders, and peeking taillights. The rear carries over the model's signature vertical taillights and is the ideal natural evolution of the CR-V.
Honda's interiors have always followed function over form, making them extremely user-friendly but also somewhat stale. That changed with the introduction of a new cabin design in the Civic a couple of years back, with that same theme carrying over to the CR-V. A nine-inch touchscreen sitting atop the dash displays all media, navigation, camera, and other apps. Below it sits the climate controls, which are organized in a thin panel dominated by three large knobs; driver temperature, fan speed, and passenger temperature. Down low by the shifter, you'll find a switch for the driving modes (Normal, Sport, Econ, and Snow) and buttons for hill-descent control, electronic parking brake, and Brake Hold.
The CR-V Sport Touring is powered by a hybrid-electric drivetrain consisting of a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four aided by two electric motors and a small battery. Together, they produce 204 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque, which can be sent to all four wheels. Unlike previous CR-V Hybrids, this new generation allows towing up to 1,000 pounds. It's not much, but it's better than nothing.
Driving the Honda CR-V Hybrid
It's true that 204 hp doesn't sound like much nowadays, but in reality, it's more than most vehicles need to get out of their own way while still delivering good fuel economy. In the case of the new CR-V, it's also more than plenty to make you chuckle due to its electrified acceleration. Step hard on the gas to trigger the four-banger and electric motors, quickly reminding you that hybrid technology has come a long way—especially in this segment. The CR-V can confidently get up and go regardless of the type of road, whether zipping around city streets or passing on the interstate. Acceleration from a standstill is brisk, and even at 80 mph there's plenty of oomph to get you in trouble with the law. It's not a Civic Type R, but it's certainly no slouch.
Steering is typical Honda; direct and slightly firm—very similar to previous generation Accords—and the same goes for the brake pedal. A bit touchy. The suspension is well-damped and you'll never find yourself bouncing too much on undulating surfaces, and you'll never say "Ouch!" either because it's too stiff. If your commute to and from work throws a few curves at you, chances are you'll have a bit of fun courtesy of the 204 hp and relatively solid driving dynamics.
Stepping up to the Sport trim ups the wheel size from 18 to 19 inches, a move that I would normally shy away from in a daily-driven family crossover. Yes, I love the look but I'll always favor the comfort that comes with thicker rubber. However, the 235/55 all-season Continental CrossContacts have enough sidewall to absorb large bumps and minor imperfections alike, keeping things nice and plush inside.
The cabin is well-insulated and for the most part very quiet. At low speeds, however, the transition from battery to gas engine can be loud and slightly obnoxious. You sort of stop noticing it eventually, but it took me a few days to ignore the brash startup of the four-cylinder engine. That said, the transition from battery to gas is smooth and you hardly feel any clunkiness going on in the drivetrain.
The shifter has a "B" setting. Shifting into B provides a hint of EV-style, one-pedal driving. It won't bring the car to a complete stop, but it introduces additional drag to quickly slow down and recharge the battery. I found myself using this in the few miles leading up to my house (mostly curvy country roads), and then tricking the drivetrain into battery-only mode by keeping a modest speed once I entered my neighborhood. I enjoyed the experience.
The Highs and Lows
The CR-V is a fantastic way of transporting kids, dogs, and stuff. Comfort is paramount in this segment, and the CR-V delivers. My kids enjoyed the spacious rear seats, rear USB-C charge ports, air vents, and reclining backrests. Rear legroom is also fantastic at 41 inches (0.6 inches more than the previous model), as noted by my very tall teenage son, who was also a big fan of the CR-V's sporty exterior and black wheels. At 36.3 cubic feet, cargo space is also ideal, with the crossover handling several suitcases and other gear for the kids' weeklong summer camp. Lastly, the CR-V was awarded a Top Safety Pick+ rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is the highest rating it offers.
Optional equipment and packaging seem confusing in the new-gen CR-V. One must step to the top-of-the-line model to get features like a heated steering wheel, as they're either not available or don't make financial sense to add in lower trims. Also, features like ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a third climate zone aren't available at all for the CR-V. It also would've been nice to see the Pilot's door panel design here too, which accommodates larger/taller water battles in the door cupholders.
Honda CR-V Hybrid Features, Options, and Competition
Priced at $39,845 as tested, the Sport Touring Hybrid CR-V isn't exactly a bargain, but it's certainly a value-packed proposition. If you're looking for fewer bells and whistles, then opting for lower trims is the way to go, with well-equipped Hybrid models hovering in the $34,000 range.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited and Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Limited are the CR-V's biggest rivals and share nearly equal starting prices. However, the Toyota offers a wider variety of optional equipment—mostly luxury features like premium sound, rearview camera mirror, panoramic glass roof, heated rear seats, etc.—considerably inflating its price to $43,420 when fully loaded. The Tucson better mirrors the CR-V at $40,445 including destination. In the end, it's the Honda that's able to offer the most equipment while still remaining under $40,000.
The CR-V Sport Touring Hybrid boasts an EPA-estimated rating of 40 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 37 mpg combined. See below how it compares to its rivals.
Value and Verdict
When it comes to transporting yourself, your family, or your beloved stuff in safety, comfort, and reliability, it's hard to do much better than a Honda. Specifically, the new CR-V offers a good-looking package loaded with amenities for a price the competition can't match. However, its rivals also offer compelling variants with a variety of features for not a lot more money.
The 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid is a capable compact crossover that's matured enough over the years to offer a better overall package than even the Pilot did a decade ago—maybe even less. The fact that it's the only fully loaded hybrid in its class to cost under $40,000 speaks to Honda's commitment to value. Much like its Civic sedan sibling, it begs to ask the question: "Would I be better off buying anything else?" The answer is usually, "no."
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