The Honda CR-V has been a leader among compact SUVs for the past two decades. A clever design, adequate performance and attractive pricing have made it a staple in Canada.
The 2020 model gets a slight makeover and extra features to hopefully close the gap with the best-selling Toyota RAV4, its arch nemesis.
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(For the record, the CR-V ranks as one of the top five most popular vehicles in the country, all segments considered.)
At first glance, the exterior is pretty much identical to what it was in 2017, the year that marked the launch of the fifth and current generation. You have to look at the details including a redesigned grille, new wheels, revised bumpers with chrome accents and five-point LED fog lights on Touring and Black Edition models.
Similar to last year’s version, the base 2020 CR-V LX comes with 17-inch wheels and the EX-L has 18-inch alloys. However, the Sport, Touring and Black Edition all ride on new 19-inchers. These wheels sure look good and they have a negligible effect on ride quality. The only drawback is the higher cost of winter tires.
Inside, the changes are more subtle. Essentially, the CR-V gets new seat materials such as a stylish combination of fabric and synthetic leather in Sport trim or black perforated leather in EX-L, Touring and Black Edition trim. Sadly, the ivory perforated leather option that made the 2019 CR-V Touring look so classy has been eliminated.
The dashboard remains unchanged and that’s a good thing because ergonomics are flawless and drivers enjoy a generous amount of legroom (replacing the uncomfortable parking brake pedal with an electronic system for the latest generation proved to be a wise move).
The interior of the Honda CR-V is very spacious, easily accommodating four adults on long trips. The modular cargo area is similarly vast and easy to access thanks to a low floor and large opening. It’s actually one of the roomiest in the segment, with or without the rear seats folded.
The list of standard features is a long one. We’ll highlight the heated front seats, heated windshield wipers and seven-inch touchscreen along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The suite of Honda Sensing safety and driver assistance systems is now found across the line, too.
Pleasant to Drive
The 2020 Honda CR-V offers a nicely calibrated steering and powerful brakes that are easy to modulate. The large greenhouse and mirrors combined with Honda’s LaneWatch system result in outstanding visibility all around. The latter shows you the passenger’s side blind spot on the centre screen when you activate the right turn signal—too bad it’s not included on LX models.
Also making the CR-V pleasant to drive is the turbocharged 1.5-litre engine. Mated to a continuously variable transmission, this spirited four-cylinder excels when it comes to saving gas (it’s actually 5-percent more efficient than the previous non-turbo 2.0-litre engine). The combined rating for AWD-equipped models dropped from 8.6 to 8.1 L/100 km, which is one tenth better than a 2020 Toyota RAV4 AWD.
The aforementioned CVT proves to be smooth and fairly discreet thanks to proper noise insulation around the cabin. Of course, when you push the 190 ponies, it makes the engine sound louder, but not so much as to annoy passengers.
The Honda CR-V has a maximum towing capacity of 680 kilograms (1,500 pounds), just like its predecessor. That’s far less than the RAV4 and Ford Escape, two compact SUVs that can tow up to 1,587 kilograms (3,500 pounds) depending on the trim level. Honda insists most customers will be just fine with that, however. And should they want to pull heavier loads, they can always turn to bigger, stronger vehicles like the Pilot and Passport.
One final note: unlike Toyota and Ford, Honda has yet to offer a hybrid or plug-in hybrid variant of the CR-V—in Canada, at least. Customers in the U.S. can now order a CR-V Hybrid for an extra of $2,700 USD. Available on all trim levels, even those with AWD, the gas-electric powertrain improves fuel economy by 30 percent.
The people at Honda Canada are not making any promises at this point. They prefer to brag about having the most fuel-efficient lineup of vehicles in the entire industry according to the EPA.