2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: bright future now

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No one ever calls the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid a Comfortable Runabout Vehicle or a Compact Recreational Vehicle. But like other vehicles known by acronyms, the CR-V is Honda’s mid-range and most popular sport utility vehicle. It’s quickly likely to become further favored.

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The SUV segment, according to industry analysts, is expected to approach half of all new vehicles in the United States this year. Which makes it surprising one option hadn’t been previously offered.

The Honda CR-V Hybrid, with documented histories to two original given names, debuts this year in a hybrid trim.

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The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid adds another strong option to the popular sport utility vehicle.
The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid adds another strong option to the popular sport utility vehicle.

The Honda CR-V Hybrid has increased in popularity for 11 straight years beginning in 2009 when slightly more than 191,000 sold. Yearly sales more than doubled by the end of 2019.

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Better MPG

Utility, durability and overall comfort have led the CR-V into the top-10 overall vehicles sales list for many years. The hybrid option addresses the CR-V’s only previous substantial issue. It’s never had great gas mileage averages — until now.

The Honda CR-V hybrid, with all-wheel drive standard, receives an EPA combined 38 miles per gallon estimate, 40 mpg in city driving, 35 mpg on the highway. The Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, Honda’s main competitors, are rated at 40 mpg combined.

Non-hybrid CR-Vs are equipped with 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft. of torque. The hybrid provides a substantial boost with its combined output of 212 horsepower and 232 lb-ft. of torque.

Like its gas counterpart, the 2020 Honda CR-V hybrid powertrain is available in four trims — LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. The gas and hybrid siblings share much else, but the few differences are quite apparent. To designate the hybrid engine, all exterior badging has blue trim. The rear bumper has been redesigned to hide the exhaust pipe. Except for the LX trim, all hybrids have foglights.

Inside differences include a tire repair kit instead of a spare time and pushbuttons on the console replace a gear shifter. The hybrid exclusively also has Sport, Econ, EV, and Normal drive modes.

The reviewed Touring trim has a few luxury nuances with faux wood across the door panels, dashboard and center console. The top-line trim adds 19-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, wireless charging, navigation, roof rails, rain-sensing wipers and a hands-free liftgate.

Collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control for stop-and-go traffic, lane-keeping assist and road departure mitigation are standard, which bodes for the Honda’s status with the stricter Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) standards this year. All 2020 CR-Vs received Top Safety Pick awards.

Honda uses its electric power only on start and effortlessly transition to combined gas/hybrid power. Some hybrids make the transfer with overt struggles. The CR-V’s smoothness between modes has only one downfall. The engine has a noticeable high-pitched whine for a few seconds upon acceleration.

Like its non-hybrid counterpart, the Honda CR-V hybrid interior relies on a nothing-fancy-all-practical approach. For driver and passengers, there’s ample overall room, comfort and keen ergonomics. The push-button shifter is well-placed with big shifting pads. Instrumentation includes a power-generated graphic that designates electric-only or gas mode.

Some hybrids utilize battery pack space better than others. The CR-Vs 1.3-kW-hr lithium-ion battery is stored under the cargo floor. The result: the hybrid loses about 20 percent of cargo space to 33.2 cubic feet with the rear seats up and about 10 percent overall to 68.7 cubic feet overall. Rear seats conveniently fold flat via a pull handle, and they’re easy to lift upright.

With a starting price of $37,070, the 2020 Honda CR-V in Touring trim is priced about $1,200 more than the gas-only model. It’s also a few hundred dollars less than the average price of a new car in the United States. Which is another reason why Honda remains perennially successful.

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