By on May 5, 2021

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

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 system horsepower @ 6,200 rpm)

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.

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.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

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.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

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.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

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]

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33 Comments on “2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Touring Review – Speaking Softly...”

  • avatar

    “What if it’s not OK for a crossover to be a soft-roader, but actually desirable?”

    None of these things are desirable, stop trying to reframe “soft roader” into something positive. The SUV was/is desirable, but due to government and market factors it has been limited and very expensive. So the next best thing was to build models which *looked* like SUVs but were NOT SUVs because consumer studies showed the majority of owners did not go off-road in them. Since consumers have a collective IQ south of Forrest Gump, selling them zircon for 75% cost of a diamond worked and here we are.

    Dated but interesting entry on the SUV:

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Today’s compact CUVs are essentially the same height and size of full size American cars from post-WWII until the ‘longer, lower, wider’ mantra stupidly hit in the late ’50s-’60s. That they are tremendously more efficient, safer, and reliable is the product of 50 years progress.

      I’m an old car enthusiast, but there has never been a better product than those produced today on so many levels.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with the latter.

      • 0 avatar

        “Today’s compact CUVs are essentially the same height and size of full size American cars from post-WWII”

        Not really. Compared to the full-size cars of 1948-1957 a compact CUV like this Honda is about 3-6 inches taller and 12+ inches shorter (along with 12+ inch shorter wheelbase).

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Granted, I take your point. For reference, here is a comparison of length, width and height:

          1950 Chrysler: 211 – 77 – 63
          1967 Chrysler: 220 – 79 – 56
          2020 CR-V: 182 – 73 – 66

    • 0 avatar

      How is “a bit more clearance, but not enough to require an overly tall and cumbersome vehicle,” not something positive, if what you need is “a bit more clearance,” to deal with poorly plowed roads, the occasional fireroad etc?

  • avatar

    It doesn’t matter what you want to call these things, they sell a ton of them and people like them. Well actually I don’t like it when you call them a wagon.

  • avatar

    semi related question. My good friends have a 2 year old CRV. Less than 10,000 miles. Retired couple in their 70s. Took it in to dealer for an oil change last week and service writer convinced them to change the brake fluid. My first thought was they got taken advantage of. Car is well cared for and looks like new. Stored in garage. Any valid reason for this. Western NY if that matters. Thanks. To be clear, they were not experiencing any brake problems before.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Could be a OEM recommendation to change the fluid based on time, not mileage, or could just be a scummy service advisor. I’d check out a Honda forum.

    • 0 avatar

      My phantom Volvo’s mfg recommendation were to change brake fluid every 10K, and its an MY04. I’m sure its in Honda’s fine print to do the same but nobody does unless you’re at the dealer and confronted with it.

    • 0 avatar

      What I found online is that Honda’s recommendation is to change every 3 years regardless of mileage. Chances are that what they did was use a vacula or turkey baster to suck out the reservoir and then filled it with new. Highly unlikely they did a full proper bleeding, of cycling the ABS pump and doing it enough to flush out the lines.

      Of course many mfgs have no recommended interval.

    • 0 avatar

      The usual selling point on this is that brake fluid gradually absorbs moisture which reduces its boiling point, which would leave your elderly friends shit out of luck when they took their CRV to the race track.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Although the Honda hybrid system should work well enough in average use in the midwest — and perform up to its EPA ratings, users making long, high speed highway drives or significant hill climbs may be disappointed. This is because the Honda system is, most of the time, a “series” system, that is, the engine drives the wheels indirectly by driving a generator that, in turn powers an electric motor, which supplies actual propulsion. This is not a particularly efficient way to propel the car, once the battery is exhausted (e.g. on a long hill climb). Toyota’s parallel system blends power from both the engine and electric motor to turn the drive wheels. So, for example, when the battery is exhausted, the engine will power the wheels directly. The second situation that is suboptimal for Honda is that when the vehicle’s road speed reaches a set point, the engine engages the drive wheels directly. This is fine and good so long as the driver chooses to operate the vehicle at the engine’s optimum efficient speed. However, lacking a transmission, the engine will move out of that optimum speed if the driver wishes to go faster. The operating parameters are chosen by Honda, no doubt, to maximize the scoring on the EPA test cycle. But real-world users may be disappointed in their results to the extent that their driving does not match the EPA test profile. Alex Dykes illustrates that with his back-to-back real world tests of the RAV4 hybrid and the CR-v hybrid on his, rather quirky driving loop that features a long climb over a 2000 foot grade.

