Honda’s all-new CR-V goes upmarket in almost every way – including the price.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens. There are always more photos at the end of my reviews.
I reviewed two trims of the 2023 CR-V – the EX-L and the Touring Hybrid, which are the top two trim levels, one after the other. I’ll include pictures of both – if there’s only one picture of a particular angle or feature, that means there is no visible difference between the trim levels. The white vehicle is the EX-L, the blue one is the Touring Hybrid.
Pricing: 2023 Honda CR-V
Base price (EX-L trim): $43,390
Options: $300 premium colour
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $45,640
Base price (Touring hybrid trim): $48,890
Options: $300 premium colour
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $51,240
Although this CR-V is all new, its design language is pretty unremarkable. There is no question the design is evolutionary from the previous generation. It’s handsome enough, but as with nearly everything in dealerships these days, it blends in beautifully with everything else on the road. Maybe that’s a win for you and maybe that drives you crazy.
If you liked the last CR-V, you’ll like this one. The front end is the new Honda look, and with its honeycomb grille it’s less cluttered to my eyes, and the rear end gets a nice LED tail light signature. Actually, LED lighting is found everywhere – headlights, driving lights, tail lights, etc. The side profile is somewhat different, but again, nobody will take a second look.
The Touring model gets a few minor aesthetic tweaks – the upsized 19-inch black wheels (versus the EX-L’s silver 18-inchers – I think both trims’ wheels look great!), some chrome-surrounded lower intakes on the front and integrated tailpipe finishers in the rear apron (one of which is fake, by the way).
At first glance, I found this design to be less exciting than ever before for the CR-V but after spending a couple of weeks in the two different trims, I started appreciating the slightly upmarket refinement of the design.
The cabin design is clean, following Honda’s latest corporate direction. The now-familiar mesh strip that cuts across the entire dash is there, containing the air vents.
Materials are fine – there’s plenty of soft-touch plastic throughout, including the dash and door panels. There is virtually no distinguishable difference between the two trims.
Behind the heated steering wheel is a hybrid gauge cluster – there’s a digital tach on the left, which also displays a number of different sets of information pending on driver preference. On the right is a traditional, analog speedometer and between them is a 7″ driver information screen.
The 9-inch touchscreen juts up out of the dash, and handles most everything in terms of audio, phone and vehicle settings. It all works really well and is easy to live with. The Touring model gets upgraded BOSE sound system, although both trims sound pretty darn good.
The heated seats are outstanding in the CR-V. We found them to be highly comfortable and very well bolstered too. Both trims have real perforated leather upholstery – the Touring has cool amber/orange contrasting stitching to set it apart.
The sunroof is a standard size, which is too bad – for this kind of money and in a brand-new vehicle, Honda should have thrown in a panoramic one. A number of passengers commented on that.
There’s a boatload of driver assistance technology. Automatic high beams, forward collision warning and collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic monitoring, traffic sign recognition, front and rear parking sensors and a multi-angle backup camera.
Passenger space in the CR-V has always been excellent, and this generation is no exception. Frankly, it’s massive. Sitting behind my own driving position (I’m 5’10”), I had about 8-9″ of leg room and plenty of space for my feet under the front seat as well. Headroom is just as capacious – I had plenty of space over my head. The middle seating position isn’t as great as the outboard ones, but it will easily accommodate a third adult if needed, and the floor is nearly flat, so it’s not a punishment to sit there.
The outboard seats are heated in both trims and there are adjustable air vents. The Touring model gets two USB-C charging ports at the back of the centre console.
Under the centre stack is an open rubberized storage area – on the left side is the wireless charging mat, and there’s enough room for another phone on the right – above it are USB-A, USB-C and 12V charging ports.
There’s a shallow tray behind the cupholders, and then a deeper bin under the armrest lid, as well as an adjustable organizational tray.
Pop the power lift gate (it’s handsfree access in the Touring) and you’ll find a huge trunk (1113L, the Touring Hybrid is slightly less at 1028L thanks to the battery ). We really liked the adjustable cargo floor height (only in the EX-L), allowing you to have a deeper trunk or a flat trunk floor when you fold the rear seats down – they split 60/40. Speaking of, you can no longer fold the rear seats from the trunk – you need to do it from the seats themselves. The trunk grows to 2166 (2030L in the hybrid) when they are folded. You get a 12V plug for accessories, good bag hooks and four tie-down points.
