2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid: What's It Like to Live With?

Edmunds' experts are living with and testing out a CR-V Hybrid Touring for one year

Honda CR-V Hybrid 2021
Miles DrivenAverage MPG

Latest Highlights (updated 02/09/21)

  • All-new long-term test vehicle!
  • New here? Read the "What we got" section first
  • Updated commentary about fuel economy
  • All-new section about comfort

What We Bought And Why

by Brent Romans, Senior Editor, Written Content

Our test vehicle: 2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid

"You can't have your cake and eat it" has to be one of the more confusing English phrases around, right alongside "going cold turkey" and "by the skin of your teeth." But what if we changed it to: "You can't buy an SUV and get good fuel economy." See, instantly better! You're welcome, English language.

Hi, I'm Brent Romans, Edmunds' senior editor of written content, and I'm here to report on a possible exception to our glorious new idiom: Edmunds' 2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid. This page relates our experiences testing a CR-V Hybrid Touring over the course of one year.

Our long-term testing program is where we go into more detail than our normal vehicle reviews. Here you'll read comments and see videos from our entire editorial test team as they go about their daily lives in our CR-V Hybrid. (Got a question about our CR-V Hybrid or our content? Get in touch! Email me by using the first letter of my first name, my last name, and then our @edmunds.com domain.)

While Edmunds sometimes purchases vehicles for its long-term test program, this particular CR-V Hybrid is graciously on loan from Honda. It's the top-level Touring trim, which means it's fully loaded with features such as leather upholstery, a sunroof, a premium audio system and a hands-free power liftgate.

Our color combo is Obsidian Blue Pearl paint and gray leather upholstery. This is the only interior leather color available for the blue paint, but you can get black or ivory leather with some of the CR-V's other paint colors. Honda doesn't do option packages, so picking a CR-V Hybrid simply comes down to deciding which one of the three trims — EX, EX-L and Touring — has the features you need and/or matches your budget. The MSRP of our test vehicle was $37,470, including the destination and handling charge.

The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.

2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Real-World Fuel Economy

One cool thing about Edmunds — among many, I assure you! — is that we do our own fuel economy testing. The long-term program, in particular, allows us to determine how well a vehicle does over many thousands of miles compared to the EPA's official estimates.

Naturally, higher fuel economy is a big reason you'd want to consider a Honda CR-V Hybrid instead of a regular CR-V. Based on EPA estimates, a CR-V Hybrid will get 38 mpg in combined driving. That's an attractive 31% boost over a regular CR-V with all-wheel drive (AWD); it gets an estimated 29 mpg. I'm comparing AWD models here because the CR-V Hybrid only comes with AWD.

So far, so good. But here's where we're actually getting from our CR-V Hybrid:

Average lifetime mpg: 31.2
EPA mpg rating: 38 combined ( 40 city / 35 highway )
Best fill mpg: 35.0
Best range (miles): 320.9
Current odometer: 1,682

31 mpg? That's it?

Well, yeah. It's sort of like your favorite NFL team starting out 1-4 — the early results are not encouraging. (Of course, if your favorite team is the New York Jets, sucky starts will seem totally normal.) But we've still got a long way to go. Our test started in January of 2021, and we typically end up driving about 20,000 miles over the course of a year of testing.

One possible explanation for the subpar fuel economy is that we've mostly done highway driving with our CR-V Hybrid so far. As is typically the case with hybrid vehicles, the CR-V Hybrid gets its best fuel economy at lower speeds. That's because a hybrid is most frequently using its electric motor and efficiency-enhancing regenerative braking in these situations. When you're just cruising along the highway at 70-plus mph, the hybrid stuff is largely just along for the ride.

What about your best tank?

Yeah, I managed to get 35 mpg from driving primarly in the city. I made an effort to not accelerate hard during this time as well. For what it's worth, the CR-V Hybrid's trip meter for fuel efficiency is pleasingly accurate. The gauge's numbers have been nearly spot-on compared to our official calculations that we derive by from the odometer and gallons of gasoline used.

