Honda’s sixth-gen CR-V gains more hybrid power, classier style for 2023
Enthusiasts may linger over sporty coupes and luxurious sedans, but the volume-sellers are the models most important to a company’s bottom line. Honda makes its cash on the CR-V, which in 2013 unseated the Civic as the company’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. market. Thanks to a crossover-obsessed population, the CR-V hasn’t looked back since.
2023’s a big year for this SUV. The model year ushers in a new, sixth generation that ditches much of the current model’s frumpy style. It grows larger in the process and brings a significant power bump to the hybrid drivetrain.
No one buys a CR-V to stand out, but now that this crossover looks more like a Mazda than ever, it might do just that. Though the 2023 CR-V has none of the CX-5’s wonderfully subtle side contours, its squinty headlights are also framed by chrome blades and connected to the upper corners of a generously sized grille. The proportions have also evolved: The 2023 CR-V is longer than the vehicle it replaces by 2.7 inches, and roughly half of that stretch (1.6 inches) is between the axles. It’s a more top-heavy design thanks to A-pillars moved back, out, and down. Standard LED taillights edge a simple rear that ditches all the chrome of the fifth-gen CR-V for a more modern look. The new CR-V might actually be classy—until half the strip mall parking lot is full of them.
If you like clean lines and prominent digital displays in a vehicle’s interior, it’s hard to ignore that Honda’s on a roll. The 11th-gen Civic ushered in a dash topped with a tablet-style touchscreen and dominated by a single horizontal line accented with a metallic-look mesh that cleverly integrated the climate control vents. The Civic’s SUV sibling, the HR-V, picked up the same theme, and the CR-V riffs on it. Behind the steering wheel sits an instrument panel with an analog speedometer on the right and a 7-inch display on the left. Below the main infotainment screen (a 7-incher comes standard; the upper two trims boast a 9-inch unit) are three neat climate control dials. The center console integrates a generously sized pad for wireless charging—a CR-V first, along with wireless CarPlay/Android Auto on the upper two trims. (You’ll need to bring your own cable for the EX and EX-L.) There’s a traditional automatic shift knob on the center console, which showcases some more new-to-the-CR-V features, including hill descent control and low-traction mode for snow.
As you might guess from those last two features, Honda’s set on adding a dash of adventuresome flavor to the CR-V. The company also wants you to pay for this ever-so-slightly rugged personality, of course, so the top two trims are flashier than the bottom two. The Sport and the Sport Touring each wear a more aggressively contoured chin than either the EX or the EX-L, and the grille texture is more angular.
There are four trims rather than seven for the sixth-gen CR-V, but the hybrid models boast power gains. The gas-only EX and EX-L stick with the same 1.5-liter turbo four, though that 190-hp engine makes its 179 lb-ft of torque a touch lower down: From 1700–5000 rpm rather than 2000–5000. It’s the Sport and Sport Touring models that lay claim to the title of “most powerful CR-V ever.” As long as you measure power in lb-ft, that is: 247 vs. 232. Credit a second electric motor in the hybrid powertrain, whose combustion center is the same 2.0-liter inline four. (Honda will release EPA numbers and pricing at a later date, but expect the electrically assisted models to improve at least incrementally on the 2022 hybrids’ 40 city/35 highway mpg rating.) AWD is available on all models and standard on the hybrid ones.
One party trick the non-hybrid models boast: The panel covering the full-size spare in the trunk can be adjusted to sit an inch or so below the floor. Honda claims this yields 3 addition cubic feet of space, but it will likely prove most helpful in accommodating strangely shaped cargo, like a lawnmower or a chair, than in increasing overall capacity.
Honda is preparing a batch of “affordable” EVs based on GM’s Ultium platform for 2027, but the CR-V will keep the cash rolling in long past that date. From our first impressions, the 2023 CR-V brings the right mix of fresh, mature styling and interior tech to comfortably maintain its place atop Honda’s sales leaderboard. When we get behind the wheel, you’ll be the first to know how it drives.