Review: 2020 Honda CR-V Sport - The Benchmark of Compact SUVs
The Honda CR-V has been the benchmark that all other manufacturers strive to beat. It has won countless awards from Best Compact SUV from KBB to a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS. For the 2020 model year, the Honda CR-V continues to dominate its category with updated looks and a suite of standard safety features.
Engine – For the 2020 Honda CR-V, a 1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is the only choice customers have. In previous models, a naturally aspirated 2.4L engine was available to the American market but that is now gone. This 1.5L engine produces 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque from a low 2,000 rpms to 5,000 rpms. The broad range in peak torque means relatively quick acceleration when setting off from a stop or overtaking on a highway without needing to rev the engine too high. However, despite the engine’s small size, it is still rated to tow 1,500 lbs which puts it in line with other compact SUVs like the Toyota Rav4 (non-hybrid).
One of the big benefits to having such a small displacement engine is fuel economy. This 1.5L engine can achieve up to 8.7 L/100km (27 mpg) in a city and 7.4 L/100km (31.7 mpg) on a highway with the AWD system. Those numbers drop by 0.4 L/100km for both highway and city driving if equipped with just FWD.
Transmission – Mated with the little engine is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which does not try to fool you into thinking it’s anything else. When accelerating, the engine’s rpms are held in position until you let off the throttle. There are no paddle shifters or any +/- buttons on the shift lever to simulate gears. Instead you get D, S, and L positions for the gear selector. The Honda CR-V was not meant to be a sporty SUV like the Mazda CX-5 so it’s ok if the transmission doesn’t have virtual gears.
Braking – The Honda CRV is easy to slow down or stop smoothly thanks to a decently long traveling brake pedal. In an emergency situation push a bit harder and the 2020 CR-V stops in a straight line without the back end feeling like it may spin out. Automatic emergency braking is standard across all trim levels of the 2020 CRV.
Handling – The base LX trim is available with FWD while all other trim levels receive AWD. When setting off from a stop, a portion of the power gets sent to the rear wheels to help get the Honda off the line. After that, power only goes to the front wheels for improved fuel economy unless the front wheels start to slip in which case power gets diverted back to the rear wheels. During my time with the CR-V we had a big snow storm here in Vancouver. But with the AWD system and proper snow tires, the 2020 Honda CR-V never once got stuck in 20+cm of snow.
When conditions are dry, the SUV drives smoothly with a relatively light steering feel. Steering effort is also light thanks to what Honda calls Motion-Adaptive Electric Power-Assisted Rack-and-Pinion Steering system.
Ride Comfort – Driving over road bumps is not too bad. You do feel that you’ve driven over a bump but it’s not so intrusive that you spill your morning coffee. The seats could do with a tiny bit more padding and some of the lower trim pieces where your legs may rest up against would benefit from being made out of a softer material rather than hard plastic. This being a Sport trim, it doesn’t affect the suspension as most of the changes are cosmetic and interior features. More on that later.
Interior Space – If you’re looking for a compact SUV that is a bit on the larger side, this is the one to go for. Compared to its closest rivals from Mazda and Toyota, the 2020 CR-V has more interior volume for passengers as well as cargo volume. Better yet, the rear doors open at an almost 90 degrees which makes it easy to get in or out or load from the side. The rear seats don’t slide but they do fold to make a flat load floor.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Although this particular demo vehicle came equipped with 19” snow tires, road noises were kept to a fairly subdued level while driving on a highway. Engine noise though can become a bit intrusive once it revs beyond 2,200-ish rpms but in most situations, it won’t need to rev beyond that point unless you have a heavy foot.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The entry level 2020 Honda CRV comes fairly well equipped with heated seats, bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, remote start, automatic climate control, and a slew of safety equipment such as lane departure warning and lane keep, adaptive cruise control, and the aforementioned emergency automatic braking. This Sport trim adds to those features with a heated steering wheel, Honda LaneWatch, power moonroof, power liftgate, power driver’s seat, sports pedals and leatherette/fabric combination seat upholstery. For the most part it has everything that one would need from a vehicle. The only thing I would personally like to see added, are the brilliant LED headlamps that are on the top Touring trim.
Exterior Design – This generation of the Honda CR-V was introduced in 2017. 3 years on and it has reached its mid-cycle refresh. The rear remains relatively unchanged apart from rectangular dual exhaust outlets on this Sport trim. The front receives a new bumper that gives the SUV a more sporty look. It also receives LED fog lamps; a nice addition to the standard halogen headlamps.
Interior Design – The interior does not receive any drastic changes like the front bumper. The driver instrument cluster, steering wheel, dashboard, and center console are pretty much identical to when it was introduced in 2017. The only major difference that I can spot is the addition of the auto engine start/stop button just above the Econ mode button.
In all, the 2020 Honda CR-V Sport has all of the safety and convenience features that one would ever need from a family vehicle. If you do want the panoramic sunroof or leather upholstery or wireless phone charging, the Touring trim is available for you but it does cost $41,090 CAD ($33,250 USD). This Sport trim (EX in U.S.A.) is $6,100 CAD less at $34,990 CAD ($27,560 USD) which makes it very good value for your money.