2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid – Never Too Late

In the world of electrification, Honda finally brought the very first hybrid CR-V to the Canadian market.


It is a part of ordinary people’s lives when they are late to a dinner, or a party, or sometimes a business meeting. What we don’t see every day is a car manufacturer being late offering what people desperately ask for several years, as Honda did not put a hybrid drivetrain into its bestselling vehicle until 2020. It gets worse for the Canadian market, as it took three more years for us to get our hands on a hybrid CR-V. The 2023 Honda CR-V Hybrid is finally here but with a disclaimer. It is only available with the top “Touring” trim for now.

CR-V has always been considered a utilitarian compact vehicle designed and built for the masses. No matter which generation we are talking about, it has always been class leading when it comes to practicality. The new generation has completely new looks, representing the new corporate Honda design language. Long hood line, sharp angles, big grille and LED headlights that look like a part of the grille gives the CR-V a more upscale look than the previous generation.

Although technically the CR-V is a non-premium entry, Honda made it look more premium from all angles. The sharp lines continue on both sides and the rear end. With the top Touring trim, you get the complete LED treatment. It has a nice blend of multiple different design features, it surprisingly has functional exhaust tips integrated into the rear bumpers giving it a sportier look, a minimal amount of unpainted plastic surfaces for a more rugged look, and blacked-out accents like the wheels for a little bit premium flavour added on top of it.

The trend in the exterior continues inside the new CR-V, as you will find the new corporate interior design language here. It actually looks very similar to the current generation Civic interior with minor differences, which is not surprising for a vehicle that uses the same platform. Even though it shares a lot of common parts with a Civic, it offers extra utilitarian features with more storage options, and you will find a lot of small details Honda decided to implement to make it look more upscale, like the mesh air vents that go across the dashboard.

The materials, build quality and overall feeling are better than the price tag, and it proves that a modern interior can have lots of physical buttons and still look up-to-date. It is finally the first non-premium entry that can compete with the Mazda CX-5 in terms of interior refinement, material choice and overall premium feeling, and it is even better when it comes to storage options and overall practicality.

Usually, we see the latest tech trickles down to smaller and cheaper entries, but Honda decided to take an interesting step by using the same digital gauge cluster and infotainment screen that you would find in a Civic. It comes with the latest infotainment software, but it takes a lot of time to boot up, and it just does not feel as responsive as some other entries. On the other hand, the partially digital cluster works very fast and only shows necessary information without being overwhelmingly complicated.

If you are looking for any sort of similarity, the seats will feel very same as the outgoing platform. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, because they are exceptionally comfortable and offer lots of adjustment options with a memory seat feature for the driver’s seat. The only feature missing was the ventilated seats, that’s something I was expecting to see for an SUV costs more than most other entries in this segment.

No matter which generation CR-V you owned, one feature that makes any CR-V a CR-V is the overall interior space. It has always been class-leading when it comes to practicality and interior space, and the current generation is no exception here. It not only offers tons of rear legroom and headroom, but there are some nice creature comforts rear seat passengers would enjoy, such as the air vents as well as USB ports, and heated seats for the passengers.

Just like the previous generations, the rear doors open almost all the way up to 90 degrees, which makes getting in and out, or installing a child seat extremely easy. You don’t have to move the front passenger seat forward, in case you have a rear-facing child seat, as the rear seats can recline, it helps manage the interior space more efficiently. The only missed opportunity is the lack of rear sunshades, it is a very useful feature if you have kids in the back, and that’s something we can find with other entries.

If you are shopping for a compact crossover, the chances are you will be using the trunk area on a daily basis. Technically, we have a very similar overall interior volume with the outgoing generation, but Honda was able to increase the trunk space with the new platform. The CR-V Hybrid could handle 39.3 cubic feet (1112 L) of cargo behind the rear seats, which can go up to 76.5 cubic feet (2166 L) when they are down. More importantly, the CR-V Hybrid offers very boxy trunk space with tons of vertical space and a relatively low floor line, allowing families to place larger items easier.

As I just explained above, the biggest news is the brand new hybrid platform, at least for the Canadian market. While the CR-V still comes with the gas-only 1.5-litre Turbo engine, you can get the hybrid powertrain if you choose the very top “Touring” trim in 2023. In 2024, it will be available with the top two trims. Honda not only brought the hybrid powertrain very late, but the flexibility aspect isn’t as good as the Toyota RAV4, which you can get the hybrid powertrain even with the base trim. It’s never too late, but Honda needs to hurry up to make it more mainstream, and accessible for the CR-V audience.

The hybrid drivetrain comes with a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine, which puts out 145 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque by itself. With the help of an electric motor, the combined power output goes up to 204 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. The numbers may not look impressive by modern standards, but thanks to the electric motor, it offers a decent amount of acceleration and throttle response. CR-V Hybrid only comes with a small 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and it would not allow you to choose to go full EV even for a short period of time.

Either way, the gas and electric motors work in harmony, with the help of direct-drive transmission that offers an extremely smooth driving experience. The main reason is electric motors are actually in the transmission, sending the power to the wheels directly to the front wheels, or collaborating with the gas engine to send more power if needed. The CR-V Hybrid usually stops the gas engine when you stop, and uses the electric motors to accelerate at lower speeds, until you need extra power to accelerate faster.

Interestingly, the new CR-V Hybrid allows its users to tow up to 1000 lbs when equipped with a towing hitch, that’s something no one else offers with a hybrid powertrain. Another difference is, unlike the Toyota RAV4, the CR-V comes with a mechanical all-wheel-drive system, which offers better traction off the beaten path or any sort of light-duty off-roading.

Just like the rest of the vehicle, it gives you a more premium feeling behind the steering wheel compared to the outgoing generation. The biggest change is the driving experience, as it gives you more of a “car-like” driving position, mainly due to the updated center console design. Previous generation CR-Vs were known to have more truck-like driving experience as you sit up high. You can still have a high seating position if you want, but it doesn’t feel like you are sitting on top of the dashboard, and it offers better ergonomics for taller drivers. The noise, vibration and harshness levels are significantly reduced, and the suspension feels compliant on any type of surface, as long as you know the limits of the vehicle.

The more you drive the new CR-V, the more you realize Honda wanted to keep the fundamental features that you would find in older platforms. There is no reason for Honda to reinvent the wheel, as CR-V has proven itself to be one of the most utilitarian and family-friendly “non-premium” compact crossovers in its class. Just like the previous generations, it still offers tons of interior and trunk space, family-oriented features, easy to use, operate and live with it every day.

Aside from the new design language, the biggest change is much better fuel economy numbers thanks to the hybrid drivetrain, and an extra layer of premium feeling to stand out against the non-premium entries in this segment. Honda needs to make the hybrid drivetrain more accessible for price-sensitive audiences, as it should be available with all trims. At the end of the day, Honda is quite late bringing a hybrid crossover to the Canadian market, but the end result makes you feel it was worth the wait.

Engine2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4 + AC motor
Transmission & DrivetrainDirect-drive & Mechanical all-wheel-drive
Max power (combined)204 hp
Max torque (combined)274 lb-ft
0-100 km/h8.3 sec
Curb Weight3914 lbs – 1775 kg
Fuel Economy (Combined)36 MPG – 6.5 L/100 km
Starting at (MSRP)$51,323 CAD

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