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Honda CR-V engines, drive and performance

2023 onwards (change model)

Written by Keith Adams Published: 12 September 2023 Updated: 17 November 2023

  • Hybrid and plug-in hybrid only
  • Biased towards comfort over speed
  • Both engines offer similar performance

Hybrid engines

There are two options here, both petrol hybrids. The entry point to the range is a self-charging hybrid, available in the lower two trim levels, while the top-spec car gets a plug-in hybrid system.

Both options feature the same interesting hybrid concept, however, which sees the engine act solely as a generator most of the time. It produces electricity for the electric motor driving the rear wheels.

Then, at higher speeds, a gearbox engages so that the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine can drive the wheels directly. This means that, for the most part, the CR-V feels like an electric car to drive.

Honda CR-V rear cornering
Four-wheel drive is standard on hybrid models. Plug-ins are front-drive only.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Precise steering and incisive handling
  • Very refined at speed
  • Feels very relaxed to drive

The CR-V solely uses the electric motors at lower speeds, which means it’s a lot smoother than many rival plug-in hybrids that have to chime in and out with the engine and the motor as driving conditions require. With just 184hp compared to the 300+ that the RAV4 plug-in or Mazda CX-60 PHEV offer, the CR-V can’t compete on outright performance.

The 0-62mph time is 9.4 seconds for the entry-level Hybrid and also the PHEV. Advance hybrid models are a mere 0.1 seconds behind.

Of course, numbers only tell half the story, and the instant and ample electric torque means this big SUV never feels slow around town – just a little breathless on faster roads. While A road overtakes aren’t out of the question, you’ll need more of a run-up than more powerful rivals.

Honda CR-V front cornering
The CR-V handles tidily, but isn’t what you’d call exciting.

In terms of handling, the CR-V tries to take a leaf out of the Civic’s book with direct, precise steering – though grip levels aren’t the best. Body roll is well contained and it feels pleasingly neutral in bends with subtle stability control intervention. Unsurprisingly, the heavier PHEV doesn’t feel quite so agile.

Ride quality is a bit stiff at low speeds, clattering over sharper imperfections around town, but it settles down nicely on the motorway without too much float. This is a car that’s happiest being driven in a relaxed fashion.