If the DOT hadn’t invented double-yellow lines, the Honda CR-V would have been a great marker for the middle of the road.
Honda fits the CR-V crossover with either a 1.5-liter turbo-4, a continuously variable automatic transmission, and front- or all-wheel drive—or a hybridized version, with electric motor and battery grafted on to a non-turbo-4. In either case, mild-mannered acceleration and pleasantly invisible handling traits give it a score of 5 out of 10 for performance.
Let’s talk about gas first. The standard CR-V’s turbo-4 punches out 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque, and applies it through a belt-driven continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Power arrives low in the rev band, and stays strong—a virtue of turbocharging that’s staged well. Without stepped gears, the CVT keeps the engine working in its happy place, and turns in 30-mpg EPA numbers in front-drive form. The drivetrain knits together well enough, and can tow up to 1,500 pounds, but you’d never mistake it for one of Honda’s more intense efforts. There’s no CR-V Type R for a reason.
With all-wheel drive, the CR-V’s good for all kinds of weather; don’t expect to straddle boulders with it, though its 7.8 inches of ground clearance can handle a moderate amount of off-pavement punishment.
The CR-V keeps its head on with steering that doesn’t twitch on center, and doesn’t wander either. It’s calm at higher speeds on the interstate, if not exactly primed for a romp through Ortega Canyon. Where that’s paid back is in ride quality; though it offers standard 18-inch and available 19-inch wheels, the CR-V makes a point of absorbing road roughness and instilling confidence in exactly the drivers who need it the most. It’s better than predictable, it’s encouraging.
Honda CR-V Hybrid performance
Take that information, and wedge in a powertrain that’s similar to the one in the Honda Accord Hybrid, and you have the new CR-V Hybrid.
In the CR-V Hybrid, Honda pairs a 2.0-liter inline-4 with electric motors and hybrid batteries for a net of 212 hp, though the engine is used mostly as a generator for the battery pack.
City fuel economy perks up as a result, while the engine’s more frequent use on the highway slims down gains at highway speeds—but the CR-V Hybrid still posts observed fuel economy of 38.8 mpg in our hands, compared with 30.1 mpg for a standard CR-V. In city loops we did even better: on identical 35.3-mile loops, the CR-V hit 28.3 mpg, while the Hybrid posted 42.8 mpg in stop-and-go traffic.
The CR-V Hybrid earns points for better driveability, too. Stop/start operates more smoothly than in the gas-only CR-V, though acceleration is roughly equivalent, since the slight power gain is overwhelmed by the weight of additional hybrid hardware.
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