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Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

2023 Honda CR-V AWD Sport Touring review

2023 Honda CR-V AWD Sport Touring front quarter
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2023 Honda CR-V AWD Sport Touring front quarter

Adding a bit of length along with hybrid power to a top-selling compact crossover will likely boost its already strong sales, or so Honda suspects. They’re probably right.

The Honda CR-V is already the segment’s sales leader, and the latest refresh does nothing to hurt the sound reasoning that goes into a CR-V purchase. Modest price, roomy for a family of four, good power, good ride, and OK handling, all remain.

Styling is always subjective, but the new CR-V looks only slightly muscled up from its previous iteration. And if you see a new one on the road, you’ll immediately know it’s a Honda. Meanwhile, its competitors such as the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage offer a bit more interesting styling as a way to grab attention in this hard-fought marketplace.

So, for 2023 the CR-V grows a few inches longer in wheelbase and body length while touting Honda’s effective hybrid system that works alongside its 2.0-liter I4 engine. So, the hybrid’s batteries and an electric motor help gas mileage for city driving plus extends driving range to about 500 miles. Naturally, being a hybrid, one also needs only worry about finding a gas station on any trip, no plug-in required.

Happily, the EPA rates the CR-V at 40 mpg city and 34 highway, which seems entirely realistic as I managed 36.3 mpg in a mix of the two over about a 300-mile test. I previously got just shy of 29 mpg with a gas-only model. However, I must add that I’d managed 40+ mpg with the previous CR-V hybrid that was a bit smaller and weighed about 200 pounds less.

The hybrid works seamlessly to switch between gas and electric power, which is generated via the regenerative braking system. You’ll see the EV symbol light up in green on the dash as the vehicle accelerates up to about 15 mph, and again whenever the crossover is cruising at a set speed, even 40 mph or more. Hills or heavy acceleration immediately kick in the gas power.

That power is good too from the I4 and hybrid, rated at 204 horsepower, more than the gas-only CR-V. The power is smooth as are the shifts from the CVT here, with acceleration mild. But use the Drive Mode toggle on the console to select Sport mode and acceleration turns more enthusiastic. Normal mode, though, is where you’ll likely leave the Honda most times, but Eco is available to stretch gas mileage and there’s a Snow setting that helps the AWD system control wheel spin via the throttle and transmission working in synch.

The ride is well-controlled and pleasant, better than many larger crossovers and SUVs to be sure. So, a family can ride in comfort, even on crumbling roads.

The handling is fine for a family haul-about, but not as crisp as in some crossovers. Certainly, Mazdas and VW’s excel in that area. No, this feels a bit numb and heavier than some drivers might like, and that’s in Normal drive mode. Go to Sport and it feels heavier, but not much more nimble.

Outside the test vehicle was a dark Canyon River Blue that certainly looked more black on cloudy days. A bit brighter color might help this top-trim Sport Touring model look a little less chunky, that and dumping some of its black trim, including mirrors, grille, roof rails and 19-inch wheels. Many car makers are going this blacked-out route and it works on some models. Not so much here.

The interior is dark too, with black leather seats and all the trim in black. That includes a flat black console (not reflective so a good thing), plus black metal honeycomb trim across the dash and black textured trim on dash and doors. If the interior were gray, I think all that black would look sharper, like an accent, not so overwhelming.

Honda does add orange stitching to the seats, armrest and steering wheel. But it’s not quite enough to overcome the deep midnight treatment.

Functionally though, the dash and interior are fine.

The seats are well shaped with good hip support and the rear seats are particularly roomy, thanks to the CR-V’s growth in length. The front seats also feature 3-level heating and the driver’s seat is powered and includes two memory buttons. The steering wheel also is heated, with a button on its hub.

The dash is simple to see and understand with a 9-inch info screen that is equally simple to tune and use. Honda includes a Bose stereo with 12 speakers on this trim, so sound quality is fine too.

Overhead is a small sunroof and below the screen and center stack is a wireless charger in a large tray. Climate controls are simple with three knobs on the dash, and this is a dual system to avoid marital debates on the proper air temperature.

In the back is a power hatch and an extremely roomy cargo area that grows substantially when the rear seats are folded down. Be aware they do not create a totally flat floor though, there’s a bit of a rise where the seats have folded.

I rarely mention the shifter, but so many cars are going to rotary dials that it’s nice to see a standard tall, easy-to-grab stick shift in the Honda. Some things don’t need re-inventing.

Safety features are another strong selling point. The CR-V includes smart cruise control, collision mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation and traffic jam assist that basically automatically drives the car in traffic up to 45 mph so long as a hand is still on the steering wheel.

Hill descent control is standard too, which helps if the crossover is taken off road by controlling the downhill speed while the driver simply steers to maintain control. Fine feature, if you intend to go off-roading with your family hauler.

Note too that Honda includes an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the hybrid system’s batteries, a 5-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty and 3-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty. Cool too that the first two years of routine maintenance are free at the dealership.

Pricing remains attractive for CR-V with the base Sport hybrid model with front-wheel-drive listing at $34,645. AWD costs $1,500 extra. The Sport also comes with smaller wheels and a 7-inch info screen.

Move up to the Sport L for 2024 models and get a 9-inch info screen, wireless phone charger, leather seats and driver’s seat memory feature. Cost is $37,695, again with AWD extra.

The tested Sport Touring includes AWD and the larger screen, and all the other bells and whistles mentioned above for $39,845. No options on this model, so that’s the out-the-door price which is well below the average going rate of $45k these days.

Honda still leads the hybrid compact crossover pack, but others aren’t far behind and offer different styling. Consider the Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, VW Tiguan and Ford Escape. If you prefer a gas-only vehicle, add Subaru’s Forester or Crosstrek and Mazda’s CX-5 or CX-50 to your shopping list.

A gas-only CR-V is still available too, getting 190 horses from its turbo I4. The base front-drive LX starts at $29,705, the EX at $32,355, and the top-end EX-L for $35,005. Gas models are rated 28 to 34 mpg for FWD and 27-32 mpg for AWD models.

FAST STATS: 2023 Honda CR-V AWD Sport Touring

Hits: Comfy ride, good power especially in Sport mode, plus AWD. Fine hybrid MPG, roomy interior, small sunroof, power hatch, and wireless phone charger, plus 9-inch info touchscreen, dual climate controls, Bose stereo, power driver’s seat, well contoured seats, heated front seats and normal stick shift. Full range of safety features standard along with hill descent control.

Misses: Steering a bit heavy and numb, blacked out look of trim a bit much with a dark blue vehicle.

Made in: Alliston, Ont., Canada

Engine: 2.0-liter I4 w/hybrid system, 204 horsepower

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,926 lbs.

Length: 184.8 in.

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Cargo: 39.5-76.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 40/34

MPG: 36.3 (tested)

Base Price: $39,845 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Option: None

Test vehicle: $39,845

Sources: Honda, kbb.com

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
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