By Cars.com EditorsOctober 18, 2022
The fifth generation Honda CR-V was introduced as a 2017 model, and since that time, the compact SUV segment has gotten more and more competitive.
The gas powered CR-V went from finishing second to finishing fourth to finishing dead last in our compact SUV comparison tests. And in a head-to-head against the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, the CR-V Hybrid came in second. For 2023, Honda has redesigned the CR-V, and I'm here in Santa Barbara, California driving the CR-V Hybrid and getting a little bit of time behind the wheel of the CR-V Turbo to see if the sixth generation CR-V can keep up with the competition. Let's check it out. (gentle music) Now we've already broken down the styling changes for the CR-V inside and out in a lot more detail in our up close video, but this is my first chance to see it up close, and so far, I really like what I see. I really enjoy the Civic-ification of the front styling here. This is a Sport Touring model, and the hybrid models are the Sport and Sport Touring. They get gloss black exterior accents, while the EX and EXL are the gas powered versions. Those get more chrome accents. This new Canyon River Blue paint color does a nice job of blending in with the black plastic cladding that gives the CR-V a bit more of a rugged look. Now along the side, it's a bit of a generic profile. It's very distinctively Honda up front and in back, but along the side, it could be any number of compact SUVs. One other styling element I really enjoy along the back is the continuation of the use of the upright D pillar taillights. That's been in use on the CR-V since it first debuted in the nineties. Now again, we've already covered these changes to the new CR-V in more detail elsewhere, so I'll spare you that, but I do really like how much this looks like the Civic. You get this tasteful mesh panel here. It hides some of the air vents. You get a nice easy to use nine inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And Honda says that any vehicle that has a wireless CarPlay and Android Auto will also have wireless charging, which isn't always true depending on the manufacturer. If you don't want to use wireless charging, there is both a USB A and a USB C port here. But overall, what I like about this is how simple and straightforward the cabin is. We're done with the weird push button, pull button gear selector in favor of a more traditional lever. We're done with the convenient but kind of funky center console. In place is just a normal deep center console. And you get some nice materials here. It's not necessarily class leading, but they're pretty nice. It's a good, straightforward, easy to use interior. The gauge cluster is easy to see. You don't have to crane your neck at all. The digital portion, it's about seven inches of digital screen, is configurable and easy to use. And again, very straightforward, and that's what we're looking for in cars these days is just straightforward ease of use. Backseat comfort was a strong suit of the last generation CR-V, and that continues here with even more rear leg room. I fit behind my own driving position, although my knees are a little elevated, which might be uncomfortable on longer drives. But it's not too bad, and I have a very good amount of headroom. Also, Honda has added eight positions of recline for the backseat, up from two in the last generation. So you get even more comfort options. And backseat passengers also get things like two USB C chargers back here and climate vents. One annoyance though is this middle seatbelt, which extends from the ceiling down here for middle passengers. It's not the best setup. It blocks rear visibility when you're driving, and I wish Honda had changed it, but they didn't. Another area where the CR-V Hybrid impresses is with its cargo space, which is over three cubic feet larger than the previous model, according to Honda. And on certain models, includes a kick to activate power lift gate, which can take a while, but is great if your hands are full. Honda also says it's its quickest and quietest power lift gate ever, which sure, I don't think that's a thing we can verify. Honda is viewing the CR-V Hybrid as sort of a stepping stone into its battery electric vehicles that are coming in the future. The Prologue, pardon the pun, is the beginning of their electrified vehicle plan here in the US. It's an SUV they co-developed with GM. But there will be others in the future, and this is sort of the in between step for people who aren't necessarily quite ready to adopt a fully electric vehicle as their primary vehicle or even as a secondary vehicle. And as such, with that stepping stone comes this, the B Mode, which turns on the most powerful regenerative braking force. It's not quite one pedal driving. It won't work down to a full stop, but it does add more regenerative braking as you let off the accelerator pedal, which should help drivers get used to that sort of feeling as they move towards an electric vehicle, as most manufacturers move towards fully electrifying their entire lineup. Not a huge fan of using B Mode or other similar modes in other vehicles on these sorts of twisty turny canyon roads. It just changes the way the car decelerates as you let off the accelerator pedal, and it can sort of throw off the