2020 Honda CR-V: One Powertrain In, One Powertrain Out

Hybrid model joins as the compact SUV gets an update for 2020.

With the launch of the 2020 Honda CR-V, the brand is introducing its first hybrid model sold in the U.S. with all-wheel drive. (Of course, its Acura luxury brand has had a few such models up to this point.) The CR-V hybrid goes on sale early next year and adapts the Honda Accord hybrid's 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle gasoline inline-four, 1.3-kWh battery pack, and pair of electric motors, but with the lithium-ion batteries stashed under the rear seat, space remains for the AWD system.

In fact, the 2020 CR-V hybrid will only be available with all-wheel drive. While EPA fuel-economy figures will not be released until shortly before it goes on sale, Art St. Cyr, American Honda vice president of automotive operations, said the automaker is aiming for a 50-percent bump in city fuel economy. The 1.5-liter turbocharged, gas-powered Honda CR-V with AWD is rated for 27/33 mpg city/highway by the EPA, which means the hybrid model could reach 40 mpg in the city. Honda also touts longer pure-electric driving than offered in its segment, though St. Cyr would not elaborate on the range or the speeds attainable by the CR-V in EV mode. He also said the hybrid would be quicker off the line than the conventional internal combustion-powered model. The Honda CR-V's standard 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is rated for 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque, while the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter hybrid is rated at 212 horsepower and 232 lb-ft.

A hybrid Honda CR-V already is on sale in Asia and Europe, though with slightly different specs than the North American version, which will be assembled in American Honda's Indiana plant. It will compete with the Toyota RAV4 AWD hybrid, which has 219 horsepower and is EPA-rated for 41/38 mpg city/highway, and the upcoming 2020 Ford Escape hybrid, which will come with a 2.5-liter four and 1.1-kWh battery pack under its rear seat. The Escape makes 198 horsepower, and it's expected to deliver a 39-mpg combined city/highway EPA number.

The new Ford Escape also will be offered as a plug-in hybrid, but Honda isn't going there. Honda sees the CR-V hybrid as a sort of trim-level layer for its compact SUV that will capture mainstream buyers looking for good fuel economy and performance, as well as environmentally concerned consumers whose next leap would be to a pure-electric model.

Thus, Honda will offer the hybrid powerplant across the CR-V board, from the base LX through the EX, EX-L, and top-dog Touring. It's a strategy that matches Toyota's RAV4 hybrid lineup, and while exact pricing for the CR-V hybrid is as far away as the fuel-economy numbers, Honda says it will be competitive. For comparison, the premium for a hybrid powertrain in the RAV4 was about $2,200 for the 2019 model year. Based on 2019 Honda CR-V AWD pricing, a similar premium should put the '20 hybrid range between roughly $27,000 and $35,500, from LX to Touring.

The hybrid comes as part of the CR-V lineup's mid-cycle refresh, the rest of which go on sale this fall, months ahead of the hybrid. (The conventional model is the blue one in the photo gallery.) The updates include a facelift with a new front bumper design with integrated fog lamps, a more pronounced chrome grille, three new paint colors, and new rear deck trim. EX, EX-L, and Touring models get round LED fog lamps, while the hybrids will get bar-type units with five LEDs. The hybrids, of course, will have distinct badging front and rear.

The LX, EX, and EX-L will come with 18-inch wheels, and the Touring with 19-inchers. The 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four that had been available on the base model has been dropped from the CR-V lineup, with the 1.5 turbo becoming the only conventional powertrain. Both the 1.5T and the hybrid setup work exclusively through a continuously variable automatic transmission.

The CR-V hybrid also gets unique interior trim, including a pushbutton gear selector with switches for Econ, Sport, or EV mode. There's a display for power/charge status, a driver-selectable display for power distribution and regeneration, and paddles on the steering wheel to select the level of regenerative braking desired.

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