We came away very impressed with the new 2023 sixth generation Honda CR-V after sampling the EX-L a few weeks ago. But the word “incremental” was used in this review because, while the car’s interior space and driving conditions have undoubtedly improved, there have been no apparent new developments. The powertrain and fuel efficiency of the 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission have not budged.

That characterization doesn’t apply at all to the new CR-V Hybrid, which features a completely redesigned hybrid powertrain and an all-new attitude that starts with the fact that it’s not positioned as a stand-alone hybrid model. If you want your 2023 CR-V to be a hybrid—and you do—look for the Sport or Sport Touring badge. In addition to superior fuel economy, these two models offer the sportiest and smoothest handling of all, with the Sport Touring being the most well-equipped in the entire lineup. The Sport duo can also be identified on dealer lots by black detailing, including the grille and grille, roof rails, alloy wheels and mirror housings.

The quality difference is visible even after you close the door and drive a few hundred feet. The hybrid creates a sense of structural solidity and overt calm that you don’t expect, as if it were a much more expensive car. Like all 2023 CR-Vs, hybrid models feature a stiffer body shell made with structural adhesive along with conventional spot welds. The front and rear subframes are stronger, and there is more soundproofing in the hood, firewall and behind the dashboard. But the Hybrid goes further, with a stronger B-pillar-to-floor connection, thicker front side windows (noise-insulating on the Sport Touring) and an insulated windshield.

To top it all off, the Sport Touring suspension handled rough roads as if they were newly paved, with little shudder or rumble transmitted into the cabin. The steering manages to provide good on-center feel and nimble response without feeling either too light or too tight, while the hybrid’s sportier suspension and fatter sway bars provide a response that inspires confidence and C/D– measured a 0.85g stick on fairly pedestrian all-season rubber. But the main impression is substance, the feeling that the CR-V Hybrid punches above its weight, even on some winding roads with damaged pavement.

MAXIMUMS: A well-tuned chassis feels solid, less whiny and vibrating than the turbo-CVT trims, the improved fuel economy pays for itself over a typical ownership period.

The effect of all this is enhanced by the absence of a continuously variable automatic transmission. Instead, the hybrid is powered (most of the time) by a 181 hp synchronous AC electric motor. It’s not a pure electric car, though, because its battery, a tiny 1.1kWh lithium-ion unit, is designed for temporary storage, not distance. (Ironically, the battery eats up the stock, raising the trunk floor flush with the sill and reducing cargo capacity from 39 to 36 cubic feet.) When we slammed the pedal loudly during acceleration or climbed a grade, the 145-horsepower 2.0 The engine’s primary duty with the Atkinson cycle there was a stationary real-time alternator in cooperation with a second 161bhp electric machine, which is completely ignored in the spec panel below because it’s just an alternator as well as a starter.

When you accelerate hard from a dead stop, you’ll hear a few engine revs that sound like a gear shift, but there’s no acceleration lurch or shifting shock in the process. That’s because in that scenario the engine is just a stock hybrid generator, and the rev sweeps are there for show, a deliberate software dance that delivers the power it needs while avoiding the drone-like CVT we all hate. Meanwhile, the electric motor pulls steadily all the way, hence the complete absence of head bobbing with every upshift simulator.

Although our test car was a 3,914-pound all-wheel-drive model, its 0-60-mph time of 7.9 seconds was faster than the 302-pound-lighter front-wheel-drive EX-L we clocked at 8 .3 seconds. The hybrid also beat the EX-L by a quarter, 16.3 seconds to 16.4, but the fact that its 85 mph trap speed beat the turbo’s 88 mph suggests that the hybrid setup isn’t built for sustained high speed acceleration in mind. After all, the engine with a capacity of 145 hp. and 138 lb-ft can only shovel so much coal in the direction of the 181-hp electric motor. and 247 lb.-ft.

But the engine is more than just a generator, and significant changes this year have given it more time to shine. For the first time, they also allow the hybrid to tow – only 1,000 pounds, but that’s something. This is due to the fact that the internal combustion engine, electric motor and generator no longer share a common axis. They’ve been moved off-axis from each other, allowing the engine to enter the mix for direct wheel drive in two ratios, rather than just one like last year. Add a third factor for electric motor drive and you’ve got a three-speed automatic like you’ve never seen before.

