live the sensible life

The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Beats the RAV4 on Price and Peace Alike


June 22, 2020 Cars By
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Believe it or not, Honda has never offered a CR-V Hybrid before the year 2020. It’s not quite as wild as Bob Dylan’s 1965 appearance at Newport, but one could argue this compact crossover is the Japanese manufacturer’s most important vehicle.

The vital task of reducing emissions depends not just on making electric vehicles, but on making the internal-combustion cars that people buy in greater numbers more efficient. The Honda CR-V, a top-five seller both in the U.S. and globally in 2019 with more than 800,000 units, certainly qualifies as one of those.

The CR-V has long been brilliant in its own way; it doesn’t have one standout trait, but it’s refined, practical, comfortable and affordable. It’s easy to get in and out of, and indeed, it offers perhaps the best all-around package available for a family CUV.

The CR-V Hybrid is the same car — just with a different power setup. It keeps the positives of the CR-V, requires few significant sacrifices, and earns 38 mpg combined. The cost premium — just $2,600 over the gas version — is reasonable. If you’re down for living that sensible CR-V life, you might as well buy the hybrid.

The CR-V Hybrid is the CR-V you want

One could call the CR-V Hybrid the sportier version…just as one could call the town of Windsor “Canada’s verdant southern tip.” Using the same mill as the Accord Hybrid, the CR-V hybrid scores significant upgrades in horsepower (up from 190 hp to 212) and torque (up to 232 lb-ft from 179 lb-ft) over the internal combustion version. The hybrid gets saddled with an extra 200 pounds of weight, though, which counters much of the added oomph.

Like the standard CR-V, the hybrid edition is not particularly quick, but it feels balanced and composed during cornering and everyday driving tasks. The electric motor offers a solid hit of torque when you hit the accelerator, and the brakes aren’t as harsh as other regenerative ones. It may feel a touch more civilized than the pure combustion version. And, yeah, it’s about 25 percent more fuel-efficient, at least on paper.

The CR-V has two key advantages over the Toyota RAV4

The CR-V Hybrid’s main rival, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, is more efficient; it’s rated by the EPA for 40 mpg combined. (Some real-world testing suggests the disparity may be more than the listed two mpg.) But you can still make two arguments in Honda’s favor.

The CR-V powertrain is much quieter, slipping from electric to gas with little notice; the RAV4 sounds rough and agricultural the moment the gas kicks in. And the CR-V Hybrid is cheaper — especially at the top end. Honda includes features and tech in its top-level Touring trim that Toyota charges extra for. My fully-loaded CR-V Hybrid tester came out a little above $37,000. The equivalent RAV4 I drove last year came in a little under $41,000.

There are a couple of significant changes from the standard CR-V

Honda knew a hybrid would be in the works when they designed the CR-V, so the changes are minimal, beyond some blue trim. But those tweaks are still noteworthy. The battery pack takes up extra space, so you can’t lower the rear cargo floor for more room the way you can in the standard CR-V. You also don’t get a spare tire; Honda does include a tire repair kit, but if your tire blows, that kit won’t help you much. Make sure your AAA subscription is up to date.

Price as Tested: $37,070
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter four-cylinder hybrid, CVT, all-wheel-drive
Power: 212 hp, 232 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 40 mpg city, 35 mpg highway
Seats: 5

Honda provided this product for review.

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Tyler Duffy

Tyler Duffy is Gear Patrol's Motoring Staff Writer. He used to write about sports for The Big Lead and The Athletic. He has a black belt in toddler wrangling. He's based outside Detroit.

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