2020 Honda CR-V Review: Are the Popular Crossover’s Mid-Life Changes Enough?

Big-selling compact crossover SUV updated inside and out for 2020

Pros

Torquey turbo engine on all grades

Impressive everyday economy

Practical and easy to use

Cons

Long-legged drivers may struggle for comfort

Interior design lacks pizzazz

Segment is moving to hybrids


Honda says that the CR-V, “leads its class in cargo volume, fuel efficiency and user-friendliness and boasts the best crash safety ratings available”. It continues to be a top-three seller in the compact crossover SUV segment on both sides of the border. Competition is fierce though, especially from an all-new Ford Escape and newer RAV4, so Honda has refreshed the current, fifth-generation to keep pace with rivals.

We last drove the CR-V when the current model first appeared in 2017 (see our review here). For this review of the upgraded 2020 model, we’ll concentrate on recent updates.

Price: what are the 2020 CR-V trims and how much for each?

In the US, both FWD and AWD are available right across the four-grade range. Prices run from US$25,050 (FWD LX) to US$34,750 (AWD Touring). All prices are MSRP before charges and fees.

In Canada the 2020 CR-V has six trim levels. The only FWD option is on the entry-level LX, which costs C$28,690. Top of the range is the AWD Black Edition at C$42,590.

Our test car was the mid-range Sport trim with an MSRP of C$34,990. For 2020, the Sport replaces the EX in Canada.

Major Changes: what’s new on the 2020 Honda CR-V?

The CR-V was already a handsome vehicle, but it gets a mid-life facelift for 2020 with a redesigned front bumper and grille and new headlight designs, including ‘blackout’ tint to the taillamps. We’re not sure that it’s a big improvement on before, but it still looks good.

A new 1.5L turbo engine now comes standard

The key change beneath the skin is that the 1.5-liter VTEC turbo engine (190HP) is now standard across the range. Previously, the US LX trim level had a 2.4-litre, naturally aspirated motor.

Honda Sensing safety tech is also standard across the range, incorporating a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning and pedestrian sensing, road departure mitigation with lane departure warning (LDW), adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist (LKA).

Interior and Exterior: here’s what’s different inside and out on the 2020 model

Also new for 2020 is a redesigned centre console with USB ports that are easier to access, ‘smoke chrome’ trim below the rear window and new colour choices of Aegean Blue metallic (US only), Sonic Gray pearl and the Radiant Red metallic that featured on our test car.

LED fog lights (round or with five inline LEDs, depending on the grade), chrome exhaust trim and 19in alloys are also new, but not available on the LX. Touring and Black Edition CR-Vs additionally get standard, Qi-compatible wireless phone charging.

The CR-V’s interior is generally spacious and comfortable, but I did find that the driver’s legroom was a little tight for my long legs, which were squeezed between the steering column and the centre console with its high-mounted shifter. It’s not a new feature but we liked the way the rear seat quickly folds flat to extend the already large cargo space.

2020 Honda CR-V interior
Pictured here, the 2020 Honda CR-V Touring. For everyday functions, Honda has resisted the temptation to replace simple buttons and controls with touchscreen options. Photo: Honda

The crossover continues to major on ease-of-use in other respects, too. For everyday functions, Honda has resisted the temptation to replace simple buttons and controls with touchscreen options. The result is extremely user-friendly, even if the overall dashboard design is a little heavy on black plastic and short on flair. The quality of interior materials is nevertheless average for this type of vehicle and it’s well put together.

On the Road: how does the refreshed CR-V handle?

That easy-to-use mantra extends to the driving experience. On 19in wheels and Michelin Latitude X-Ice winter tires, the CR-V rides comfortably and steers precisely. You’ll be fine spending most of your life in Eco mode, where the throttle response isn’t excessively lazy and a handy shove from the turbo motor is still available when you need it. 

CR-V fuel economy

Official combined consumption for AWD models is 8.1L/100km (29mpg), which looks to be more than achievable in everyday use, judging by the figures recorded in our week of testing. We got 8.5L/100km (27.5mpg) in cold conditions; a previously logged trip measurement had recorded 7.1L/100km (33mpg), we assume on the highway.

The Honda Sensing technologies mostly work well. We’re big fans of the LaneWatch blind spot display, which shows a camera image of your blind spot when turning but found the lane recognition for the LDW and LKA to be a little hit-and-miss.

Takeaway: our final thoughts of the 2020 CR-V Sport

The 2020 improvements to the already strong CR-V package will help it to keep pace in a segment where the competition is getting stronger all the time. It remains an attractive, dependable, easy-to-use crossover that’s ideal for family use.

The key addition to the 2020 CR-V isn’t tested here, however. The latest Toyota RAV4 and 2020 Ford Escape have set the segment pace by offering hybrid variants that are proving extremely popular with buyers. Having been available in Europe for a while, the first CR-V Hybrids will be in North American dealerships any minute now – and not a moment too soon. We suggest you check it out. Learn more here:

Graham Heeps
Based in Calgary, AB, Graham’s outlets include Autocar, Professional Motorsport World, Turnology.com and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology. A lifelong motorsports fan, he’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), the Guild of Motoring Writers and the Motor Press Guild, speaks German and collects Matchbox cars (at the same time).

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