As one of the hottest class vehicles in the US market, updates to the Honda CR-V are hard to make. Not only does it have to be better than the previous one, it also has to be better than the stream of competitors chasing its place in the sales charts. Fortunately, Honda seems to be up to the task, as the new 2023 CR-V has undergone a well-thought-out and executed refresh. The new version has a number of improvements in several areas, all of which look like they will contribute to a CR-V with the potential to remain at the top of everyone’s list.
Related: 2023 Honda CR-V: more power, more space, more hybrid
Smart new style
The changes to the CR-V’s overall look are well done, and the good part is that they represent a bit of a rethink of the crossover’s function, as well as a move towards a slicker style. The base of the windshield has been moved back more than 4 inches, creating a longer hood and a more boxy, traditional profile – but it’s also wider and lower, so the view of the new CR-V as it’s on the driver’s seat is definitely improved. It’s reminiscent of Hondas of yore, which were notable for their low dashboards and beltlines in an era of blocky, high-ceilinged interiors.
The differences between trim levels can be seen subtly from the outside and are mainly based on how much gloss black trim is used rather than body color or chrome. The EX and EX-L have more chrome bits; the Sport and Sport Touring have more black trim, including the wheels. The Sport finishes look a bit sportier, but it’s hard to believe that a five-passenger hybrid-powered crossover is actually that sporty – we’ll have to save that judgment for when we drive it later in the year.
The reformulation of trim levels in EX or Sport lines offers two ways for people to express themselves, but it also allows people to decide whether they want a hybrid: with EX versions you get the standard four-cylinder engine, while the Sports the more powerful hybrid powertrain, with the fully loaded Sport Touring model being the new flagship for the line.
Major interior upgrades
One of the best aspects of the redesigned Civic sedan and hatchback over the past two years has been a change in how Honda does the interior, and this new theme remains intact on the CR-V. The single strip of hexagonal mesh trim that extends from one end of the dash to the other and hides the air vents is a really attractive design detail – a bit unique and even slightly retro flashy that sets the CR-V apart from competitors Honda overtaken in the field of interesting interior design.
The new multimedia updates are also welcome, with the appearance of buttons and buttons for audio controls, something that should never have been eliminated and welcomed back with open… er, fingers. Good on Honda to admit that the old system was difficult to use and to go back to a style that is not. The large, clear new screens are also good to see, helping Honda keep abreast of competitors offering increasingly larger screens in their crossovers, with more and more technology. But Honda didn’t go overboard, keeping it simple to use and easy to read, without first diving into making all of its interior controls touch-sensitive (looking at youVolkswagen) or recorded in one big screen.
The rest of the CR-V is just as comfortable as ever, maybe even more so in the back with some extra legroom (this new model is longer) and more reclined options. The differences between the interior trim are pretty obvious though: the Sports are nicer, with more interesting surfaces and finishes, while the EX models look a little cheaper (but they’ll probably make up for that with lower prices). The extra cargo space is also a welcome feature, with the CR-V now offering some of the largest space in its class and the most ever for a CR-V by Honda’s standard. You don’t lose a lot of space by going for the hybrid either, as the load floor in the boot is the same for both hybrid and non-hybrid models. The big difference is that non-hybrid models get some space below the loading floor, easy to use by lowering the intermediate floor.
It will be interesting to drive the new CR-V and see what fuel economy the new petrol model gets. It is also hoped that there will be a plug-in version someday, something to take on the powerful and really enjoyable Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid, but we’ll have to see if it’s something Honda pursues. The Toyota is the second fastest vehicle in that company’s showroom thanks to a significant power boost; if Honda plans to counter that, it could make for an interesting new track for the CR-V.
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