2023 Honda CR-V Debuts With All-New Look And 50% Hybrid Sales Goal

The compact SUV segment is now the largest and most important vehicle category in the U.S. car market. That means every automaker is scrambling to — at a minimum — defend their compact SUV market share and, ideally, grow it. Into this fray comes the all-new 2023 Honda CR-V. Honda’s success in this category is well documented, with the CR-V typically earning first- or second-place finishes in annual compact SUV sales since the CR-V debuted in 1997. That kind of sustained success has made the CR-V the best-selling SUV, in terms of total U.S. sales, over the past 25 years.

But over the course of those 25 years the compact SUV category has grown from a class of two (CR-V and Toyota RAV4) to a class of 16, putting far more pressure on Honda to keep the CR-V at or near the top of the sales chart. The 2023 CR-V will defend its position with a revised chassis, new exterior design and all-new drivetrain. While the updated exterior styling and interior design are noteworthy, the big news is an all-new hybrid drivetrain, which Honda expects to make up 50 percent of future CR-V sales. The CR-V’s first hybrid drivetrain became available in 2020, and only represented a fraction of total CR-V sales, so that’s a big shift in the role the hybrid CR-V will play.

The new hybrid drivetrain starts with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine aided by a pair of electric motors to produce 204 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque (at a highly-accessible 2,000 rpm). This makes the new hybrid version the most powerful CR-V ever, and gives it a towing capacity of 1,000 pounds. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) sends power to either the front wheels or all four, with all-wheel drive optional across the model line and standard on the top-end CR-V Sport Touring trim. A Sport trim is also offered with this hybrid drivetrain, imparting a sense of performance on the hybrid models.

Buyers wanting to stick with a conventional engine will still have that option. The non-hybrid version of the 2023 CR-V will come with Honda’s ubiquitous 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This one features an upgraded turbocharger, said to provide power and torque over a wider range of rpm, with peak power rated at 190 hp at 6,000 rpm and peak toque of 179 lb-ft available between 1,700 and 5,000 rpm. A CVT also sends power to either the front wheels or all four with this engine, with non-hybrid CR-V trim designations as either EX or EX-L. All CR-V models benefit from standard hill descent control technology for the first time, as well as a new Snow driving mode. There’s also a Sport mode on the hybrid-powered Sport and Sport Touring models.

Regardless of trim or drivetrain every 2023 Honda CR-V rides on a revised chassis carrying a new body. At first glance the new CR-V looks lower and longer, an impression backed up by the new model’s specs. At 2.7 inches longer overall, with a 1.6-inch longer wheelbase and 1.4-inch lower roofline, the CR-V looks more wagon-like than any previous version. That’s not a bad thing in our opinion, though Honda reps would undoubtedly cringe at the suggestion. The A-pillars sit 4.7 inches further back and 2.8 inches wider than before (the new CR-V is .4 inches wider overall). This translates to a longer hood and better outward visibility than before, both positive evolutions.

These exterior changes are reflected in more interior space, with improved rear-seat legroom and greater cargo capacity. A reconfigurable cargo floor can be lowered to add another 3 cubic feet of storage space, and with the 60/40 rear seatbacks lowered there’s 76.5 cubic feet of space behind the front seats, which Honda says is the largest in the category. The interior’s overall design follows the recently redesigned Civic’s path, with recessed vents behind a honeycomb grille that spans the entire dash. A central touchscreen, in either 7- or 9-inch size, includes a physical tuning knob (yay!), and all-new, highly-comfortable front seats also follow the new Civic’s lead, a good thing indeed.

Honda hasn’t released details like pricing or fuel ratings. We know the four trim levels start with the base EX model with the 1.5-liter turbo engine, then on to the Sport trim with the hybrid powertrain, then the EX-L trim back with the turbo, then the Sport Touring trim with the hybrid at the top. There will undoubtedly be price creep with the new CR-V, as there is with everything these days, but standard equipment levels for each trim look to be impressive. The base EX model includes LED headlights, a power driver’s seat, a digital gauge cluster, the aforementioned 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and two USB ports (a 2.5-amp USB-A port and a 3.0-amp USB-C port).

We hope to drive the new 2023 Honda CR-V in the next few months. The role this model plays, not just in Honda’s line but in the compact SUV category, and even the overall U.S. car market, can’t be overstated. The transition from internal combustion to hybrid technology and, eventually, fully electric cars won’t be carried out by six-figure luxury sedans and large SUVs. It will live, or die, with models like the Honda CR-V, which makes this all-new model, with a planned 50 percent hybrid take rate, a critical bellwether of our electrified future.

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