DETROIT – Honda unveils the ’20 CR-V and first-ever CR-V Hybrid, a pair of models the automaker hopes will further broaden its presence in the booming SUV/crossover segment at a time when fuel prices in the U.S. remain low and the Trump Admin. seeks to roll back fuel-economy and emissions standards.
Consumers tend to buy fuel-efficient vehicles during periods of elevated gasoline prices, but the national average of $2.65 per gallon has them chasing bigger vehicles, including large pickups.
At the same time, automakers have needed to push hybrid and electric vehicles to meet tightening fuel economy standards, although that pressure may ease if the White House succeeds in revoking the ability for California and a dozen other states to set standards tougher than federal rules.
Nonetheless, Honda remains bullish on hybrids, especially the CR-V Hybrid. Art St. Cyr, vice president and business unit head-American Honda Auto Operations, expects the CR-V Hybrid to account for 10% of model sales. That’s nearly twice the industry average.
“It is a reasonably conservative estimate,” St. Cyr says after revealing the new crossovers.
St. Cyr says American consumers are choosing hybrids more these days, partly because they are more refined than past iterations but mostly because younger buyers want to make a difference.
“You are finding a whole generation of people committed to saving the world, saving the environment,” he tells Wards.
Honda counts itself among those environmentalists. It has committed to reduce its global carbon-dioxide emissions 50% by 2050 and two-thirds of its global lineup will be electrified by 2030. As such, St. Cyr says whether U.S. standards are relaxed after what is sure to be a protracted legal battle over the California rules will not change the Japanese automaker’s strategy.
“We are on our path,” he says, although noting a single national fuel-economy and emissions standard would be preferred.
As for the new CR-V, it is redesigned inside and out, with added features and upgraded powertrains to bolster Honda’s SUV/crossover momentum near the 700,000-unit-annual mark. The automaker sold 624,082 vehicles in the segment last year, up from 275,115 nine years ago.
The CR-V has served as the tip of the spear, having delivered 5 million units over its 22-year lifespan. The CR-V saw 379,013 takers last year, up 0.3% from 377,895 in 2017, according to Wards Intelligence.
In addition to more aggressive and rugged styling to the front and rear of the new CR-V, which includes smartly hidden exhaust vents and blue Honda badging unique to hybrid models, the powertrains have been upgraded.
The automaker’s vaunted 2-motor hybrid system, which it employs on products around the world with slight model-to-model tweaks, combines a 2.0L, 16-valve DOHC Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine with a motor-generator. The battery-backed unit provides total system output of 212 hp and an electrically boosted 232 lb.-ft. (315 Nm) of torque. The package does intrude on cargo space, and the CR-V Hybrid retains a 60/40 folding second row and flat load floor.
Honda has not received federal fuel-economy ratings for the hybrid, which is due early next year, but St. Cyr says it will mark a significant improvement over the gasoline model and a 50% gain in city-cycle efficiency.
The CR-V Hybrid marks the first Honda 2-motor hybrid to receive standard all-wheel-drive. The system uses an electronic clutch when traction is low to send the appropriate amount of power to the rear wheels from the electric motor.
The gasoline CR-V receives a 1.5L DOHC turbocharged and directly injected VTEC 4-cyl. rated at 190 hp and 179 lb.-ft. (242 Nm) of torque. Honda says both responsiveness and refinement are improved on the engine through its full operating range. It is mated to a continuously variable transmission and available with front-wheel or AWD configurations. Fuel economy is rated at 27-33 city/hwy (8.7-7.1 L/100 km) for AWD models.
The new CR-V will offer Honda Sensing advanced driver assistance technology as standard equipment, as the automaker continues to make that the case for every future model. The safety package includes collision-mitigation braking with forward-collision warning and pedestrian sensing; road-departure mitigation with lane-departure warning; adaptive cruise control with low-speed following capability; and lane assist.
Additional exterior styling enhancements include a new grille, new projector and LED headlights, redesigned fog lights, dark-tinted taillights, chrome exhaust tips for CR-V Touring models and dark chrome trim accents. New 18-in. wheels with a dark, machined finish will be fitted to EX, EX-L and Hybrid models, while Touring trims receives a larger 19-in. wheel set.
Three new exterior colors include Sonic Gray Pearl and Radiant Red Metallic on standard and Hybrid models, and Aegean Blue Metallic exclusively for non-hybrid variants.
Inside, the center console of the CR-V has been redesigned, wireless phone charging has been added, access to USB is enhanced and the Hybrid model receives a push-button gear selector and multiple drive modes.