In the mega-popular compact crossover segment, few players continue dominating sales the way Honda’s five-passenger CR-V does. Honda didn’t invent the segment, but CR-V certainly nailed its secret formula for success.
The 2019 calendar year saw CR-V sales jump by 1.3 percent from the prior year. With 384,168 units tallied, CR-V ranked as one of the top five vehicles sold in the U.S. and Honda’s best-selling selection by a country mile. Honda’s runner up, the palindromic Civic, reached 325,650. For those subscribing to the safety in numbers theory, CR-V offers plenty of low-stress comfort.
Rightly priced, roomy, versatile and fuel efficiency contribute to the formula. Of interest to those traversing the upper Midwest, CR-V offers not only conventional front-wheel drive, but recommended snow-tackling all-wheel drive too (for an extra $1,500) in all trim levels (LX, EX, EX-L and Touring). Not all compact crossover competitors offer this choice.
As with a majority of ‘Cute Utes,’ CR-V’s built from a lighter-weight uni-body platform shared with conventional sedans and coupes, rather than a heavier, body-on-frame truck platform utilized in larger Sport Utility Vehicles. This contributes to greater fuel efficiency and ease of driving.
In Honda’s 2020 model year crossover portfolio, the compact CR-V slots between the relatively new subcompact HR-V, (one letter differentiation from its big brother’s namesake), and the mid-size Passport, a name reborn in the 2019 model year after a Michael-Jordan-like first-retirement back in 2003. The three-row Pilot ranks as Honda’s largest 2020 crossover.
Debuting in the 1997 model year, Honda’s CR-V underwent a fifth-generation redo in 2017. Our 2020 tester is based upon this platform. Since its humble debut, total sales during the past 23 years have topped five million units. In 2020, CR-V becomes Honda’s first crossover to offer a gas-electric hybrid combining two electric motors with a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle engine. This hybrid tandem currently powers the slightly larger Honda Accord sedan hybrid.
The Hoosier State next door got selected as the production home of Honda’s newest hybrid. The company’s investing $4.2 million to accommodate CR-V hybrid production at the Greensburg Assembly complex in the southern portion of Indiana.
Those opting for a conventional CR-V get their power from a turbo-charged, 1.5-liter, direct-injection four cylinder pumping out 190 horses, now powering all trim levels and connected to a surprisingly peppy continuously variable transmission (CVT). Last year, a naturally-aspirated inline 2.4-liter four-cylinder was standard fare in base LX trims.
This turbo four includes start/stop technology, automatically quieting the engine at prolonged stops to pimp-up fuel economy. The engine pops back to attention once easing off the brake pedal. For those who desire to, this system deactivates with a simple push of a button right of the transmission shifter. A responsive brake pedal promotes assured stopping while during extended highway travel,
CR-V provides smooth comfort.
Fuel economy slips in at 27 miles per gallon city and 32 mpg highway with all-wheel drive. Add one mile additional city, two highway with front drive, better-than-average for this highly competitive genre. Choose the all-new CR-V gas-electric hybrid and city estimates jump to 40 mpg, 35 mpg highway, superb in just about any segment. The fuel tank holds 14 gallons of regular, 87-octane petro and boasts a self-sealing cap-less fuel lead.
Offering a single, higher-charged turbo engine in all trims helps speed the decision-making process, as does Honda Sensing, now standard across the trim level spectrum including entry LX. It’s a grouping of radar-enhanced safety nuances once found almost exclusively in luxury-badged vehicles. Adaptive cruise control (slowing and speeding CR-V based on the distance of the vehicle ahead), lane-keep assist, lane departure warning and collision mitigation form Honda Sensing.
Many of Honda’s mainstream competitors also offer similarly-bundled systems as standard, a win-win for consumers.
Exterior styling continues its ‘family friendly, suitably suburban’ theme. Parents remain proudly confident while their finicky, easily distracted offspring should feel comfortably cool with CR-V’s semi universal magnetism. If not, have them save for and purchase their own tragically hip, highly chiseled Honda HR-V when old enough. New 2020 exterior tweaks for CR-V include an updated blackout front grille, broader opening for fog lights and new headlight design featuring rounded, LED fog lights.
High CR-V side character lines run horizontally through strap-like door handles, complimenting narrow side windows and creating a forward motion theme. Circular wheel wheels, highly arched in front and extending up to the hood, include a contrasting black composite material protecting the bottom frame from stone dings. This same protectant adorns lower door frames and bumpers. Bulbous tail light housing (with dark tinting) frames the sides of the hatch window before extending onto the side in a boomerang likeness.
Pricing for a front-drive LX start $25,050, with more notable upgrades than any 2020 CR-V trim. Our Aegean Blue all-wheel drive Touring started at $34,750 with a $35,845 bottom line after $1,095 destination charge. The CR-V offers scant-few al-la-carte or option packages, with each trim piling on more available standard features than the preceding selection.
New to top Touring trims in 2020: a heated steering wheel, faux-wood accents on doors and dash and a flat wireless charging pad for newer-generation Smartphones. Returning features specific to Touring includes a hands-free power rear hatch, allowing easy opening by standing close by with the key fob on person, roof rails, rain-sensitive front wipers, dual chrome exhausts and LED headlights with auto on-off.
Despite the ‘compact’ designate, CR-V offers ample comfort as the model has grown slightly in size during subsequent generational revamps. Head room remains abundant and the second row accommodates three adults in a pinch. Two fit with optimal comfort when folding down the center armrest with built-in cup holders. Two USB ports remain available for back riders. Fold down the split rear seat back and enjoy one of the largest cargo holds in the segment (75.8 cubic feet of room).
The tri-partitioned instrument panel includes smaller sides/ends with gauges mimicking outward-pointing arrowheads. The spacious, theatrical stage middle (with a wide upstage top and narrowing down stage bottom portion) include a digital speedometer and multi-paneled information window. An electric push-button start button resides right of the steering column, and comes standard in all trim sans entry LX.
Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two popular adaptions allowing Smartphone applications to play directly through the flat center screen, come standard in EX trims and above. Touring’s touch-sensitive seven-inch multi-function screen prominently centers the dash. It’s visually pleasing, but not the most intuitive set up. An on/off dial is available, but no station select orb is in sight, meaning secondary steering wheel audio controls gain importance. A toggle button below the screen speeds and slows fan speed. Most other HVAC functions must be inconveniently and slowly scrolled through via the touch screen.
The automatic-shifting transmission employees a traditional grab handle easily sliding forward and back positioned at a 45-degree angle and connecting the central dash with the cup holder region between front buckets. Immediately left is an electronic push-style parking brake, to the right, an ‘eco’ button offering a second drive mode opportunity. Honda’s recently reintroduced Passport and many other Honda/Acura products opt for in-line, an electronic, push-button design to select desired gears.
2020 Honda CR-V
Price as tested: $35,854
Engine: 1.5-liter turbo four
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches
Length: 180.6 inches
Width: 73.0 inches
Curb weight: 3,569 pounds
City/Highway economy: 27 mpg city/32mpg highway
Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles
Assembly: Alliston, Ontario Canada