Honda CR-V — Mid-cycle updates

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(August 16, 2020) Jump inside a Honda CR-V compact crossover and relish in the very comfortable interior, and then take it for a couple of spins around the block and you will understand why it has become the best-selling SUV in the country. The CR-V has been refreshed for 2020 making it even better. The biggest news is the addition of a hybrid model capable of 38 mpg. Honda has also dropped the base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder from the lineup making the more powerful 190-horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter engine standard across the lineup.

The CR-V, which has racked up nearly 4.5 million sales since its introduction in 1997, is built on a platform shared by the compact Civic, but it's slightly larger in every key dimension for the fifth generation, which was introduced in 2017. The wheelbase has grown from 103.1 inches to 104.7 inches since the last generation, length is up 1.2 inches to 180.6 and the width has grown 1.4 inches.

This has created more cargo and passenger space. Luggage capacity behind the seats is now an excellent-for-the-segment 39 cubic feet, two more than the previous generation, and folding the seatbacks flat results in 76 cubic feet. An adjustable load floor can be configured to provide a flat floor.

For 2020, the CR-V exterior styling has been tweaked for a bolder, updated look, including a new face, dark trim in back and new paint colors. Inside there’s a redesigned center console that’s easier to use and has greater storage. The CR-V is available in four trim levels — LX, EX, EX-L, Touring plus the Hybrid — with the features list growing through the trim levels. We think the sweet spot is the EX, which brings an abundance of equipment including advanced safety technology. All-wheel drive is a $1,500 option on all trim levels.

The new CR-V Hybrid uses the same powertrain set up as the Honda Accord Hybrid, a 2.0-liter 212-horsepower four-cylinder combined with dual electric motors. Since electric motors drive the wheels, it doesn’t use a real transmission, rather what’s called a lockup clutch. The hybrid is rated at 40 mpg city, 35 highway and 38 combined on regular gas.

The standard CR-V's 1.5-liter engine size — 190 horsepower at @ 5,600 rpm and 179 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 rpm — is commiserate with most vehicles in the segment, providing the CR-V with capable performance through a well-done continuously variable transmission, measured at 7.6 seconds from 0-to-60 and 89 mph at 16 seconds in the quarter mile. But Honda does have something to brag about — gas mileage, which tops almost all comers. The front-driven CR-V is EPA-rated at 28-mpg city, 34-highway and 30-overall. All-wheel drive also carries a commendable rating of 27/32/29. And all require the less-expensive regular gas.

The CR-V is very composed on the road with great on-center feel. A variable-ratio electrically assisted power steering setup offers quick response times and the proper levels of assist when maneuvering in tight quarters. While not in sports car territory, the CR-V actually has some sportiness about it when the roads become winding, displaying less body roll than most in the segment. At the same time the cabin is relatively quiet at highway speeds and the ride is pleasant.

The interior is stylish and spacious creating a comfortable environment with quality materials and a user-friendly layout. A tasteful balance of faux-wood accents, chromed plastic, and brushed-satin finishes look particularly upscale in the Touring version we tested. Supportive and nicely sculpted front seats hug occupants in all the right places. Our only real complaint comes with the audio system, which now includes a traditional rotary volume knob, but still lacks a tuning knob making it more difficult to move through the stations while hurtling down the road.

The Honda Sensing suite of safety features is now standard across the lineup. This means features like forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure warning, a road departure mitigation system, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assistance are included with every model. Unfortunately, blind spot monitoring is available only as an option on the base trim. We think that a blind spot system is one of the most important automotive safety devices and should be standard equipment on all vehicles regardless of price.

While the base LX brings a decent assortment of standard equipment starting at $26,170, the EX for only $2,510 more adds features that include 18-inch wheels, foglights, sunroof, dual-zone climate control, a power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, blind spot monitoring, push-button start with keyless entry, a 7-inch touchscreen, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

The top-trim Touring starts at $34,370 including destination charge and brings virtually everything the CR-V offers. Our AWD test vehicle carried a bottom line of $35,870.

2020 Honda CR-V


Base price: $26,170; as driven, $35,870
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 190 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 179 foot-pounds @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: all wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches
Length: 180.6 inches
Curb weight: 3,512 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 39.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 75.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 14 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 27 city, 32 highway, 29 combined
0-60: 7.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Ford Escape, Toyota RAV, Subaru Forester

The Good
• Pleasing ride
• High-quality interior
• Excellent fuel economy

The Bad
• No audio tuning knob

The Ugly
• Blind spot optional on lower trim