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Will freshened 2020 Honda CR-V add hybrid, Sport models?

2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

What changes will make the 2020 Honda CR-V different?

Freshened styling, a new sporty trim level, and perhaps a gas/electric hybrid drivetrain. Those would be part of the mid-lifecycle update for this critically and commercially successful compact crossover SUV if Honda hews to its traditional product cadence.

The 2020 CR-V would remain a five-seater available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD) but would see revisions to nose and tail, the addition of a visually pumped up model, and the first hybrid powertrain in its long history as one of America’s touchstone compact crossovers. Paced by the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox, and Ford Escape, this class of vehicles continues to grow, with buyers across all demographics attracted to their passenger and cargo room, tidy size, good fuel economy, and wide variety convenience and safety features.

Arguably, no automaker has better understood the needs of compact-crossover shoppers than Honda. Over the course of 20 years and five design generations, the CR-V has consistently offered the best blend of the attributes that define this segment. The CR-V in fact has surpassed the similarly excellent Accord and Civic sedans to become this Japanese automaker’s top-selling vehicle.

The CR-V, however, is not the best-selling compact crossover overall. Through September 2018, sales had slipped 1.2 percent while the segment grew a healthy 14.9 percent, buoyed by crossovers that have been redesigned or freshened since the CR-V’s last big change when it was all-new for model-year 2017. Honda updated the previous-generation CR-V three model years into its lifecycle and increasingly stiff competition is likely incentive enough for a model-year-’20 update.

Should I wait for the 2020 model or buy the 2019?

Wait to see if Honda introduces a refreshed CR-V for 2020. If it does you’ll have a compact crossover with this automaker’s most up-to-date styling and features. The addition of a hybrid version makes sense, too, because Honda plans to electrify most of its product portfolio by 2030.

A hybrid would give the CR-V an answer to hybrid versions of the RAV4, Nissan Rogue, and Mitsubishi Outlander, currently the only gas/electrics in this class of 17 compact crossovers. It would join what’s likely to be a four-grade 2020 CR-V lineup that’ll return gas-only models in entry-level LX trim and more powerful EX, EX-L, and Touring form.

Toyota’s seen satisfying demand for the RAV4’s off-road-themed Adventure trim. Honda could respond for 2020 with a new CR-V model or package dressed to suggested enhanced on-road handling or off-pavement prowess even if, like the RAV4 Adventure, it’s little changed mechanically. Expect it to be called the CR-V Sport and slot between the LX and volume-selling EX grades.

Don’t dismiss the 2019 CR-V out of hand, though. While essentially unchanged since the 2017 redesign it deserves a top spot on your compact-crossover shopping list for all the reasons cited above. Even as dealers prep for a possible facelifted 2020 CR-V, you probably won’t see huge discounts off the asking price of a ’19 – although you would duck the inevitable model-year price hike.

Will the styling be different?

Yes, but mildly. The fifth-generation 2017 CR-V set the template for the look of several subsequent Honda vehicles and the automaker will stick with it until the crossover’s next full redesign, which is likely for model-year 2022. Any changes for 2020 would likely give the nose and tail trim that more closely mirrors that of the brand’s refreshed 2019 HR-V and Pilot crossovers. Figure a slightly revised grille and headlights, some new wheel designs, and slightly re-worked taillights.

The interior is not liable to change much. The 2017 redesign brought the CR-V’s cabin fully up to date with a contemporary instrument panel and a new infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto, and, as Honda realized the error of its ways, an audio volume knob in place of a touchscreen slider.

The LX will likely return with a 5-inch touchscreen display, though Honda would do well to bring over the crisper 7-inch unit that’s standard in the 2019 EX. Such a change would allow entry-level CR-V buyers to take advantage of Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. Expect a Sport model to use the larger infotainment screen. It would be nice if the automaker added extra USB power points to the LX. The 2017-19 had just one for the entire vehicle while EX and above had four, including a pair for rear-seat occupants. For real time GPS service in the absence of a cell signal, count on an imbedded navigation system to return as an option for the EX-L – marketed as the EX-L with Navi model — and standard on the Touring.

Passenger comfort should continue to set the pace in the segment. The seats would remain supremely comfortable with the rear bench one of the few in the class to comfortably accommodate three adults. With little change expected to the rear-end design, cargo capacity shouldn’t change much from the 2017-19’s outstanding 39.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 75.8 with them folded. Those measurements shame some larger, midsize-class crossovers.

Any mechanical changes?

