2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Touring Review - Speaking Softly

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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Fast Facts

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Touring Fast Facts

2.0-liter four-cylinder paired with electric propulsion motor and starter/generator motor (143 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm; 129 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm (gas engine); 181 horsepower @ 5,000-6,000 rpm, 232 lb-ft @ 0-2,000 rpm (electric propulsion motor; 212 total
Reduction gear set, all-wheel drive
40 city / 35 highway / 38 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
N/A city, N/A highway, N/A combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$35,905 (U.S) / N/A (Canada)
As Tested
$37,070 (U.S.) / N/A (Canada)
Prices include $1,120 destination charge in the United States and N/A for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared. The CR-V Hybrid is not sold in Canada.
2020 honda cr v hybrid touring review speaking softly

The term “soft roader” is often thrown around as a pejorative aimed at crossovers, particularly ones that have some limited off-road ability but don’t look particularly rugged and/or are just not likely to be used for anything other than family-hauling duty.

Hear me out for a sec, though: What if it’s not OK for a crossover to be a soft-roader, but actually desirable?

The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid certainly makes that case. Especially when one gets re-loaned the same vehicle a while after the first loan in order to drive it to Detroit and return it to Honda.

That means I had a long freeway stint in CR-V, in addition to my usual around-town driving.

This crossover isn’t just about sipping fuel – the hybrid powertrain actually puts out more total power than the gas CR-V offers.

Here are the numbers: 212 total system horsepower and 232 lb-ft of torque from a powertrain that pairs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an electric propulsion motor and adds a starter/generator motor.

All-wheel-drive is standard, and it uses a front transfer case to get power to the rear rubber. A reduction gearset replaces a conventional transmission. Most of the time, power is supplied by the electric propulsion motor, while the gas engine powers a generator that supplies the juice. During high-speed driving, the gas engine engages directly with the wheels via a clutch.

The battery supplies electricity to the electric motor during urban driving, while during hybrid operation the gas engine supplies the generator motor. That motor then sends electricity to the electric propulsion motor while also charging the battery.

On-road, all this operates as seamlessly and smoothly as just about any other hybrid I’ve driven. Acceleration is not swift but will be good enough for most commuters.

If you want a crossover that’s really fun to drive, look elsewhere, as this CR-V isn’t particularly engaging. It is, however, competent enough.

The ride is the star – the CR-V Hybrid showed smoothness even on crappy Midwestern interstate tarmac. It’s a slick road-tripper and a perfectly fine commuter.

Subtle styling differences – mostly badging outside and different gauges and shifter/console inside – separate the hybrid from gas models. Honda’s push-button shifter is present here, and while I suspect most people would prefer a more traditional gear selector, it’s not too hard to get used to.

Well, mostly. I admit that on one caffeine-challenged morning, I sat there for a good couple of minutes pressing the button for reverse when I had not yet pushed the button that starts the vehicle. My sleep-addled brain probably wouldn’t have done that with a traditional shifter. At least there’s a volume knob and the infotainment system seems tacked on over instead of above the center stack.

While the CR-V’s ride was more than acceptably compliant on the freeway, the front seats are just stiff and flat enough to mildly annoy, and noise starts creeping in upwards of 65 mph.

Standard features include Honda’s HondaSense suite of driver’s aids – collision-mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane-keeping assist, and road-departure mitigation with lane-departure warning. Other standard or available features included leather seats, rear cross-traffic monitor, navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless phone charger, Bluetooth, USB, driver-attention monitor, dual-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, heated front seats, moonroof, 19-inch wheels, power liftgate, and LED fog lamps.

The EPA fuel-economy numbers are listed at 40 mpg city/35 mpg highway/38 mpg combined. The hybrid system has three drive modes in addition to a Sport mode and EV mode that allows for electric-only operation for up to a mile, should you be gentle. Of course, there’s an Econ mode, too. Paddles on the steering wheel allow the driver to control the level of regenerative braking.

What we have here is a soft-roader in the best sense of the word. It even looks kinda soft, thanks to curves that blend with the more angular styling elements. And that’s fine, as it looks attractive. Yes, rugged can be attractive, too (see: RAV4, Toyota), but the citified element works for this Honda.

Overall, the CR-V Hybrid makes for a decent package, and this time you actually can dare to call a crossover “soft”.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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4 of 33 comments
  • Master Baiter Master Baiter on May 06, 2021

    The last Honda we owned (2014 Odyssey) had a horrible infotainment system. Nothing in the "review" on this aspect of the vehicle...

  • Kenn Kenn on May 06, 2021

    The "total horsepower" rating is somewhat misleading. Once reaching a speed beyond which the engine takes over (~ 45 mph), a single, low-numerical gear ratio means that the 212 hp rating is reached only at an rpm equivalent to over 100 mph. Few drivers will ever see that 212 hp.

    • See 1 previous
    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on May 06, 2021

      That is not how it works. At any time/speed it can disconnect the clutch and run the engine at peak power. If the battery SOC is high enough, it can supplement the power generated by the starter/generator.

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