Honda CR-V Hybrid (2020 - 2023) used car review

RAC Breakdown Cover from £7 a month*

RAC Breakdown Cover from £7 a month*

*£7 a month for new, single vehicle Basic cover. Comparison based on www.theAA.com closest equivalent cover as at 12/04/24.

RAC Breakdown Cover from £7 a month*

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

In a sign of the times, by 2020 the Honda CR-V could only be ordered with a self charging hybrid engine. That change of focus was announced for the 2021 model year, along with a light update inside and out for this fifth generation model. Otherwise though, the essential character of this 'RW1'-series design didn't change. Nor did its primary rival, the Toyota RAV4. The CR-V though, still has a very individual appeal in this MK5 Hybrid form. And Honda hopes that as a result, you'll find this a hard car not to like.

Models

5-door SUV [(2.0 Hybrid petrol) S, SE, SR, EX]

History

Honda's CR-V has long been one of the world's strongest selling SUVs. Sometimes, in a market full of more extrovert rivals, we've wondered why. After all, this has never really been a contender that's jumped out at you from the spec sheet. No. You have to drive it. Use it. Fill it with family. Many of those experienced in doing just that probably won't even look at the alternatives before replacing their second, third or fourth generation CR-Vs with this MK5 model. A car that was improved quite a lot after it first arrived in our market in 2018. The biggest change came for the 2021 model year, when a light update inside and out for this 'RW1'-series design was accompanied by a move to focus the entire line-up on Honda's full-Hybrid self charging powerplant. Creating the car we're going to look at here.

Like its predecessors, this crossover, according to its maker, offers a depth of engineering that many other rivals from this period just don't have. It always has, ever since the original version of this 'Compact Recreational Vehicle' pretty much invented its segment back in 1995, with subsequent models in 2002, 2007 and 2012 being pushed ever-more up-market. This MK5 CR-V took a bit of time to get to British shores, the car launched in the US as far back in 2016. It took two further years before we saw it here, a delay perhaps related to the fact that versions of this 'RW1' design for our market are assembled in Japan, rather than being screwed together in Honda's UK Swindon factory like their predecessors.

Still, by and large, the wait for this fifth generation CR-V was worthwhile. Honda had thought long and hard about the kind of crossover this MK5 model CR-V should be and as a result, some pretty fundamental decisions were taken in creating it. A seven-seat cabin layout option was introduced; so was a new 1.5-litre VTEC petrol unit. Most significant of all was the introduction of the electrified 2.0-litre self-charging petrol engine that would start the brand's across-the-board switch to e:HEV full-Hybrid powertrains across its entire model range.

For the 2021 CR-V model range, the decision was taken in Japan that the focus would switch entirely to that Hybrid engine, which mean the end not only for the conventional 1.5-litre VTEC petrol powerplant but also for manual gearboxes and third row seating options. That change, along with minor suspension and handling tweaks and a light exterior and interior upgrade, created the car we're going to look at here. It sold until Autumn 2023, when the new sixth generation CR-V arrived.

What You Get

This, apparently, is 'the world's favourite SUV', so a lot of people are going to have an opinion on how this fifth generation version looks. Most should be satisfied. There's plenty of chrome to please the Transatlantic crowd, while wide arches and large wheels pushed closer to the car's extremities help in delivering the required level of kerbside presence. Overall though, there's nothing too controversial here. Perhaps that's as it should be. This car's visual appeal has always been low key and you sense that's exactly the way loyal customers like it.

It's pretty hard to spot the changes made to the 2021 model year version of this fifth generation design because there weren't many. The best bet if you're looking to identify this as a facelifted version of this MK5 model is to look at the Honda badge on the grille, which for this updated model gained a blue ring around the H to designate the switch to a Hybrid-only engine range.

When it's time to take a seat behind the wheel, you'll note the way that this car offers its driver's seat at a very convenient hip point as you climb in. And inside? Well what appeared quite contemporary back in 2018 seems a little dated now but there's still plenty to like here. The switch to a single Hybrid engine for the entire line-up meant that the old conventional manual and automatic gear levers vanished: instead, Honda provided a selection of big gearshift buttons - P, R, N and D - which like the old gear stick fall nicely to hand on the jutting-out lower console. The 7-inch Honda CONNECT centre screen feels pretty small by current class standards though and the part-analogue, part digital instrument display isn't particularly cutting-edge either, though it does impart quite a lot of information, once you get used to accessing it all. As usual with a Honda, the cabin ergonomics are brilliant - everything's just where you want it - and there's lots of storage space too, principally a huge box between the seats which is big enough to swallow, say, a lap top or a handbag. Families will really like the way that the overhead sunglasses compartment incorporates a convex rear child view mirror so that you can keep an eye on what the kids are getting up to at the back. Little touches like that might really sell you this car.

And the back seat? Well this fifth generation model took quite a big step forward from its pre-2018-era predecessor with regards to rear seat space, thanks to a useful 40mm increase in wheelbase length. The wide-opening rear doors make it easy for parents to reach inside and strap up child seats too. Once seated, you'll find that it really is very spacious in the back by class standards. If you're struggling to justify the premium required for a CR-V over what you'd pay for a slightly cheaper SUV that's Qashqai or Ateca-sized, here's where you'll do it. Instead of the relatively cramped conditions offered by models like that, there's room to stretch out a bit, courtesy of a 50mm increase in legroom created by that wheelbase length increase, aided further by slim seat backs and the way you can easily slide your shoes under the chair in front.

