First Drive Review: 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is a fuel-efficient RAV4 Hybrid AWD buster
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.
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.
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 However, the car's standard shifter has been replaced by the button shifter traditionally found in Acura vehicles and the Honda Odyssey.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.
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.
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.
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.