Honda doesn’t need to reinvent the CR-V for 2023, as it’s already one of the best-selling compact SUVs in the US and the automaker’s most popular model. For its sixth generation, the CR-V grows a bit, the front is more upright and square, and has a modern cabin with a larger touchscreen and higher-quality materials.
We went to Nashville, Tennessee, to try this all-new CR-V. Our sample car, the midrange EX-L, was finished with Radiant Red paint and sported 18-inch alloy wheels that fit most of the range. While not as bold as the Kia Sportage 2023 or Hyundai Tucson, the new CR-V cuts a more stylish path through traffic than previous versions.
Not that there’s a lot of traffic to navigate on the twisty country lanes that were our test drive around the Nashville Superspeedway, a 1.3-mile tri-oval located 30 miles east of downtown. The excited staging point is an ironic twist, considering the CR-V’s mission is to transport up to five people and lots of cargo comfortably and economically with stress-free driving dynamics.
In terms of numbers, the 2023 CR-V is 2.7 inches longer, with a wheelbase stretched to 1.6 inches, and has slightly wider front and rear tracks (0.4-0.5 inches front and 0.3-0 .5 inches rear) from the previous model. This pays off with a bit more rear legroom and a slight increase in cargo volume with the rear seat backs folded, now 77 cubic feet, while the 39 cubic feet behind the second row are the same as before. Thanks to its nearly level floor and ample glass area, the CR-V’s cabin is a light and airy place to spend your time.
Two Familiar Machines
The turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder returns, producing the same 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque as before, although peak torque arrives several hundred rpm faster. This engine is again coupled to a continuously variable automatic transmission, and the CR-V is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Our EX-L is equipped with all-wheel drive, and the updated system can now send more torque to the rear wheels—up to 50 percent compared to the previous maximum of 40 percent. The CR-V also adds downhill control.
While a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine powers the EX and EX-L models, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder coupled with two electric motors is found in the top two trims, the Sport Hybrid and the Sport Touring Hybrid. That produces 204 horsepower (down from the previous 212 horses) and 247 pound-feet. The hybrid variant, however, won’t be available until later this year. EPA estimates are not yet available but shouldn’t deviate much from last year’s 30 mpg combined for the 1.5 liter front-wheel drive and 29 mpg for the AWD version. The previous AWD hybrid was good for 38 mpg overall, but the new Sport Hybrid is also available with front-wheel drive, which should result in a slight upgrade. (We averaged 30 mpg in our long-term test of the 2021 CR-V Hybrid.)
Performance with a standard engine is quite good for a vehicle in this segment. The four-cylinder turbo fades into the background and the transmission makes the most of the available power. Acceleration is modest, although the CR-V can accelerate without you needing to hit the gas pedal to the floor. If you do, the result is simply more engine noise.
Our loop drive consisted of a two-lane road that was well maintained, although we did try to tweak the suspension by aiming for any bumps and ruts we encountered along the way. To its credit, the CR-V doesn’t get confused and is remarkably quiet on a steady cruise. Honda strengthened the chassis and strengthened the front and rear suspension, resulting in a very smooth ride and light, accurate steering. Unfortunately, its handling lacks the fun-loving nature found in some rivals, most notably the Mazda CX-50. To be fair, encouraging excitement doesn’t rank highly among many must-have buyers in this segment.
Improved Interior and New Features
Even more significant is the fact that the CR-V 2023 now comes as standard with more driver-assist features, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control. Also new are the driver’s attention monitor and rear seat reminder. Buyers may prefer a clearer menu of the infotainment system and faster response times. Our EX-L tester comes with a larger 9.0-inch touchscreen with wireless smartphone connectivity and wireless charging, an upgrade to the base 7.0-inch system, with Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, found on the EX and Sport. All models get a digital instrument cluster. Honeycomb-pattern trim that neatly hides the air vents, a sleek design first introduced on the Civic sedan, adorns the dashboard itself.
Improvements to the CR-V are incremental, yes, but this practical, value-oriented SUV already ranks among the best in its bustling segment. Honda made a good thing a little better with the 2023 CR-V, and that’s probably enough.
Honda CR-V 2023
Vehicle Type: front engine, front or all wheel drive, 5 passenger wagon, 4 door
PRICE (CD EST)
EX, $31,000; EX AWD, $32,500; EX-L, $33,500; EX-L AWD, $35,000
inline-4 16-valve DOHC turbocharged and intercooled, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 91 inches31498 cm3
Power: 190 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 179 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm
continuously variable automatic
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 184.8 inches
Width: 73.5 inches
Height: 66.2–66.5 inches
Passenger Volume: 104 feet3
Cargo Volume: 39 feet3
Restraint Weight (CD approximate): 3500–3650 lb
SHOW (CD EST)
60 mph: 7.5–7.7 seconds
100 mph: 21.1–21.3 seconds
1/4-Mile: 15.8–16.0 sec
Top Speed: 124 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMICS (CD EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 29–30/27–28/32–34 mpg
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