2021 Honda CR-V

By November 9, 2020

The 2021 Honda CR-V is a versatile family SUV, roomy and comfortable for its compact size. It’s safe, steers steady, and rides well, while being conservative in looks, inside and out. With the CR-V Hybrid, new this year, there’s a higher-mileage option.

The EPA rates that CR-V with its base 1.5-liter turbo-4 engine at 28 mpg city, 34 highway, 30 combined, when it’s configured with front-wheel drive. With all-wheel drive it drops to 27/33/29 mpg. The CR-V Hybrid gets 40/35/38 mpg; note that the big increase is in city mpg, thanks to Honda’s unique hybrid system.

The NHTSA gives the CR-V five stars, while the IIHS gives a Top Safety Pick to those models with LED reflector headlights: the Touring models and Hybrids. Automatic emergency braking is standard on all CR-Vs, while the EX and higher trims add blind-spot monitors.

Model Lineup

The CR-V comes in LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring trims. Prices start in the mid-$20,000s, and top out at more than $36,000, with all-wheel drive costing $1,500 more.

The base CR-V LX comes with power features, a USB port, Bluetooth, cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels, and a small 5.0-inch display for audio.

The CR-V EX gains a 7.0-inch touchscreen that comes bundled with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as blind-spot monitors, 18-inch wheels, keyless start, a power driver seat, and heated front seats. The EX-L adds leather.

The Touring has leather, plus wireless smartphone charging, LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, and premium audio.

The warranty is 3 years or 36,000 miles.


The conservative CR-V lacks the brash styling of the Toyota RAV4 and the curviness of the Mazda CX-5. It’s tapered and smooth, gently raised at the rear and dropped at the nose. It’s a result of careful consideration rather than wild inspiration.

It was refreshed in 2020 with very slight tweaks to the headlamps, grille, and bumpers.It has less chrome than before.

On the EX, the bigger 18-inch wheels fill up the wells and make the stance more aggressive, while 19-inch wheels are available.


The cabin appears to be designed by pragmatism. The front seating position is high and the controls sit up high, as in an Odyssey minivan. The shift lever is mounted high on the lower wing-shaped dash–a pragmatic reach, although it takes up space on the already busy dash. The 7.0-inch display screen sits in the wide valley of the vee of the dash. There are big cupholders and small bins at the bottom of the dash and in the center console.

With the tall seats and low dash, the forward view is excellent. In fact it’s good in all directions for all passengers, with a low window line and slim roof pillars.

The CR-V cabin wears soft-touch materials and high-quality plastics, as nice as those on more expensive SUVs. A CR-V Touring might even be up there with a Volvo or Buick.

The very good front seats are of durable cloth, with manual adjustment on the LX and 12-way power on the EX. The leather on the EX-L and Touring is a good grade.

Three adults can fit comfortably in the second row, which is probably the main advantage over the Honda HR-V. The rear doors are wide, making entry and exit easier, and there’s a relatively enormous 40-plus inches of leg room, while head room is ample for 6-footers.

Behind the second row there’s more than 39 cubic feet of cargo space. The floor is wide and low with a hidden storage bin underneath. With the second row folded there’s a massive 75.8 cubic feet, almost as much as in a Honda Pilot full-sized SUV.

Driving Impressions

The engine is a turbocharged 1.5 liter, while the Hybrid uses a normally aspirated engine with electric motors and batteries. In both cases, the acceleration is modest.

The standard turbo-4 makes 190 horsepower and 179 pound-feet of torque, applied through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Power arrives low in the rev band, and stays strong, one virtue of turbocharging. But you’d never mistake the CR-V for one of Honda’s more intense efforts.

The Hybrid system is similar to that in the Honda Accord Hybrid. A 2.0-liter inline-4 gas engine is paired with electric motors and hybrid batteries for a net of 212 horsepower, although the engine is used mostly as a generator for the battery pack. The acceleration of the two is about the same, since the Hybrid’s power gain is offset by the weight of its batteries and hardware.

The CR-V Hybrid scores points for better drivability. Stop/start operates more smoothly than in the gas-only CR-V.

Without stepped gears, the CVT keeps the engine working in its efficient range, for higher gas mileage. But without stepped gears, it feels like a rubber band. The drivetrain knits together well enough to tow up to 1,500 pounds.

With 7.8 inches of ground clearance and all-wheel drive, the CR-V can bound along on rutted dirt roads, but it’s not an off-roader.

We would call the handling pleasantly invisible. The steering stays on center. The CR-V won’t romp in canyons, but It’s calm at freeway speeds. The quality of the ride is good. The suspension absorbs road roughness well enough that it’s better than predictable, it’s encouraging.

Final Word

The 2021 Honda CR-V does all its family chores well. We like the Hybrid better than the base edition; its city economy is compelling. We also like the roomy back seat, when compared to the tidier Honda HR-V, the restrained styling, and the thoughtful layout of the cabin.


—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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