balance of the vehicle as you're trying to navigate these canyon roads. But in normal driving, it's great to have that extra regenerative force, help you save fuel, help you save brakes too, because it's doing that without you having to use the physical brakes. But again, doesn't work down to a full stop. So be sure to use those brakes eventually, or you will just hit what's in front of you or end up in the intersection. So little word of advice there, try to stop. One of our complaints about the fifth generation CR-V Hybrid was that its brakes felt a little mushy and non-linear and sort of high effort, and that's still the case. So there's a lot of pedal force to be applied that doesn't necessarily correspond to how much stopping force you're actually feeling as you bring the car to a stop. Not great. We preferred it in the RAV4 Hybrid, but it's not awful. It's just not as good as it could be. So highway on ramp, we're in Sport Mode, so that's why it's a little bit louder. But decent acceleration, picked up speed fairly quickly, and I'm able to accelerate past the car that stayed in the right lane and get onto the highway with no issues. That's really what you want out of a car, isn't it? No issues trying to do things like get on the highway. Honda says this is the sportiest CR-V yet, and so far, I'm inclined to agree. Again, that bar was kind of on the floor, so it's not a tough one to cross. But it does feel a little bit more composed, a little bit sportier, especially in these curves. Cornering was actually one of its strong suits. In the last comparison test we did, the CR-V performed very well in ride and handling. It didn't have the cushiest ride in the class, but it wasn't bad. It was just much more comfort oriented overall. This one does feel a little bit more sport oriented. I will give them that. Cornering the car feels a little bit flatter, especially in these sweeping curves where you'd start to notice that tip as you held the curve. But again, it's a compact SUV. If you're looking for sportiness, I highly recommend looking elsewhere. If you're looking for comfortable seating for five and a decent amount of cargo area, and in the hybrid's case, fairly impressive fuel economy, this is more what you're looking for. Honda says they've done a lot to improve outward visibility in the new CR-V, which is a running theme in its updated models. It says it's a 4.4 inch wider view out the front. It's not something I usually take a tape measure to, but it certainly does feel wider. They've also taken steps to move the A pillars back, make them thinner. The side mirrors here are now mounted on the doors, which gives you a nice little cutout view as you're approaching, say an intersection. People are less likely to hide behind the front pillars and sneak out on you. It's a much better overall package. Outward visibility isn't great all around though. I still have some complaints. There's still a middle seatbelt for the rear passengers that descends from the ceiling. That kind of blocks the view. The rear headrests can get in the way a little bit, and there's still some small windows that could be enlarged to help improve your view out in those directions. But certainly out the front, we're doing much better than we were with the fifth generation. As part of the CR-V's redesign, Honda has also updated the seats for improved comfort, particularly over longer drives. We haven't done very much driving so far, but I'm feeling comfortable. How you feeling back there, Jonathan? <v Jonathan>I'm feeling comfy back here. All right, well, there you go. As with all seats, give 'em a try. Go on a test drive, see how they feel to you. But these aren't bad. They weren't bad before either, so you can't have too much of a good thing, I guess, but they are comfortable. I have to say, I was expecting a bit more impact harshness with the retuned suspension and updates to the CR-V, and so far, I've been pleasantly surprised. It does feel a little bit sportier, but there wasn't as much of a trade off in ride quality as I thought there might be. You can still feel the bumps, especially with the 19 inch wheels on this version, but not terrible and still doing a good job of isolating you from them. So kudos to Honda for adding without totally subtracting. It's a good, comfortable vehicle that doesn't do a lot of things stupidly, and more and more, that's the highest praise you can give a car. I did briefly get a chance to get behind the wheel of the gas-powered CR-V, and it felt a lot pokier than the hybrid. The engine and transmission made a lot of noise, especially under hard acceleration, and there's some nasty wind noise outside the cabin as well. One positive thing I will say though is that its brakes felt a lot smoother and more linear and much more direct, probably because it lacks the regeneration feature of the hybrid. But I think Honda is right. If you want a sporty CR-V, you should look towards the hybrid versions. Honda says the 2023 CR-V is its best yet, and I'm inclined to agree. The new CR-V does very few things poorly, and a lot of things very, very well. We can quibble about sportiness, but I think the new CR-V is a massive improvement, and I'm really looking forward to how it does in our next comparison test. For more on the new CR-V, be sure to check out cars.com. (gentle music)