One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is a fuel-efficient RAV4 Hybrid AWD buster

To test the CR-V Hybrid, drivers set off on a course in and around Tucson, Arizona.

Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

It's this simple. The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid delivers a better drive experience than the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, when both are equipped with all-wheel drive. If fuel efficiency and traction are two of your primary concerns, the Honda is the best bet, but it isn't perfect.

The exterior of the Honda CR-V Hybrid has some changes from the traditional design of the CR-V. Honda has given the model standard all-wheel drive, five-lamp LED fog lights, unique rear bumper, Hybrid model badging, keyless entry, push-button start, a cargo cover and a long list of safety and driver assist technology. Different trims get different wheels.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid See the blue around the "H" logo? That's one of the few indications that the model is a hybrid.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

The SUV achieves 40 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 38 mpg combined thanks the combination of its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors. The setup is similar to the system in the 2020 Honda Accord Hybrid and it achieves 212 horsepower and 232 pound-feet of torque. That's significantly more torque than the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid.

Though the CR-V Hybrid feels heavier and more grounded to drive than the CR-V, it by no means seems too heavy for its powertrain. The car has a good power to weight ratio that rarely makes the typical driver wish there was more oomph.

When it comes to all-wheel drive, the CR-V Hybrid is more competent in low-traction situations than the RAV4 Hybrid AWD. When behind the wheel of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD, the model almost seems to be thinking about keeping you on the road while it operates. In the CR-V Hybrid, this same functionality is more straightforward and visceral for the SUV. This inspires more confidence.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid The Honda CR-V Hybrid carries over much of the same front to tail design as the CR-V.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

The interior is mostly the same in the CR-V Hybrid and it wins points for straightforward functionality. However, the car's standard shifter has been replaced by the button shifter traditionally found in Acura vehicles and the Honda Odyssey. There are large drive mode buttons to the right of the shifter that actually noticeably change the performance of the SUV. After pressing Sport the throttle allows for a torquier takeoff and longer spans between shifts. Press the Eco button and and pickup slows to allow for a more fuel-efficient experience.

The CR-V Hybrid is slightly less fuel-efficient on paper than the RAV4 Hybrid and Escape Hybrid. It earns 38 mpg combined while the other two get 40 mpg combined.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid The new model gets unique badging, including a "Hybrid" tag on the rear.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Honda has given the model best-in-class passenger and interior volume. Sitting side by side with another adult in the front row, it was easy to not have our elbow touch on the center console, even when on the road for hours at a time, taking a more relaxed drive position, and not doing too much to prevent the occasional nudge.

Where the CR-V and CR-V Hybrid falter is in the comfort of their seats. Or, rather, lack of comfort. After about 45 minutes your posterior begins to let you know that it's ready for a break.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Honda's seats aren't too comfortable, but that's not unusual in the segment.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

With the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid, Honda has done what they do best. They've given buyers who have loved the car a reason to opt for the new technology because of its efficiency and proficiency, while keeping all the features that they want like gobs of cargo space and common sense button placement.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid The wheel controls are all laid out the same way they are in the CR-V.Photo by Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Honda offers the CR-V Hybrid in LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring trim levels. Prices start at $27,750 and wrap up around $36,000 for a top-tier model, not including the $1,120 destination and delivery charge. That's right in line with the Escape Hybrid and below the all-in cost of the RAV4 Hybrid.

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The new Si gets many improvements over the standard Civic.

Honda

The 2022 Civic and Civic Hatchback are just starting to hit our streets, but Honda's already moved on to higher performance versions of the car. The automaker just announced the Civic Si, which lands between the standard cars and the red-hot Type R in the Civic lineup.

2022 Honda Civic Si The Si's manual transmission gets rev-matching from the Civic Type R.Honda

The 2022 Civic Si gets a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. The VTEC unit has been updated with broader power curves and better output at the top of the rev range. It's paired exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission that features the handy rev-matching feature from the Civic Type R. The system can detect downshifts and blips the throttle to perfectly align engine revs with the shift.

Honda tightened up the new Si's body with an 8 percent bump in torsional rigidity and a 13 percent increase in bending rigidity over the previous model. The 2022 Civic Si also rides on a longer wheelbase and has a wider rear track for better stability. Honda says that at 107.7 inches, the Si has the longest wheelbase in its class, which should give the car a stable and comfortable ride.

2022 Honda Civic Si The 2022 Civic Si's interior is clean and sporty. Honda

The Si's cabin borrows heavily from the standard Civic, but the sporty car gets more aggressive front sport seats with stronger bolstering and better thigh and shoulder supports. Honda raised the seats' bottom cushion by half an inch at the front for better thigh support. A 9-inch touchscreen display is standard that runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 12-speaker Bose stereo with Centerpoint 2 tech and SurroundStage digital signal processing are also standard.

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The Passport was lightly modified for competition.

Honda

Honda recently announced a line of off-road-oriented trims and packages for its vehicles. Called TrailSport, the trim brings rugged appearance upgrades to the Honda Passport and will eventually offer more performance upgrades for other vehicles in the automaker's catalog. To further prove its mettle in the off-road space, Honda built a 2022 Passport rally truck to compete in the American Rally Association race series. The truck debuted over the weekend in Michigan and had a reasonably successful run for its first time out.

2022 Honda Passport Two Honda engineers handled driving duties.Honda

Importantly, the Passport's drivetrain and suspension were left untouched for the rally. The 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6, nine-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, and suspension in the rally vehicle are the same components that you or I would see if we bought a new Passport today. Honda did add a transmission fluid cooler, but even then, it's the unit that everyday buyers can get with the available towing package. The SUV's interior was stripped and modified for safety and performance.

2022 Honda Passport Honda is pushing deeper into the off-road with its TrailSport trims.Honda

Honda did upgrade the Passport's wheels and tires for the event by fitting 17-inch BRAID Winrace T rally wheels and Maxxis RAZR M/T or A/T tires. The automaker also made modifications to the SUV's underside with custom 1/8-inch thick aluminum oil pan and rear differential skid plates. High-density panels protect the fuel tank and other sensitive components, while Carbontech XP12 brake pads and high-temp racing brake fluid slow things down.

2022 Honda Passport The Passport's interior had to be stripped and modified for the event.Honda

The ARA National and Regional Championship Series events feature modified street vehicles that travel at speeds well in excess of 100 mph. The courses include gravel, dirt, mud, and snow, and cover hundreds of miles. The Honda Passport rally vehicle was first driven by two Honda engineers and ran in the top ten out of 42 teams. Honda says that a tire de-bead eventually slowed the team, leading to a delayed finish.

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