And the cargo area? Once everything's opened up, you'll find 497-litre of capacity on offer. Once you've flattened everything, a 1,694-litre space is freed up if you load to the ceiling, 62-litres less than the old conventionally-engined version of this model but about the same as you'd get from a competing Toyota RAV4.

What You Pay

Prices for this lightly facelifted post-2020-era MK5 CR-V Hybrid start at around £22,600 (around £25,000 retail), which gets you a '20-plate 'S'-spec 2WD model. On a mid-'23-plate, values for that variant rise to around £26,350 (around £29,250 retail). A plusher 'EX'-spec model with AWD values from around £29,000 on a '20-plate (around £31,750 retail), with values rising to around £33,800 (around £36,500 retail) for a mid-'23-plate model. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.

What to Look For

Not a lot goes wrong with any fifth generation CR-V and we've had no reported problems with the Hybrid drivetrain. Buyers are, on the whole, a contented lot if customer satisfaction surveys are anything to go by. However, we did come across a few issues. One owner complained of problems with intermittent front headlight electrics. Another said his car got through front brake pads excessively quickly. Otherwise, just check the interior for signs of damage from unruly kids. And inspect the alloy wheels for kerbing damage. Otherwise, it's only a case of insisting on a fully stamped-up service book.

Replacement Parts

(based on a 2021 CR-V 2.0 Hybrid - ex VAT): A front brake pad set is about £42. A pair of front brake discs is around £110; rears are around £72. A pollen filter is around £7-£22. A wiper blade is around £2-£17, while an oil filter is about £4. An oil filter is around £6-£13.

On the Road

Most CR-V folk aren't quite ready for a full-EV in a car of this class, but they'll feel like they've got themselves one when they start off in this Hybrid variant. It's really very EV-like away from rest: quiet, quite quick and seamless in its initial acceleration. The engine cuts in quite quickly, but even when it does, it's pretty unobtrusive. The reasons for all this lie in the innovative engineering on offer here; an e:HEV powertrain with two electric motors, one for propulsion and another for generating electricity that gets stored in a lithium-ion battery under the boot floor. The main drive motor develops 184PS, mated to a 2.0-litre i-VTEC petrol engine that adds a further 145PS. The combination propels the car via a single-speed auto gearbox with a proper fixed gear system. And the whole confection delivers an almost diesel-like level of pulling power - 315Nm, enough to get you to 62mph in 8.6s - or 8.9s if you choose the alternative AWD version. Either way, the top speed is, to suit the current zeitgeist, limited to just 112mph.

Depending on road conditions and the way you want to drive, the powertrain switches between three modes - 'Hybrid', 'EV' and 'Engine'. Only in the least efficient 'Engine' drive mode - accessed via a dashboard 'Sport' button - is the petrol motor connected directly to the wheels. For far more of the time though, you'll be using electric assistance to a lesser or greater extent. In 'Hybrid' drive, which is what you'll be in most of the time with this Honda, the engine's there to supply power to the smaller generator motor, which in turn provides it to the propulsion motor. Finally, there's also a dedicated 'EV' setting in which this Honda will be fully electric, though only when the battery is fully charged and even then only for just over a mile. Aside from drive modes, you can also use paddles provided behind the steering wheel to maximise engine braking energy regeneration, so charging up the battery faster and increasing the amount of time the system can switch away from petrol power. Which will maximise frugality, rated at up to 42.8mpg on the combined cycle, with a best CO2 reading of 120g/km.

Overall

It's easy to imagine yourself as target market for a car like this CR-V Hybrid. You've a couple of kids, an active lifestyle and an aversion to rather dull large estate cars. The thing is though, you've also an aversion to the kind of mid-sized SUV soft roaders that such a mindset would normally direct you towards. Understandably perhaps, you think they're all rather pretentious and silly.

But this car isn't. In fact, it's as sensible as family segment lifestyle-orientated SUV motoring gets. A car for people who look at what a vehicle can do for them rather than what it says about them. End use you see, has been the over-riding design parameter here, not cutting edge styling, clever gadgetry, irrelevant pin-sharp handling or pointlessly powerful engines. As a result, it's an extremely easy thing to live with, the kind of car you'll own, then wonder how you managed without. That may not be a recipe for media headlines but it's an approach that other brands could certainly learn from, explaining why so many CR-Vs are bought by folk who previously owned one.

These are people who'll probably stick with Honda through this updated fifth generation model's full-scale switch to self charging Hybrid power, even though it's meant some compromises in cabin flexibility. This electrified powerplant gives you most of the economy of the previous diesel version but with much better refinement and considerably lower tax payments. True, other contenders in this class can also offer this kind of powertrain these days - and some of them are a little more rewarding to drive, but few are as comfortable and refined.

RAC Breakdown Cover

Join the RAC and get Breakdown Cover. Our patrols fix most breakdowns on the spot, with repairs done in just 30 minutes on average.

RAC Breakdown Cover
RAC Breakdown Cover