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2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: A top pick among hybrids

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When you attend a press preview for a new vehicle you get a sense of how that vehicle operates. But living with it for a week is make it or break it. Love it or leave it. After having the Honda CR-V Hybrid for a week, I still really, really love it.

In fact, when Pickup Truck + SUV Talk editor, Tim Esterdahl, asked me to do a 5 good things/5 bad things video, I couldn’t come up with five things I didn’t like. Three was stretching it.

So, why is this vehicle so awesome?

It starts with the hybrid powertrain itself.

CR-V Hybrid as a smooth operator

I’ve driven a lot of hybrids over the past 15 years. A lot of hybrids. And there’s always been a bit of clunkiness to them. The fuel savings and environmental warm fuzzies can outweigh some of stutter and jerk as the system transitions between gas and hybrid, and it can get a bit old.

What impressed me most about the CR-V Hybrid is its smoothness. I could hardly tell when the system was switching on and off – and I was looking for it. I kept the radio off and listened. Yeah, the transition was there, but you almost miss it – whether the engine is shutting off or turning on, there is no shake or shimmy. There’s definitely no engine start noises.

With the radio on, you’d miss it altogether.

CR-V Hybrid

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

It’s that damn good.

So, what’s under the hood? The CR-V Hybrid is equipped with a 2.0-liter, inline 4-cylinder engine mated to a two-motor hybrid system. While the gas engine alone delivers 181 horsepower, the total system output is 212 horsepower – that’s 22 more horsepower than the gas-only version.

I thought this was just the right amount of power for city stop/starts and highway merges. Plus, when you can stick in EV mode in the neighborhoods and alleys, you get a huge mileage boost.

Ride and handling

With the power output, the CR-V Hybrid is downright peppy, which makes this compact SUV more fun than boring to drive.

During the press preview, I had the opportunity to drive the CR-V Hybrid back to back with the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, and I was stunned by the juxtaposition. I really like the RAV4 Hybrid, but in comparison it’s not at all smooth. I hit the same speed bumps in both vehicles, and the RAV4 Hybrid went over them with a kerthunk, whereas the CR-V Hybrid acknowledged the bump with a slight bounce. The difference was night and day.

CR-V Hybrid

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

During the weeklong test, I traversed my fair share of speed bumps and potholes and felt the same even handling.

A friend recently asked me to choose between the CR-V and RAV4 hybrids, and I didn’t even blink before saying CR-V Hybrid. Ride and handling, plus the hybrid powertrain operation, have a lot to do with that answer.

Up-level interior

The interior, however, is probably a wash between CR-V and RAV4 and will likely come down to personal preference.

The test vehicle was the top-tier Touring trim, and it included a lot of up-level accents and technologies. I especially liked the wood inserts on the dash and doors, which come into play at the EX trim and add a little class.

The overall styling, however, is plain Jane. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I just like the design better on the RAV4 Hybrid. But the materials on the CR-V Hybrid feel less plasticky and more up level. So, half a dozen one, six the other.

There are a couple interior features on the CR-V Hybrid I really appreciated though – namely the cup holders that fit multiple sized bottles and the open storage area below the arm rest that’s big enough to fit a purse or small bag.

CR-V Hybrid

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

There are gray, ivory and black interiors available, but the interior color is completely dependent on exterior color. For example, if you want the Sonic Gray Pearl paint, your only interior option is black, and Lunar Silver Metallic only comes with gray interior. If you want ivory, your only exterior color option is Radiant Red Metallic.

As far as tech is concerned, I appreciated trappings associated with a top-tier trim, including heated steering wheel, heated seats, hands-free liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control and a multi-angle rear-view camera.

Not much I didn’t love

Because I was in a top trim, I always try to go back and see what’s standard at the base, and while there’s a lot of good standard content on the CR-V Hybrid – including the multi-angle rear-view camera and all-wheel drive – I thought it was weird that Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are only standard one level off base at the EX trim.

Outside of that, there were only a couple of other things I didn’t really love about the CR-V Hybrid – the first of which is the infotainment system. The graphics are very outdated on the info screens, and the map is virtually unreadable. I preferred to hook up my phone and stay in the CarPlay environment the entire time.

Which brings me to my new pet peeve. The CR-V Hybrid has wireless phone charging (yay!), but you have to wire your phone in to access Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (huh?). I figure this should be an all-or-nothing technology. Either you have both wireless charging and CarPlay/Auto or you wire in for both. Otherwise there’s cord confusion and no good place to set your phone while wired in – except on the wireless charge pad.

CR-V Hybrid

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

The trims

The hybrid trims for CR-V mirror the gasoline models, with the exception that all-wheel drive is standard across the board. Prices below are without destination.

Hybrid LX ($27,850): Includes Honda Sensing, multi-angle rearview camera, auto on/off LED headlights, passive entry, push-button start, automatic climate control.

Hybrid EX ($30,360): Adds blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, heated front seats, 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat, 7-inch audio touchscreen display.

Hybrid EX-L ($32,850): Adds leather seats, power tailgate, heated steering wheel, automatic dimming rearview mirror, two-position memory driver’s seat, ambient lighting.

Hybrid Touring ($36,050): Adds kick-activated liftgate, wireless phone charger, 19-inch alloy wheels, navigation, roof rails, rain-sensing wipers.

CR-V Hybrid

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

The bottom line on the CR-V Hybrid

In short, the Honda CR-V Hybrid is phenomenal. If you just look at the powertrain alone, it’s a work of art with seamless integration. Then when you start tacking on the lux-level amenities that go with the Touring model, it’s comfortable as well.

When I drove it back in March at the press preview, I thought it was the best hybrid I’ve ever driven. Now that I’ve had it a week, my opinion hasn’t waivered. If you’re looking for a hybrid SUV, you can start – and perhaps end – your search right here.

Related posts:

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: 5 things you need to know

Review: 2018 Honda CR-V Roomy, Comfortable Drive, Safety Features


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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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