2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid

PHOENIX — For 2023 Honda introduces an all-new 6th generation CR-V crossover utility vehicle. After first being launched back in 1997 the CR-V is now more than a quarter century old and a perennial best-seller. Over the years, the small crossover segment continues to be one of the fastest growing and the CR-V maintains its reign as the best seller over those 25 years.

But as the segment grows so too does the CR-V that adds another 2.7-inches of length on the wheelbase that's 1.6-inches longer and another half inch wider.

The 2023 CR-V is offered in six trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Sport Hybrid, Sport-L Hybrid and Sport Touring Hybrid. For this review Honda supplied us with the top-shelf Sport Touring Hybrid with standard all-wheel-drive. CR-V pricing starts at $31,610 (add $1,245 destination) for the EX up to $39,845 for our Sport Touring Hybrid tester including the destination charge.

The Honda brand is about as ubiquitous of an automotive brand as one could get and the CR-V leads that role with massively broad appeal to drivers of all ages as one of America's go-to vehicles for predictably reliable, pleasant looking, affordable mainstream transportation. And this 6th generation doesn't tinker with that winning formula including a new design that adopts the Honda corporate look across all models with a large grille, sliver headlights and a more chiseled exterior rather than jellybean look to the sheetmetal.

The look is overall pleasant, intentionally non-controversial, but isn't exciting either — no one will follow you home to stop and ask you what's that gorgeous vehicle you're driving?

Inside, the interior is bigger and for 2023 the most welcomed change that mimics the same design ethos as the interior we experienced earlier this year in the Civic, which we were big fans. Most noticeable is the honeycomb trim across the entire center of the instrument panel that cleverly hides/houses the HVAC vents with control switches beneath.

A central lap-type screen (although at just 9-inches is a bit on the small side but is 2-inches larger than the Hybrid Sport) that's control central for infotainment sits atop the instrument panel. A nice touch is that it has physical controls for home, volume control and skipping tracks. We found it simple to use and it includes standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The larger screen also features wireless connectivity with a wireless phone charging pad at the base of the dash that's said to be twice as powerful as the previous generations'.

We mentioned the overall increase in size which shows up with a roomier interior by adding an additional 0.6 inches of additional legroom to rear seat. There's also a new, adjustable rear back that can recline in eight positions making the second-row feel much roomier. New lower child-seat anchors make it much simpler to use. Overall, the interior's fresh new styling is a welcomed update making it much more modern with a sense of premium than we've known in previous generation CR-Vs.

The fact that we were driving the top-tier Sport Touring Hybrid with all the well-equipped features including heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a satisfying Bose premium audio system with subwoofer, heated steering wheel, power operating sun roof, wireless smartphone charging and more help to impress the overall experience.

LX, EX and EX-L trim levels are powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 190-hp and 179 lb.-ft of torque and is paired with a CVT automatic transmission. The three hybrid trims are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with two electric motors, one traction motor, one power generator, totaling 204-hp and 247 lb-ft of torque, allowing the CR-V to sprint to 60 mph in a respectable 7.3 seconds.

A certain amount of electricity regeneration can be called up via the CVT transmission it uses when decelerating by shifting to the Hybrid's new "B" position and using its steering wheel paddles. Using the high regeneration won't stop the CR-V like a proper one-pedal setup would, but it does crank up the the levels of regeneration to help slow it down when you lift off the gas. Honda says it added the system in part to prepare its customers for an electric-car future. Either way, it's a mild hybrid since Honda still says away from plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) so there's no plugging in to charge it up. Just gas and go.

Experiencing the regeneration can be confusing at times when using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel where the defaults are. For example, it depends if the transmission is in "D" or "B" and there are four levels to operate in different ways with those two transmission modes.  The CR-V hybrid is also reluctant to stick at the most potent deceleration level: it'll reset to stage 3 out of 4, in "B" mode, after each stop. I preferred the high level of regeneration which is the most aggressive, unfortunately, it's never enough to bring the vehicle to a complete stop like a "one-pedal" operating system but it is more comfortable to use in urban traffic.

On the road we found our Sport Touring Hybrid to be smooth, linear, quick enough and competent. From a dead stop acceleration was good but the engine became protestingly loud and harsh sounding. It handles competently in most situations but never quite feels completely sturdy or settled. There is absolutely no sense of sportiness to driving this vehicle. Still, i suspect most drivers will be satisfied with its driving characteristics.

Honda Sensing is standard across the board, including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance and lane departure warnings, blind spot warnings, collision mitigation braking and forward collision warnings, road departure mitigation, and Traffic Jam Assist. The latter improves steering assistance in highway congestion, though it's always a Level 2, hands-on system so you can't tune out. Still, we find Honda Sensing is overly tech heavy and less user friendly and fussy. Lane departure was especially annoying with repeated alerts and the vehicle trying to nudge the steering even though I was driving near perfect center of the lane and there's no simple on off button to switch the system off either.

Overall, the new CR-V is a definite move forward over the outgoing generation and makes for a better family crossover especially when choosing our preference one of the hybrid trim levels. The price points on all the trim levels are appealing considering for under a $40,000 price you'd have to spend  $50,000 or more for a competitor like Infinity, Volvo, or Lexus and essentially get the same size vehicle with nearly the identical equipment. The CR-V makes very compelling balance for a vehicle of this size and purpose for the price.  

Vital Stats
Base Price: $38,600
Price as Tested: $39,845
Engine/Transmission: 2.0-L 204-hp four-cylinder dual-motor hybrid system and CVT transmission
EPA Fuel Economy: 40/34/37 - MPG - City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2023 Top Safety Pick+

Where Built: Ontario, Canada

Competes With:
Ford Escape Hybrid
Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
Kia Sportage
Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid
Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Good fuel economy
Roomy, upscale interior
Reliable, excellent resale, easy to live with

Harsh engine noise under acceleration
Still no plug-in or fully EV option
Honda Sensing can be overly enthusiastic

— Jim Prueter