Yes, if Honda introduces a hybrid CR-V. A new Sport grade might also have some unique mechanical bits to help differentiate it from the rest of the lineup. Let’s start with what should carry over. The LX would reprise a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. EX, EX-L, and Touring would continue with a variant of the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Honda offers in the Accord and Civic. In the CR-V it would probably again have 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque.

The Sport would likely have the same turbocharged engine, but Honda could tune it up slightly to achieve closer to 200 horsepower and 185-190 pound-feet of torque. This grade might also add a firmer sport suspension and lower profile tires with unique wheels that you wouldn’t find on other CR-V grades.

The first hybrid CR-V isn’t apt to be a plug-in. It would pair a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine with at least two battery-powered electric motors. Total output would be roughly 210 horsepower. If the hybrid is an all-wheel-drive-only model, Honda would add a third motor between the rear wheels to handle power delivery when the fronts start to slip. As a conventional hybrid, the battery would receive its charge from coasting or regenerative braking rather than from the residential or commercial power grid, as with a plug-in hybrid. This reduces complexity and cost but sacrifices the ability to drive for an extended period solely on electricity. Regardless of drivetrain, all 2020 CR-V models will likely use a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

We anticipate no major changes to CR-V’s handling, which is among the best of any small crossover. The steering feels spot on, there’s little body lean in fast turns, and the brakes inspire confidence when you need to come to a stop. Ride quality should remain typically Honda, which means it will be on the firmer side of the spectrum, with good body control and no unwanted secondary motions when going over bumps. A Sport version might be sharper still, the extent to which will depend on what, if any, changes engineers make to the suspension or tires.

Will fuel economy improve?

Yes, if the hybrid becomes reality. Assuming the hybrid will come only with AWD, expect EPA ratings of about 32/38/35 mpg city/highway/combined but don’t be surprised to see a 40-mpg highway rating.

Other CR-V models should mirror 2019 EPA ratings: for the LX, 26/32/28 mpg with front-wheel drive and 25/31/27 with AWD; and for the EX, EX-L, and Touring, 28/34/30 mpg front-drive and 27/33/29 AWD. A Sport model might lose 1-2 mpg in category if Honda tweaks the engine, transmission, suspension, or wheels and tires.

The hybrid and the carry-over 2020 models would use regular-grade 87-octane gasoline. If Honda offers a higher output engine for the Sport, it might recommend 91-octane premium.

Will there be new features?

New per se, probably not. But we’d urge the automaker to make its Honda Sensing driver-assistance suite standard on the entry-level LX grade. Already standard on the other CR-Vs, this package contains autonomous emergency braking that can automatically stop the crossover to prevent a frontal collision, adaptive radar cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, and lane-departure warning with automatic steering correction. Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota offer similar features as standard or optional on every version of their competing compact crossovers.

Otherwise, CR-V’s feature set will likely carry over into 2020 from 2019. The LX would include niceties such as automatic climate control, heated rear window wiper de-icer, and a capless fuel filler. The Sport would probably include everything the LX has, specific exterior trim, and perhaps a sport suspension, tweaked engine, and larger infotainment screen with CarPlay and Android Auto.

If Honda Sensing and larger infotainment screen are not included on the LX or Sport, they would be part of the EX along with heated front seats, power driver’s seat, power sunroof, remote engine start, and a rear cargo cover.

EX-L grades would add leather upholstery, power front-passenger seat and rear liftgate, and driver-seat memory. You can add an imbedded navigation system to this grade, which Honda prices as a separate trim level. Tourings would get LED lighting, hands-free power liftgate, rain-sensing windshield wipers, navigation, and an upgraded audio system.

Likely to be offered in EX and above trim, the 2020 CR-V Hybrid models would mirror their gas-only counterparts for equipment.

Will 2020 prices be different?

Expect them to increase even if Honda adds little to nothing in the way of standard equipment. Price estimates here and include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which was $995 for 2019.

For gas-only models with front-wheel drive, expect the LX to start around $25,500, the Sport around $26,500, the EX around $28,000, the EX-L around $30,500, and the Touring around $34,000. AWD would cost an additional $2,000 or so. Imbedded navigation would add about $1,000 to the EX-L.

Hybrids would carry a premium of roughly $2,000-$2,500 over comparable AWD gas models. At what would probably be about $38,000, a Hybrid Touring would be among the costliest compact crossovers.

When does it come out?

Honda will probably unveil the 2020 CR-V at one of the major U.S. auto shows in 2019. Expect a release date for gas-only models in late summer 2019, with hybrids arriving a few months later.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass and Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross and Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]