Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Honda CR-V

New CR-V hybrid a very nice vehicle – but it sure hates the extreme cold!

By Jim Bray
February 2, 2023

Honda fans who've been pining for a hybrid version of the venerable CR-V SUV/Crossover can now breathe more easily, as the Japanese carmaker has introduced such a beast with the new, sixth generation version.

And it's a peach, a lovely vehicle to drive and to live with, and my complaints can only amount to nit picks against this terrific ride – something I've been loathe to say about recent Honda generations with their annoying "safety" nannies that beat you over the head with themselves.

No more! Well, more about this later…

Click on the image to open a slideshow.

Meanwhile, this CR-V – which Honda Canada kindly allowed me to drive over the Christmas season – delivers a hybrid experience that's not only efficient, but even fun to drive!

Just don't expect it to go quietly into the deep-frozen night!

I say that because the CR-V Touring hybrid (the vehicle's top Canadian trim level) absolutely freaked out when the temperatures dropped to the -30C range in late December. And I couldn't blame it one bit: I freaked out at the temperatures, too.

The difference was that I bundled myself up and kept going, whereas the CR-V's extensive electronic systems either refused to work, simply displayed that they weren't going to work, or worked poorly.

For example, when fired up on several of those icy mornings, every warning light on the instrument panel leapt to attention, informing me that this system or that system wasn't functioning. And one morning the thing refused to drive at more than about 20 kilometres per hour, which was pretty darn freaky.

Now, when things get really cold cars get really upset, so I don't blame Honda for this. I've driven other vehicles under similar conditions that displayed error messages that were themselves in error. I remember, for example, the first time I drove a BMW 7 series it was nearly as cold as my CR-V experience, and it lied to me about the tire pressures being down.

So, I don't trust error messages when things get so cold.

But I've never seen so many error messages blow up in my face at once until this hybrid CR-V. And it wasn't just hybrid stuff, but also some of the nannies, such as lane departure "assist". So, that's something to consider if you want a high-tech vehicle such as this and you live in areas of the world that stubbornly refuse to submit to the Thunberg agenda by getting ever warmer.

That's pretty well all the bad I can think of about the new CR-V, and it's obviously the exception rather than the rule – and if temperatures stay in their normal ranges, you should have no issues at all.

As mentioned (er, peopletioned) Honda Canada's sample CR-V was the top line Touring Hybrid model and it features a different gas engine than the rest of the line. "Normal" CR-V's come with a 1.5 litre turbo four rated at 190 horses @ 6000 rpm, but the Hybrid has a two litre normally aspirated engine rated at what might appear to be a measly 145 horses @ 6100 rpm – until you add in the electrical stuff that makes for a combined output of 204 horses.

Ditto for the torque: non-hybrids crank out 179 pound-feet from 1700-5000 rpm, whereas the Hybrid's combined total makes 247 lb.-ft, which is quite adequate.

Power/torque goes to all four wheels (the base CR-V has front drive as standard) via an "Electric-Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT)" that, unlike most CVT's, pretends to be a regular automatic by pretending to shift as you accelerate. It does a reasonable job of it, but I never forgot it was a CVT. It was, however, a CVT with which I could live if I had to. If I had to.

The hybrid comes with 19-inch wheels (lesser trim levels come with 17-inch wheels as standard equipment) and, fortunately, tires. Inside the handsome new interior that borrows bits from the current Civic, is a new 12-speaker Bose premium audio system with Bose Centerpoint technology and SurroundStage digital signal processing. It's very good, though it won't go down in history as either Bose or Honda's best. Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System and Wi-Fi Hotspot capability are also standard.

Honda's press release says the new CR-V features a tuning knob (Honda dumped this feature across its line several years ago and it's always driven me nuts – or more nuts, anyway). The sample I drove, however, didn't have one. So much for truth in advertising!

The audio system also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and a supposedly simplified menu structure that's easier to fathom than before but still a tad convoluted (this isn't just a Honda thing, either).

You also get heated front seats, a heated steering wheel (and didn't that come in handy during my wintry driving experiences!), dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and remote starter (another wonderful feature when it was really cold), heated outside mirrors, and LED headlights. The tailgate can be opened easily via a button on the dashboard or from the outside.

The front windshield wipers contain the apparatus for the washing feature, but I found both it and the rear wiper/washer combo – combined with the front and rear window heaters – to be a tad anemic during the extreme cold.

Ah, but once the temperature came back up, I noticed a wonderful feature I'd like to see on every vehicle that's equipped with a rear-view camera: if you use the rear wiper's washer feature, the camera is also hosed down! It means you don't have to keep wiping the little camera off with your hand every time you get in or out, and it works really, really well!

Honda says that every 2023 CR-V features extensive improvements to the body, chassis and powertrain, as well as the safety technology, and to the vehicle's overall driving refinement. Can't argue that; CR-V's have always been a decent vehicle – even when I was mad at Honda for their overly obtrusive nannies – but I enjoyed this one more than any previous version. It didn't hurt that I didn't have to keep cussing at it when its systems tried to take away my freedom to drive it as I wanted. Well, once, when it flashed BRAKE! at me, thinking falsely I was about to rear end someone. But that was it!

The all-wheel drive system has been updated (Honda calls it "Real Time All-Wheel Drive") with Intelligent Control System and it's available on all trim levels, as well as being standard equipment on the Sport, EX-L and Touring models. Honda says this results in a quieter system that can now send up to 50 per cent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels. This should make for better handling and traction when the roads get slick. There's also a new Hill Descent Control system Honda says enhances the CR-V's off-road capability.
You also get selectable driving modes, Normal, ECON, and Snow (the snow one is new) and the Touring Hybrid model gets a welcome new Sport mode which, even if you should put scare quotes around the word "sport", does allow the hybrid to seem a tad more spry. 

The standard-issue Honda Sensing suite (my personal bugaboo in recent years' Hondas) has been expanded to include Traffic Jam Assist (which, fortunately, I never had to experience during my review period). There's also an annoying rear seat reminder and rear seatbelt reminder that assumes you're clueless enough to not notice the ankle biters fighting in the back seat.

One other nit: I did find the driver's side seatbelt a bit hard to click into place, at least over my paunch. This is a pretty small nit, of course, and since I don't have that issue with many other vehicles it says either that Honda has made the connection point a bit too close to the right buttock or my right buttock has no business being in a new CR-V.

However you slice it, however, the new, sixth generation CR-V is a lovely vehicle, capable and attractive and undoubtedly supremely reliable. Nice job, Honda!

Copyright 2023 Jim Bray
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