Seven years had passed since my last test of Honda’s hot-selling CR-V, its small sport-ute, but the wait was worth it.
I felt the 2013 model had fallen a bit behind the curve in the small ute market but be assured Honda is back atop its game with the 2020 model. Mine was an Aegean blue metallic Touring model with all-wheel drive. That’s the top-level CR-V and it was fully equipped, so much so that there were no options.
At $35,845 (including delivery) the Touring sits virtually dead-on the average cost for a new car/crossover these days and is a nice value. The CR-V comes with all the safety equipment you’d expect on a luxury car, but is becoming the norm for every vehicle. It has good smooth power and handling and a decent ride, plus a roomy interior.
Let’s start with the engine, which is new. It’s a 1.5-liter turbocharged I4 and is standard on all four trim levels. The advantage of this, and any, turbo is the torque it delivers along with slightly better fuel economy than a straight-up non-turbo engine. This one creates 190 horsepower and 179 lb.-ft. of torque.
That translates into solid (not racy) power. This one seems particularly strong in the midrange, so from 30-45 mph. That’s particularly helpful in city and suburban driving. The ute cruises well on the highway and its CVT delivers smooth shifts throughout the power band. Honda’s CVT joins Nissan and Subaru transmissions in delivering a pleasant driving experience.
Handling is good too, not really sporty, but with good road feel and fairly quick steering the CR-V is easy to park and maneuver in tight spots. I found no major body lean in tight high-speed turns and this one comes with AWD, so will be sure-footed in winter. Bingo, a winner for Wisconsin driving.
Ride is decent too. I can’t say it’s excellent because there is some jiggle on our particularly rough Midwest roads. But it’s well-controlled and delivers no severe jolts. A family would find it comfortable on most outings.
Safety? Honda Sensing, its safety suite is standard and includes the likes of forward collision warning with pedestrian sensing, low-speed emergency braking to thwart city driving fender benders, lane departure warning and assist, plus automatic high-beam headlights and smart cruise control.
To that the Touring adds a head-up display, multi-view camera, rear cross-traffic monitor, driver attention monitor, rain-sensing wipers and blind-spot information system.
Touring also comes with a heated steering wheel, 19-inch tires and wheels and a wireless phone charging system easily found on the console, just under the dash’s center stacek. Easy in, easy out!
Inside the dash is nicely laid out and the Touring comes with perforated leather seats, black in the test ute, along with a gray headliner to lighten the interior a bit. Dash and door trim is a metal wood-look that seemed odd, way too metallic looking. Other than that, the cockpit looks fine with gloss black mid-line trim on the dash and pewter trim on the door handles and surrounding trim, by the instrument panel, air vents and steering wheel hub. I think Honda should replace the metallic wood with the pewter look throughout.
Dash controls are all easy to see, get at, and understand and a wide easy-to-use touchscreen sits atop the dash. That has a navigation system and satellite radio. The nav is standard on Touring as is a hands-free power hatch, LED headlights, roof rails and a 9-speaker 330-watt premium stereo. A small sunroof also comes on the Touring.
Heated seats are standard here as are two memory settings for the power driver’s seat. Seat bottom cushions are fairly flat with a more contoured back, which would aid comfort on longer drives.
The front passenger’s seat also is powered and there’s plenty of head and legroom front and rear. In fact, rear seat legroom is surprisingly spacious for a small ute, especially one with good cargo room behind that split rear seat. Honda says there’s 39.2 cubic feet of space and up to 75.8 cu.ft. if you fold down the rear seat, easily handled via knobs to release the seat backs in that cargo area.
There’s simply an awful lot to like about the CR-V, including gas mileage. The Touring with AWD is rated at 27 mpg city and 32 highway by the EPA and I got a fine 28.6 mpg in my week’s drive, about a 50-50 mix.
If you prefer even better, then opt to save $1,500 and do without AWD, or wait until later this year when a hybrid model is expected that is said to average about 40 mpg. Remember hybrids use regenerative braking to charge their batteries that run the additional electric motor that powers them up to cruising speed where gas engines are most efficient.
The hybrid is said to have 212 horsepower and will cost an additional $1,200 compared to a gas-only CR-V. List price for the hybrid is expected to be $27,750.
A base CR-V LX starts at $26,145 while an EX edges up to $28,655, but includes a lot of extras most folks want, including 12-way power driver’s seat, dual zone climate controls, moonroof, heated front seats, blind-spot system, rear cross traffic alert, fog lights, push button start and two rear-seat USB ports.e
Move up to the EX-L (for luxury) and your Honda CR-V gets leather seats, a power hatch, power passengers seat, Homelink system, and 8-speaker stereo. Cost jumps to $31,145 and then $35,845 for the tested Touring model.
So, there are low-cost options to be sure, but from the EX trim on up the restyled 2020 CR-V is a winner for families looking for a small sport-ute with good space, good performance and good looks.
Hits: Attractive with smooth power, good handling, decent ride. Nicely laid out dash, wide easy touchscreen, nav system, Honda Sensing safety system, heated front seats and wheel, power hatch and wireless phone charger.
Misses: Odd metal-look wood trim on dash and doors, and ride sometimes can become jiggly.
Made In: Alliston, Ontario
Engine: 1.5-liter turbo I4, 190 horsepower
Transmission: CVT automatic
Weight: 3,569 lbs.
Length: 182.1 in.
Wheelbase: 104.7 in.
Cargo: 39.2 - 75.8 cu.ft.
Tow: 1,500 lbs.
MPG: 27/32, 28.6 (tested)
Base Price: $35,845 (includes delivery)
Major Options: None
Test Vehicle: $35,845
Editor's note: 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.