2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid First Drive Review: It’s Just Damn Good.

A 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is simply better. 

Rather than thinking about the vastly improved efficiency, think of the 2020 Honda CR-V hybrid as the performance option too. The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid gives you all of the advantages of the current CR-V with very little compromise.

This 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle “generator” combined with the two electric motors makes 212 horsepower and best-in-class 232 lb-ft of torque.

It’s faster, more efficient, handles just as well and has the same safety-oriented AWD system as the regular CR-V. All of this for about a $1,200 premium. Best of all, you get the “Real Time” AWD system standard with the hybrid package. 

[Photo: Honda]

All of the trims in the regular CR-V remain the same in the hybrid. From the base LX to the top-of-the-line Limited, there is (virtually) no difference. There are some minor trim differences between the hybrid and regular CR-V such as badging, rear exhaust delete and blue trim here and there. Inside, there are a few interior updates like the hybrid-specific digital readout and additions with infotainment. There are some updates with cubbies and storage too – but nothing earth-shattering. 

Interestingly, the batteries, located under the rear seat and is air-cooled. You can’t hear the fan running when driving and the duct is located in the passenger’s side rear wheel-well. The battery location allows the cargo area to be just as useful as the regular CR-V. There is no penalty wit cargo room and the rear seats still fold flat. 

Unlike its main rival, the Toyota RAV4, there is no spare tire available. Just a repair kit – which saves space and weight. Still, it’s not ideal if you destroy a tire. 


I was sure that the added weight and single drive system would make for a slower, more ponderous ride. Nope. Considering the weight and location of the batteries (under the rear seat), I thought the ride would be compromised. Nope, I was wrong there too.  

Acceleration is excellent with no lag and (when in “sport” mode) pretty responsive. It steers like a CR-V, which is to say it goes where it’s pointed with no drama and little feedback. Handing is surefooted and the braking is outstanding. Usually, regenerative brakes are a bit stiff or hollow, but this setup felt pretty normal. 

[Photo: Honda]

Road noise is not too shabby, but you do hear the engine rev like a CVT would as you get up to speed – when pushed. Also, the Acoustic Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) makes more noise than before. This whirling noise is projected outside the vehicle for pedestrian safety. Basically, it lets people know you’re in EV mode and near them. It’s louder than before and you can hear it inside the CR-V hybrid up until about 20 mph. 

Highway ride is good, but the suspension is still stiff enough to remind you that it’s not exactly squishy. Still, most potholes and bumps are well sorted and very little upsets the platform. I think it rides slightly better than the regular CR-V. It might have to do with the additional weight (less than 200 additional lbs). 

Drive modes help

There are three drive modes, Sport, Econ and EV. Sport simply sharpens the throttle response. Econ dulls things down to allow less drain on power. The EV mode allows up to one-mile (yes, ONE mile) of purely EV power. This only works if the battery is fully charged AND if you’re going slow enough. Maybe it’s useful for driving through a quiet retirement neighborhood or something. Otherwise, I don’t understand its purpose.  

The CR-V Hybrid is a little more aggressive with its AWD system, but at 40 mpg city, 35 mpg highway and 38 mpg combined, it’s not as efficient as the RAV4 Hybrid, nor the Escape Hybrid. (Photo: TFLcar)

Just like the non-hybrid CR-V, the “Real Time” all-wheel drive (AWD) will send up to 40-percent of the torque to the rear wheels when needed. It’s all mechanical – meaning the power goes through a driveshaft to a rear differential. 


I played with the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid on a dirt course and pitted against the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. While the RAV4 Hybrid was not as aggressive as the CR-V in the dirt, it is a completely different system. The RAV4 hybrid’s setup is more efficient and works well at slow speeds. Still, Honda’s setup worked well in these conditions AND in snow, as we recently displayed in the above video. 

The main CR-V hybrid rival, the Toyota RAV4 hybrid gets 41 mog city, 38 mpg and 40 mpg combined. (Photo: TFLcar)

Minor gripes 

One of my own issues had to do with the placement of the gear buttons and other controls. It’s an outcropping that impedes right knee space for some who may be considered “tall.” The automotive journalist I was teamed with was 6’5″ and complained about the impediment as well.   

The seats are fairly comfortable, but I wish there was a bit more side bolstering for large people like me. Also, I know that some consumers would like a large moonroof like many other competitors. The moonroof on the Honda is rather small. 

I don’t see the value in the paddle-shifting regenerative braking setup. You set it once, use the regen once and it resets. Odd. I would think you should be able to set it for various levels of regenerative prowess until no longer needed. 

A smart buy

Honda’s pricing is mightily impressive. The base model LX (which still gives you AWD and a hybrid system) starts at $27,750. It also gives you standard equipment like Honda Sensing safety upgrades, remote starting and a multi-angle review camera.

Move up to the EX model and get 18-inch wheels, LED lights, four-additional speakers, two-position power driver’s seat with memory, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, a seven-inch display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, moon roof, and more. The EX starts at $30,260. 

Pony up $32,750 for the EX-L and add items like a heated steering, power passenger seat, leather wrapped steering wheel/shifter and Home-Link.  

Starting at $35,950, the top-of-the-line Touring model gives you front/rear parking sensors, 19-inch wheels, wireless charging, rain-sensing wipers, hands free tailgate and a nine-speaker premium audio system. 

When you compare the standard equipment against the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid rivals like the Ford Escape Hybrid and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – the Honda’s packaging, equipment and performance are hard to beat.