Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: March 16, 2023
A sensible and ergonomic offering, the Honda CR-V has always been one of our most highly recommended SUVs. The new 2023 model adds sleek new looks, an updated interior, and a brand new hybrid powertrain that has finally made it to Canada. Previously only available south of the border, the CR-V Hybrid is now here to give the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid a run for its money.
And the money you better have because the Hybrid doesn’t come cheap. It’s only available in one trim called Hybrid Touring and it starts at an eye-watering $50,973. That genuinely offsets most of the fuel gains compared to the non-hybrid powertrain, unless your commutes are as long as the digits in the price tag. That said, it does come jam-packed with every feature in the book from a Bose audio system, heated front and rear seats, and Honda’s full suite of driver assistance features.
The sixth-generation CR-V wears a handsome suit on the exterior, looking classier and more focused than the outgoing model. We think it’s even better proportioned than the RAV4, and we’re glad Honda didn’t take too conservative of an approach for their best-selling model. The Hybrid also comes with a few distinguishable elements like the added chrome slots in the front bumper and dual chrome exhaust outlets out back.
The interior mirrors that of the Civic with a spacious center console and ample storage, complemented by a small diameter steering wheel and honeycomb dashboard that cleverly hides the fan vents behind them. The 9.0-inch center display is a touchscreen and operates fluidly, though user interfaces have never been Honda’s strong suit. We prefer the ones in the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-50, though activating Apple CarPlay or Android Auto will remedy that and give you a more familiar format.
The CR-V is significantly larger than before, which means more interior space and rear headroom. It used to be a somewhat cramped area for my six-foot figure but now the rear row of seats is a happy and comfortable place to spend time in. It’s hard to call it upscale or visually pleasing though, especially if you’ve seen or sat in the new Mazda CX-50, which blows the CR-V out of the water with its premium materials and upscale Japanese aesthetic. Same price too.
The Hybrid setup consists of a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor, good for a combined output of 204 hp and 247 lb-ft. Base CR-V models still come with front-wheel drive as standard, with mid- and high-level trims offering AWD, and all get a continuously variable transmission.
The hybrid isn’t the most inspiring powertrain. The transitions between gas and electric are smooth as butter and exude the kind of polish expected from a Honda unit, but acceleration is lacklustre and it becomes lethargic when gunning it down at triple-digit speeds. Its tepid propulsion makes you feel vulnerable in traffic, and passing maneuvers become more of a pre-planned event rather than a spur-of-the-moment ordeal. Furthermore, when going up steep inclines you can hear the engine whine and pant as it stresses out its mechanicals, a weakness inherent to these small displacement engines, and it’s no different from the RAV4 Hybrid. We genuinely prefer the non-hybrid powertrain for its more honest drive and linear power delivery but if efficiency and a green conscience are of paramount importance, then the Hybrid delivers as promised.
The CR-V’s road manners are far from exciting but do their best to instill a touch of sporting flair to the drive. The steering is not rich in road detail but it’s still immensely satisfying to turn in, from the resistance, weighting, and connection to the front wheels and road surface. Still, the Hybrid’s true strengths show when you take it back a notch and drive at a moderate pace. The ride is grounded and stable, gains in fluency the faster you go, and neutralizes small suspension movements as ably as a RAV4 Hybrid.
The Honda CR-V houses a thick layer of daily usability and everyday comfort, and now with the Hybrid, fuel efficiency can be added to that mix. The powertrain is refined and polished, and though it lacks the engagement of the non-hybrid spec, it makes up for that by being better for the environment and for your long-term wallet. If only the entry price wasn’t so expensive, or if cheaper trims were available instead of being an all-in price at the Touring level.
Model: 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid
Paint Type: Radiant Red
Base Price: $50,973
Price as Tested: $50,973
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,695 / 1,940 / 1,690
Curb weight (kg): 1,785
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, electric motor
Horsepower: 204 combined hp
Torque: 247 combined lb-ft
Transmission: Electric continuously variable transmission (e-CVT)
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 6.0 / 6.9 / 6.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 7.9