Michael Simari|Car and driver

The main scenario in which the engine is connected to the grid is steady-state cruising, where the efficiency of the Atkinson cycle engine as a direct motive power unit is better than if it were relegated to generator duties. Low gear lockup can occur between 12 and 50 mph, and high gear can engage between 50 and 68 mph. When driving on the freeway, the engine is probably doing the work on its own, with the rpm just rising or falling smoothly depending on the speed. But if the level goes up or you need extra power, the electric motor can and will definitely join. Maximum combined output this year is 204 horsepower, up from the last model’s 201 horsepower. (It was claimed as 212 horsepower at launch, but converting to the ISO horsepower rating from the SAE methodology drops it to 201.)

CONS: Slightly reduced cargo area lacks underfloor storage, shame there’s no hybrid version, 91 octane recommended (but thankfully not required).

At the pump, the added performance, new towing ability and slight weight gain over last year have taken some of the shine off the fuel economy ratings. Our test sample with all-wheel drive is rated at 37 mpg combined (40 city and 34 highway), and it earned 31 mpg during our 75 mph highway fuel economy test. Last year’s model returned 38 mpg combined (40 city and 35 highway), while our long-term 2021 sample earned 29 and 31 mpg in two attempts in the same test.

There’s never been a front-wheel-drive CR-V hybrid before, but now the CR-V Sport has. It’s rated at a convincing 40 mpg combined (43 mpg and 36 highway). This is possible because the rear-wheel drive system, unlike some Toyota hybrids we can name, uses a rear driveshaft from the transmission instead of a rear-mounted electric motor. Making a front-wheel drive version is as easy as leaving the rear-wheel drive mechanicals on the shelf. Similarly, changing the torque distribution from 60/40 to 50/50, as in this new model, is a simple mechanical engineering challenge for the Honda team.

In pure dollar terms, the new hybrids make a ton of sense. The Sport is similar to the hybrid version of the EX, and we reckon the $1,340 price difference will pay for itself in less than three years, depending on annual mileage and local fuel prices. But it’s missing a few points: You also get crisper steering, more power, improved handling and better noise, vibration and sharpness, not to mention a pair of rear USB-C ports and a leather steering wheel and gearshift. In the case of the Sport Touring and the EX-L, the price difference is $3,340, but here we also have to consider the Touring’s 19-inch wheels, a 12-speaker Bose stereo, a heated steering wheel, rain wipers, a loud communication power tailgate and other goodies. At the most expensive extreme, you won’t break the $40K barrier unless you buy a premium color. The base and as-tested price of our test sample is $39,845.

All of the above makes the Sport and Sport Touring CR-V hybrids quite compelling, and that’s in addition to the improved interior, nice cabin, available infotainment system, and other “incremental” improvements brought to the 2023 Honda CR-V as a whole. From a hybrid perspective, all of this seems more substantial. Increstant, anyone? How about subcremental? You choose. Both work for us.

Technical characteristics

Technical characteristics

2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid Sport Touring
Vehicle type: front engine, front engine, four-wheel drive, 5-seater, 4-door station wagon

Base/As Tested: $39,845 / $39,845
Options: none

DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter Atkinson inline-4, 145 hp, 138 lb-ft + AC motor, 181 hp, 247 lb-ft (total: 204 hp, 247 lb-ft; Li-ion 1.1 kWh battery)
Transmission: direct drive

Suspension Front/Front: Strut/Multilink
Brakes, front/rear: 12.3-inch ventilated disc/12.2-inch disc
Tires: Continental CrossContact LX Sport
235/55R-19 101H M+S

Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 184.8 inches
Width: 73.5 inches
Height: 66.5 inches
Passenger volume: 104 feet3
Cargo volume: 36 feet3
Curb weight: 3,914 lbs

60 mph: 7.9 sec
1/4 mile: 16.3s @ 85 mph
100 mph: 24.7 sec
The results above are omitted 1 foot deployment 0.4 sec.
Start from 5–60 mph: 8.0 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.6 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 5.2 sec
Top speed (gov): 111 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 171 feet
Road grip, 300-foot pad: 0.85g

Observed: 30 mpg
Highway driving at 75 mph: 31 mpg
Highway distance at 75 mph: 430 miles

Combined/city/highway: 37/40/34 mpg


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