Under the Hood
The EX-L is powered by a turbocharged 1.5L 4-cylinder, putting out 190 HP and 179 lb.ft of torque. The Touring Hybrid uses a 2L 4-cylinder and two electric motors, bumping total output to 204 HP and 247 lb.ft of torque.
Both trims get CVT transmissions and all-wheel drive.
Fuel economy is rated at 9.1/7.6 L 100/km (city/highway) for the EX-L’s ICE engine and 6.0/6.9 L/100 km (city/highway) for the hybrid. We averaged 9.3 L/100 km during our week with the EX-L and the ICE engine, and an even 7 L/100 km with the hybrid.
The engine in the EX-L is a carry-over, and I have to say, performance is lacking. It’s fine for basic puttering around town – I don’t think there’s a car on the market today that doesn’t have enough power for that. But when you ask for more – for example, to merge into moving traffic or to pass on the freeway – the CR-V feels as though it’s working really, really hard just to keep up and things get pretty noisy and buzzy when it’s working that hard. I would say it is underpowered. If you took this vehicle to the mountains with several passengers and their luggage, I don’t think it would be a lot of fun.
The Touring Hybrid is an improvement. There is notably more power off the line and during mid-range acceleration, thanks to the electric motor’s instant-on torque. The overall powertrain performance feels better and noticeably smoother in every situation. However it needs to be said – if you’re looking for a lot of power, the Hybrid doesn’t provide that either. The transition from electric to hybrid mode is imperceptible, and if the throttle is feathered, you can drive for a couple of minutes on battery power alone, which is pretty cool. We also noticed that the hybrid would sail at freeway speeds on electric power for significant periods before firing up the gas engine again.
Gears are selected with a traditional lever selector, which I love. The EX-L has Drive, Sport and Low modes for the transmission – the Touring Hybrid has Drive and Brake mode, which you can use to increase the deceleration effect, reducing the need to apply the brakes. You can also use the steering column paddles to adjust the level of hybrid declaration.
The EX-L gets Normal, Eco and Snow driving modes – the Touring Hybrid has those and adds Sport mode as well.
All-wheel drive is excellent during the winter – it seems to figure out very quickly when more traction is needed. And it seems to disappear on dry roads for the most part, so it does everything a typical pedestrian AWD system does.
The ride is outstanding in both trims, although I found the Touring to feel slightly more rigid (in a good way) and planted. This is likely the least sporty CR-V to date in terms of handling – but where it seems to compromise the fun factor, it has given up nothing in terms of actual competence and capability. It will easily take on a cloverleaf freeway merge, and it doesn’t complain when you throw it into urban corners – you just won’t have a lot of fun doing it. The steering is numb and detached.
Braking is good, and even the hybrid’s regenerative brakes felt much like normal brakes – there was no noticeable mushiness. Visibility out of the CR-V is good in every direction.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was quite high. She said it was very easy to drive, and she liked how roomy it felt and that it was “solid”.
The CR-V has always been easy to live with, and it does everything right, but never in an exciting way. This newest one follows suit – although Honda’s can’t stop talking about its rugged styling and exhilarating performance, I found it a super boring vehicle. In a good way. It will check basically every box for the vast majority of people shopping in this category – lots of room inside and in the cargo hold, adequate performance, plenty of safety and convenience technology and Honda’s perceived/expected reliability, as well as outstanding resale value.
Honda’s model line is seeing a massive update, with nearly every model being revamped over the last couple of years. It seems their pricing strategy is headed skyward, with their crossovers and SUV seeing very noticeable increases. While the Touring Hybrid would be the trim I would recommend for its much-better powertrain, I question whether or not it’s a $51,000+ vehicle – and then you can add taxes. There are definitely plenty of options available for buyers in this vehicle category, particularly at this price, so make sure you shop around – but you can’t go wrong with the CR-V.
Disclosure: Vehicles were provided by Honda Canada.
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