Redesigned 2023 Honda CR-V Ups the Ante on Hybrid Power
All-new proportions and styling, combined with a new hybrid option, promise to make the popular SUV all the more compelling
By Benjamin Preston
The Honda CR-V has long been a favorite among budget- and practical-minded compact SUV buyers, including Consumer Reports members. It’s reliable, has plenty of cargo space, and is relatively comfortable. The freshly redesigned 2023 model looks like it will augment all of the CR-V’s good qualities while addressing things that some owners may have found irksome over the years.
Honda tweaked the CR-V’s dimensions in a way that not only provides more cargo space than the outgoing model but also improves visibility with a more upright windshield and lower, door-mounted side mirrors.
Also new for 2023: Honda is offering a stronger hybrid powertrain in the Sport and Sport Touring trims. There will no longer be an entry-level LX version; the line starts with the well-equipped EX.
What it competes with: Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan.
What it looks like: A smaller version of Honda’s handsome Passport SUV.
Powertrain: 204-hp, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with two electric hybrid motors; 190-hp, 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine; continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT); front- and all-wheel drive.
Price: $28,000-$38,000 (estimated).
On sale: This summer (gasoline model); late 2022 (hybrid).
Considering the twin impacts of the chip shortage and spiraling gas prices, the entire automotive industry seems to be teetering upon the precipice of immense change. It’s not surprising then that Honda has slipped an even better hybrid powertrain into an improved version of one of its best-selling vehicles. Honda says the redesigned CR-V, with two of its four trims offered as hybrid only, is part of its path toward a greater number of electrified models. Whether or not the manufacturer manages to sell half of its CR-V models in hybrid form—which Honda says is its goal—remains to be seen, but it has certainly made the gas-electric combo palatable to the masses.
Despite Honda’s sidestep further into green territory, the new CR-V features more rugged styling, along with marketing photos—bike racks, dirt roads, etc.—that suggest the automaker is keen to horn in on the outdoorsy niche that Subaru now commands. Honda says its all-wheel-drive system is new and improved for better performance off-road. All trims even come standard with hill descent control to make driving slowly down slippery slopes easier. Just how much better it is we won’t know until we drive it on slippery or steep terrain.
In general, these days, where pickup trucks go, other autos follow. For instance, in the pickup world, huge grilles are in, so it makes sense that the new CR-V gets a beefier one.
The 2023 Honda CR-V features a larger grille than the outgoing model.
Even with the more imposing front end and muscular body lines, Honda’s engineers say they managed to squeak out better visibility from the driver’s seat, thanks to a windshield that benefits from less steepness and thinner roof pillars.
Compared with the outgoing model, the new CR-V is also nearly 3 inches longer and half an inch wider, with a wheelbase that’s 1.6 inches longer. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering that the newly redesigned HR-V, which sits below the CR-V in Honda’s lineup, also grew notably in size. The CR-V’s hood is also longer, and the haunches over the wheels and tail section are chunkier and more squared off, creating an aggressive overall look, although the shape of the vertically oriented taillight bars retains some familiarity for longtime CR-V devotees. LED low- and high-beam headlights are standard.
The CR-V’s slightly larger dimensions create a more spacious interior and more cargo space, which doesn’t differ between the gasoline-only and hybrid models as the previous version did. CR will test how much usable space has been added using our expandable pipe box, which stretches out to measure the rectangular space.
The all-new CR-V comes standard with a 7-inch touch screen.
According to Honda, the vehicle has more than 36 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, which expands to a marginally larger 76.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Back-seat passengers get half an inch of extra legroom, and the rear seats recline at eight different angles.
Honda also freshened up the interior, streamlining the overall look and adding more soft-touch surfaces throughout. Leather upholstery is available on higher trims like the EX-L and the Sport Touring, and both Sport models come with contrasting orange stitching on the seats, console, steering wheel, and shifter. The EX comes with an eight-way power driver’s seat, and a four-way power front passenger seat is also included with the EX-L trim.
The instrument panel features a 7-inch digital display that includes a tachometer on gasoline models and a power flow meter on the hybrids. A 7-inch touch-screen infotainment interface is standard, with a 9-inch screen optional. All trims come standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, as well as a tray behind the gear selector that’s wide enough to fit two smartphones side by side. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available.
What Drives It
The hybrid powertrain combines a 2.0-liter gasoline engine with two electric motors and gets a 15 lb.-ft. torque boost over the outgoing model.
Hill descent control and a snow-driving mode are standard features.
Honda says it puts out 204 horsepower total system power and 247 lb.-ft. of torque. The extra torque from the electric motors should help the hybrid feel quicker when taking off from a stop. Unlike the earlier hybrid, which wasn’t rated for towing, the new one comes with a 1,000-pound tow rating. A feature called Linear Shift Control, specific to the hybrid, mimics engine revs and shifts to make the hybrid powertrain feel more familiar to people who are new to hybrids. The hybrid model’s top speed—which was limited to 86 mph—is also higher, up to 115 mph.
The sole gasoline-only option, a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, has the same 190-horsepower rating as last year. But Honda says it made an improvement to the exhaust system that adds more torque lower in the power band, which is where most drivers will use it. Now the 179-lb.-ft. peak torque comes on 300 rpm earlier, stretching from 1,700 to 5,000 rpm.
Since Honda introduced the CR-V in the late-’90s, most of them have been equipped with an all-wheel-drive system that operates as a front-wheel drive until the front wheels lose traction, then sends a limited amount of power to the rear wheels. The 2023 model has an optional feature called the Intelligent Control System that will sense traction loss at the front wheels and send as much as 50 percent of the powertrain’s torque to the rear wheels. Hill descent control, which aids traction on loose surfaces, can be set between 2 and 12 mph for safer downhill travel when paved roads aren’t available. It’s standard on all trims.
Fuel-economy estimates aren’t available yet for either powertrain.
Active Safety and Driver Assistance Features
Like all new Hondas, the 2023 CR-V comes standard with Honda Sensing, a suite of active safety and driver assistance features that includes forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, and blind spot warning (BSW) systems. The new CR-V’s driver assistance technology is both camera- and radar-based, and includes a driver attention monitoring system that alerts those whose eyes have wandered from the road. A rear-seat belt reminder and a rear-seat reminder system to prevent children and other occupants from being left in the car are also standard.
Taking aim at more stringent crash test standards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Honda redesigned the CR-V’s basic structure to provide better crash energy deflection and occupant protection during a collision. All trims also get standard front knee and rear side-impact airbags.
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