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2023 Honda CR-V First Drive Review: Bigger, better, pricier

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The 2023 Honda CR-V is an enormous deal. It helped set up its phase 1 / 4 century in the past and has been a benchmark for it ever since. It is Honda’s best-selling mannequin by a vast margin. Final 12 months, Honda bought practically 100,000 extra CR-Vs than Civics. After which there’s the truth that this latest model is actually the most important instance but, an improve that’s amongst many enhancements that helps maintain the CR-V towards the highest of the compact SUV mountain (one which’s fairly tall at this level). After spending a restricted period of time with the common, non-hybrid mannequin, we will say that the 2023 CR-V continues to be a wonderful alternative, and it is an enchancment over earlier than, however we’re not prepared to offer it the compact crown outright.

Our time with the CR-V was restricted to an EX-L model with the turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder. No hybrids have been out there on the time, however except for its powertrain and a few minor styling tweaks, the SUV pushed for this evaluate in Nashville is identical one because the hybrid we’ll drive within the close to future. 

Irrespective of the powertrain, each 2023 CR-V is considerably greater than its predecessor. This could be a spotlight of the brand new mannequin. Honda added 2.7 inches to the size general, and 1.6 inches between the wheels. It is 0.4 inch wider, too. Cargo house behind the rear seats hasn’t significantly grown at 36.3 cubic toes (proper between the outdated fuel mannequin and hybrid mannequin), however fold these seats down, and the CR-V has an enormous 76.5 cubic toes. That provides it probably the most most house within the phase. 

The place the house is admittedly noticeable is within the passenger space. The entrance occupants have loads of house in each path, and it is simple to discover a comfy seating place. The seats themselves, lined in leather-based within the EX-L, have thick padding, are sizable, and have good facet bolstering that gives simply sufficient safety that you do not really feel like you are going to spill out of them. The rear seating is much more spectacular. There’s oodles of leg- and knee room, amplified by a shocking quantity of house underneath the entrance seats for toes. The seats are firmer and flatter than the fronts, however nonetheless comfy, and so they’ll recline by as much as 10 levels. It might be straightforward to kill hours on an extended journey snoozing behind a brand new CR-V.

One other large enchancment is the general inside design. If you happen to’ve been in a brand new Civic or HR-V, you’ve got principally been within the CR-V inside, and that is factor. It has a low sprint that helps each with visibility and making the cabin really feel spacious and ethereal. All the things is constructed from a pleasant mixture of soft-touch plastics with completely different grains. The bodily controls for the local weather management system are welcome, too, and so they really feel impressively strong and costly.

That being mentioned, the outdated CR-V’s inside wasn’t dangerous. Its infotainment system, then again, was abysmal. The brand new one fortunately has upgraded to the system used within the Civic, Accord and Acura Integra. On the bottom EX, it incorporates a 7-inch touchscreen with quantity and tuning knobs. On the EX-L, it comes with a 9-inch display screen and only a quantity knob. In contrast with the outdated system, it is vastly extra responsive with a higher-resolution display screen and colourful, easy-to-touch icons. Menus aren’t overly deep and we didn’t expertise the kind of glitches continuously suffered by the outdated system, both. It is now one of many higher touchscreen infotainment methods, particularly when in comparison with the Toyota RAV4. The Hyundai Tucson’s and Kia Sportage’s are nonetheless higher.

Whereas the CR-V inside is among the finest round (if missing a number of the aptitude of a RAV4, Sportage or Mazda’s CX-5 and CX-50), the driving expertise is fairly common. It shares underpinnings with the brand new Civic (and due to this fact the entrance finish of the brand new HR-V), which is noticeable within the stable really feel and pretty gentle really feel. The suspension tuning is sort of comfy and though that leads to a good bit of physique roll, it isn’t wallowy. Just like the HR-V, although, the steering is a disappointment for a Honda. it has little suggestions, is sort of gradual and requires a shocking variety of mid-corner corrections. The CR-V does not flip in significantly rapidly, both. “Enjoyable to drive” has hardly been a essential motive so many of us have bought CR-Vs through the years, nevertheless it’s been responsive sufficient to maintain folks from attempting the competitors. That will have modified. 

Honda touted efforts to enhance quietness and refinement within the new CR-V. It does appear to be an enchancment, nevertheless it’s behind the impressively quiet machines from Hyundai and Kia. Tire noise is omnipresent, offering a lightweight hiss at many speeds. The engine, whereas easy, can get buzzy at greater rpms. No less than street and wind noise are stored properly underneath management.

As for that engine, the 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four is just about carried over from the earlier mannequin together with the usual steady variable computerized. It as soon as once more produces 190 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, which is hardly inspiring, however acceleration is at the least ample and the bar is sort of frankly low for the phase. The CVT is the weak level. It makes an attempt to imitate some computerized transmission behaviors, however the revs rise and fall atypically in its Regular mode, making the engine really feel sluggish and fewer responsive. Popping the transmission into its Sport setting improves issues and retains the revs up extra, nevertheless it does not make the CR-V really feel a lot sooner, and it does improve the noise. As for gas economic system, the CR-V is strictly as environment friendly as earlier than, delivering 28 mpg within the metropolis, 34 on the freeway and 30 in mixed driving with front-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive model will get 29 mpg mixed. The hybrid is sort of a bit extra environment friendly, although nonetheless near the earlier mannequin at 43 mpg metropolis, 36 mpg freeway and 40 mixed with front-wheel drive, and 40/34/37 with AWD.

Gas economic system could also be virtually unchanged, however pricing is not. The CR-V acquired a good bit dearer, partially as a result of the entry-level LX trim has been discontinued. The brand new base mannequin is the EX, and it begins at $32,355 with front-wheel drive and the included vacation spot cost. All-wheel drive provides one other $1,500. This new value makes it the costliest choice within the mainstream compact phase, with rivals such because the Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-50 and lots of extra all beginning underneath $30,000. Some even supply commonplace all-wheel drive. And that severely hurts the CR-V’s worth proposition, regardless of its spectacular quantity of actual property.

Unquestionably, the brand new CR-V is a significant enchancment over its predecessor, and it is a robust competitor in some key areas. It is extra spacious than earlier than with high quality supplies, comfy seating and easy-to-use expertise. However a mediocre driving expertise and excessive value maintain it from being the phase’s most suitable choice. Hold the CR-V in your shortlist, however do not let or not it’s the entire listing.

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