2023 Honda CR-V: More Power, More Room, More Hybrid

honda-crv-2023-sport-0178 2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring and EX-L | photo by Steven Pham

Competes with: Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV-4, Volkswagen Tiguan, etc.

Looks like: An SUV version of the stylish Civic sedan

Powertrains: 190-horsepower, turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine or 204-hp (system), hybrid 2.0-liter four-cylinder; continuously variable automatic transmission; front- or all-wheel drive

Hits dealerships: Summer 2022; hybrid models coming later in 2022

Honda is updating its popular CR-V compact SUV for the 2023 model year with a new emphasis on hybrid powertrains, repositioning a gas-electric version to be the flagship of the family hauler. The hybrid-equipped models of the 2023 lineup get a new two-motor hybrid drive system for improved power, performance and fuel economy, and the automaker expects that they will represent about half of new CR-V sales thanks to the switch.

Related: 2023 Honda CR-V: Honda Promises More Adventure, Versatility From New SUV

An Updated Powertrain Lineup

For 2023, Honda has reconfigured the CR-V’s trim levels. There will be four to choose from: The two on the lower end are the EX and EX-L, which will both feature a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 190 horsepower and 179 pounds-feet of torque mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission with “step-shift” programming that simulates the gear changes in a traditional automatic transmission. The engine has been retuned to provide more torque lower in its rev range and to operate more quietly, according to Honda.

The two upper trim levels are the Sport and Sport Touring, and both will feature Honda’s all-new hybrid system that combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a pair of side-by-side electric motors, one of which is a new, larger propulsion motor. This new hybrid system results in a gas-electric combined rating of 204 hp and 247 pounds-feet of torque; it also enables Honda to increase the top speed of the hybrid from 86 mph to 115 mph and to increase its tow rating up to 1,000 pounds for the first time ever.

An all-wheel-drive system can be had on all CR-V trims and is standard on the top Sport Touring model; it now has the ability to send up to 50% of available torque to the rear wheels. Standard across all trims is a new hill descent control function, enabling folks brave enough to take their CR-V into the muck to set a speed of 2-12 mph for downhill, low-traction drives; the vehicle will maintain this speed if conditions allow. Three drive modes are also standard on all models: Normal, Econ and a new Snow mode for wintry conditions. Sport and Sport Touring models add a Sport mode.

Missing from the lineup is the CR-V’s base LX trim, and there’s no mention yet of fuel economy numbers for the new 2023 models; those will likely be published closer to the vehicle’s on-sale date.

Gains in Size, Style

The CR-V grows in a few areas for 2023: It gains 2.7 inches of overall length, rides on a 1.6-inch-longer wheelbase and is almost half an inch wider than the previous model. The windshield pillars have been moved rearward by 4.7 inches, outward by 2.8 inches and lower by 1.4 inches, changing the styling of the CR-V much in the same way the latest Civic saw its proportions altered by its windshield position change. The goal, according to Honda, was to dramatically improve outward visibility from the cockpit, which did wonders for visibility in the latest Civic.

In front, all CR-Vs get a new grille and standard LED headlights. The EX and EX-L get a piano-black grille mesh with chrome surround, body-color mirrors and standard 18-inch alloy wheels. The rear gets a new LED taillight treatment and a body-color spoiler. Styling changes when you move up to the Sport and Sport Touring models include more aggressive styling front and rear, rectangular exhaust finishers and gloss-black accents for the grille. The Sport gets black 18-inch 10-spoke wheels, while the Sport Touring upgrades those to 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with a machine finish.

Spacious Interior

The interior of the new CR-V gets some attention, as well. Thanks to the larger overall dimensions, room inside is up, with rear passengers getting more than half an inch of additional legroom over the previous model, along with a larger recline angle. Cargo room is also up, per Honda measurements, with the CR-V now offering the most in the model’s history at 36.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats for turbocharged and hybrid models. In EX and EX-L trims, an adjustable load floor increases that number to 39.3 cubic feet of space. With the split rear seatbacks folded, total overall cargo room expands to 76.5 cubic feet.

All CR-Vs get a new instrument panel with fewer joined surfaces to help eliminate windshield glare, according to the automaker. As in the Civic, a new honeycomb metal-mesh trim piece spans the dash, concealing air vents and lending a modern look. Front and center in the console will be one of two touchscreens: a 7-inch screen for the EX and Sport, and a 9-inch screen for the EX-L and Sport Touring trims. Both will feature standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the larger screen will offer wireless connectivity. That system also brings wireless smartphone charging via a bin in the center console that’s wide enough to place two phones side by side. A 7-inch digital gauge cluster is standard on all models.

Cabin finishes will differ depending on trim, as well. The base EX and the Sport trims get gray or black cloth seats (black only for the Sport) with an eight-way power driver’s seat and black dash trim, while the EX-L and Sport Touring models come in gray or black leather, adding a four-way power passenger seat and piano-black dash trim. The Sport and Sport Touring trims also get a black headliner and orange contrast stitching on the seats, console, steering wheel and shifter.

Safety as a Priority

Honda is aiming for the CR-V to earn a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a Top Safety Pick Plus award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; the 2022 model is currently an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Honda says new structures are reinforced to route crash energy around the cabin instead of through it, and side impact protection has been improved. New airbags meant to help protect against brain trauma, first introduced on the latest Civic, come standard in every CR-V, as do knee and rear-passenger side airbags.

The Honda Sensing suite of electronic safety systems has also been upgraded with more advanced cameras and a higher-definition radar system meant for more accurately identifying vehicles, pedestrians, road lines, boundaries, curbs and more. Blind spot information is now standard on all models, as is a driver attention monitor and rear-seat occupant reminders. More natural responses for features like adaptive cruise control with low-speed following and lane keep assist have also been added.

The new 2023 Honda CR-V will arrive in showrooms in the summer, but only the EX and EX-L trims; hybrid trims are expected to follow later in the year. Pricing will start at $32,355.

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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