    • 0 avatar

      Okay, since you mention the RAV battery being exhausted, go back to Alex’s site and check out his towing 2000 lbs test (500lbs over recommended). It never exhausted the battery over that proverbial 2200 ft mountain pass. He was surprised and pleased at the RAV’s “battery management” as he called it. So apparently the Toyota hybrid system is more efficient and more robust than the Honda.

      That said I sure wish I could have the smooth ride of the CRV mentioned above. My 2020 RAV hybrid LE rides like a a friend’s heavy duty pickup truck, and every plastic panel and whatever else rattles, particularly in the winter. Seriously, if I was on a perfectly smooth road I suspect that I could feel a stack of five quarters being run over. I don’t get it, my 2000 Corolla smoothed expansion joints , road patches, and manhole covers with far more grace than this 1200 pound heavier RAV4. I get this weird feeling that they gave it trucky styling, so they decided to give it a brittle trucky ride to match.

      • 0 avatar

        This sounds exactly like my dad’s 2001 Rav4. He usually keeps cars forever, and I’m not even sure he kept that one for a full year. An irredeemably jittery rattle-trap. Sad to see they haven’t improved at all in 10 years.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s very little magic a hybrid can offer up on a highway drive. And while Honda’s series hybrid system might seem inherently inefficient, it’s really up to their technical inventiveness and expertise as to just how efficient they can make such a drivetrain. Generators and electric motors are inherently efficient and the potential is there. I haven’t seen an actually published statement with regard to the efficiency of theory system at various speeds and power output. Since you are essentially driving an electric drivetrain I’m guessing it’s very linear, smooth and responsive. Ultimately all hybrids really shine at stop and go city driving. I agree Toyota’s system works better overall, it’s also older, more developed and honed.

  • avatar

    Can a vehicle be any more dull than a compact CUV in flat gray?

  • avatar

    kc flyer

    Former Williamsville guy here.
    Subaru calls for Brake Fluid change at 30,000miles.

    My brother had a ’18 CRV. Hard seats wore on him. Dumped it soon for a RX 350 Lexus.

    I wouldn’t mind a CRV- but everyone and his brother has one.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks redapple and others for the replies. Sounds like the fluid change was at least a manufacturer recommendation. I’m sure the engineers at ford will be happy to know their system works better. My 73 F250 eats a master cylinder every decade or so and by the time I get it replaced I’ve dumped a gallon of new brake fluid in. I suppose the Honda system is more environmentally friendly. :)

  • avatar

    So I have to ask, what does a vehicle that uses a reduction gear drive like? Is it like driving a golf cart with no noticable change in engine noise because it’s running on electric?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Pretty much. It’s seamless, mostly. You do hear some engine noise when you get in the throttle, though.

      Basically, it drives like a car with a really smooth conventional automatic or CVT.

  • avatar

    Thus is about as lukewarm of a review of the CR-V hybrid that I’ve seen.

    As for the RAV4 – “rugged”?

    I guess in an overblown, faux-rugged type of way, but it’s definitely not attractive (way too many lines going in every which direction).

  • avatar

    Design is a one reason why I will not buy any Honda any time soon.

  • avatar

    We test drove a new Venza and new CR-V Hybrid this week. Both were nice and by comparison, the CR-V is a little long in the tooth and somewhat short on features. Compared to the Venza, for us the pros and cons of the CR-V were:

    1. good interior and exterior styling
    2. better interior storage and larger rear cargo area
    3. availability of walk-away lock
    4. better interior color selection

    1. No spare tire. The hybrid battery is under the cargo floor, whereas the Venza and RAV4 Hybrid have the battery under the rear seat and retain a spare tire.

    2. old infotainment system with relatively small screen in a poor position. IMO screens should be mounted up high near your line of sight.

    3. slightly lower EPA mileage rating than the Venza/RAV Hybrid. There appears to be a lot of variation in real-world mileage being at or below the EPA ratings.

    4. slightly shorter battery warranty

    5. no ability of newer features like connected services, ventilated seats, digital rear view mirror or 360-degree cameras.

    One big functional difference is the CR-V has mechanical AWD whereas the Toyotas have a separate electric motor on the rear axle. This gives the Honda a slight edge in that it can transmit more torque to the rear wheels.
    This didn’t make a difference for our situation but is worth noting. In fact, we would have preferred if a FWD version of the Venza and CR-V Hybrid were available.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

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

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      If there’s any measure of truth to this, it would have been nice to read this in the body of the review. I’ve always liked the styling of the generation of the CR-V, but the small engine, low feature content, and high cost are detractions.

    • 0 avatar

      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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