AUTO REVIEW: Honda’s Redesigned 2023 CR-V Is a Welcome Makeover

By Larry Printz

The 2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring. (Honda/TNS)

(Tribune News Service/TNS) — It’s now forgotten that small sport utility vehicles were once dubbed “cute utes,” implying that these vehicles weren’t true SUVs. However, they’ve since become the most popular vehicles on the market because of their spacious interiors, compact footprints, exceptional fuel economy, and reasonable prices.

One such cute ute, the Honda CR-V, is Honda’s most popular vehicle in 2021, and the fifth-best-selling car in America. It’s outsold only by its archrival, the Toyota RAV4, and the full-size Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford pickups.

And for 2023, the Honda CR-V receives a total makeover.

The sixth generation of the Honda CR-V comes with a conventional gas-power in EX and fancier EX-L trim, or as a gas-electric hybrid in Sport and top-of-the-line Sport Touring trim. All come with front-wheel or all-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission except for the Sport Touring, which gets standard all-wheel drive.

One look at the new CR-V and it’s apparent that this model is safe to be seen in for those with Y-chromosomes. The sixth-generation model possesses a simple, square-jawed, clean design that is the hallmark of classic Honda design. Banished are the soft forms and convoluted snout that plagued the 2022 model. And if it looks bigger, that’s because it is, being 2.7 inches longer overall with a wheelbase that’s 1.6 inches longer and 0.4 inch wider.

The 2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring. (Honda/TNS)

The boxy styling and larger size bring with it more cabin space. The new model sports an instrument panel accented in a honeycomb texture that recalls those in the smaller HR-V and Civic. Its horizontal orientation and a lower center console height gives the interior an airier feel than the claustrophobic 2022 model. But front seat passengers aren’t the only ones to get more space; rear seat legroom is noticeably more generous. The seats are comfortable and supportive, even for long stretches behind the wheel.

The instrument panel can be fitted with a 9-inch touchscreen, although a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen and digital instrument cluster are standard. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are also standard, while wireless charging is available. The infotainment system is simpler to use than in the past, especially with the addition of a volume knob. But the software still doesn’t have a direct tuning feature or knob, so you have to repeatedly press the up or down tuning buttons to find your desired radio station.

When it comes time to tackle traveling, you’ll find that EX and EX-L CR-Vs come with a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet or torque. It returns an EPA-rated 30 mpg in combined city/highway driving with front-wheel drive, 29 mpg with all-wheel drive. Sport and Sport Touring Hybrids get a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a traction motor to assist the engine and a generator motor to recharge the battery pack. It produces 204 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque, while returning an EPA-rated at 40 mpg with front-wheel drive, 37 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Having had a chance to drive the Sport Touring Hybrid, I can say it’s easily the better driveline, as the conventional gas driveline lags its hybrid sibling in power and fuel economy. Because the CR-V is a conventional hybrid and not a plug-in hybrid, it cannot travel long distances on electricity alone. Honda decided against designing a plug-in because of the additional weight and expense the driveline brings.

Nevertheless, the hybrid offers adequate power and the required fuel economy, returning 36 mpg in combined driving, which is one mpg less than the EPA estimate. The CR-V lacked the instantaneous, seamless torque that is typical of electrified drivelines, and switching into the Sport driving mode makes it livelier, but not noticeably quicker. Also, the engine gets extremely vocal when pushed hard. Notably, the Hyrbid lacks the indecisive power delivery typical of continuously variable transmissions, making it surprisingly enjoyable to drive. It’s modestly athletic, with well controlled body lean in corners and good bump absorption. The steering ratio is perfect, enhancing the driving feel. Still some may wish for more power. Another 50 horsepower could transform this family hauler. Might I suggest Honda produce a CR-V Si?

The 2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring. (Honda/TNS)

The 2023 CR-V Sport Touring Hybrid I tested starts at $39,845 including destination charge, while the Sport Hybrid starts at $33,695 with front-wheel drive, $35,195 with all-wheel drive. But conventional gas models start at $32,355 and top out at $36,505. Honda expects a 50/50 split between buyers of gas and hybrid models.

The 2023 Honda CR-V is a welcome upgrade with additional interior space, a more fuel-efficient drivetrain, and a classic Honda design aesthetic, making it more alluring than ever. Although it isn’t as enjoyable to drive as Honda’s sportiest models, it demonstrates sufficient proficiency to be engaging without sacrificing usefulness.

2023 Honda CR-V Sport Touring Hybrid

Base price: $39,845

Powertrain: 2.0-liter Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine and dual electric motors

Horsepower/Torque: 204/247 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy (combined): 37 mpg

Observed fuel economy: 36 mpg

Fuel required: 87 Octane

Length/Width/Height: 184.8/73.5/66.5 inches

Ground clearance: 8.2 inches

Cargo capacity: 36.3-76.5 cubic feet

Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds

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