2021 CR-V Hybrid: Performance and Ease of Driving

The CR-V Hybrid has a different powertrain than a regular CR-V. It has a naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a hybrid system with two electric motor-generators. The hybrid battery and some componentry are located under the rear cargo floor. It's very similar to the powertrain in the Accord Hybrid. The big difference is that you get all-wheel drive with the CR-V Hybrid; the Accord is front-wheel-drive only.

Honda does use a different hybrid system design than most other automakers. There's no transmission in the traditional sense in the CR-V Hybrid, and typically the engine operates as an electrical generator to supply power to the main electric motor. That motor, in turn, drives the wheels for acceleration. The engine is only rarely being used to directly drive the wheels.

Check out this Alex on Autos video if you want to geek out on this powertrain. He does a great job of explaining how it all works.

OK, great. So what's it like driving around town?

It feels pretty responsive. The hybrid system will typically start out in full electric mode and get the CR-V up around 10-20 mph before the engine switches on. The lighter you go on the accelerator (the slower your acceleration), the more the system will try to use electric power stored in the battery. But once the battery runs low, or you press harder on the gas, the engine will switch on.

How smooth is it?

The gas engine is smooth and unobtrusive when it fires up and starts to apply power. If you're just driving along and listening to your own internal monologue (What am I making for dinner? Did I actually close the garage door before I left? How fat do I look in these jeans?), it's unlikely that you'll notice where the power is coming from. Honda has done a nice job of blending the CR-V Hybrid's gasoline and electric power.

What about when you mash the gas?

Honestly, I haven't really done that yet because I've been trying to get the best possible fuel economy. But here's what my co-worker Rex Tokeshi-Torres, our vehicle test technician, has to say about it:

"As far as acceleration goes, this thing reminds me of a modified 2000 Honda Civic HX. The HX was the fuel-efficient trim of the Civic and people back in the day slapped an exhaust and intake on that mess. Yes, there were such things. The CR-V Hybrid reminds me of that because it makes a whole lot of noise but goes nowhere. It aggravates me when I'm trying to do a freeway pass. Sport mode makes the engine rev higher and noiser but doesn't seem to do much to make the CR-V accelerate any quicker."

2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Comfort

How comfortable is our CR-V Hybrid? Inquiring minds want to know.

How quiet is it?

Well, it depends on the situation. It's pretty quiet around town. Unless the hybrid battery's power is very low, the engine is usually off when you're waiting at stoplights, for instance. The engine is generally unobtrusive when you're just cruising at city speeds, too. But it revs up quickly, like when you hit the gas to accelerate quickly, and becomes rather raucous.

The engine settles down as soon as you let up, so in that sense it's not too bad. But it does get unpleasant when climbing long mountain grades on the highway. For instance, I live in Fresno, which is in Central California. To get to Los Angeles, which is where Edmunds' home office is, I have to drive along I-5 and go over the Tejon Pass (typically called "The Grapevine"). It's a mountain pass with a maximum elevation around 4,100 feet. When going up the hills, the CR-V's engine drones loudly. In situations like this, a regular CR-V is a lot quieter.

What about seat comfort?

First off, know that I'm about 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds, so take this commentary as you will. With that, I find our CR-V Hybrid's driver's seat to be agreeable. Every CR-V Hybrid except the base LX trim comes with an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with four-way power-adjustable lumbar. With these adjustments, plus the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, I would think most drivers will be able to find their preferred seating position.

The seat's cushioning and support are pleasing for long-distance driving, at least in my experience. The most I've driven our CR-V Hybrid straight is for about five hours. One of my co-workers is embarking on a cross-country road trip in February. She'll have more to say on this subject.

Build Your CR-V Hybrid
At a Glance:
  • 7 Colors
  • 3 Trims

2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Utility

The CR-V has one of the largest cargo areas in the small crossover SUV class. But what does that mean for actual ownership? For example, having a baby means bringing along enough stuff to equal Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic. Can the CR-V Hybrid handle it? Or what about using the CR-V for a camping trip? These are the sorts of questions we'll be hopefully answering during our test.

How much official cargo space does the CR-V Hybrid have?

A regular CR-V can hold 37.6 cubic feet behind its rear seats (Touring trim) or 75.8 with the rear seats folded. The CR-V Hybrid has a little less official space — 33.2 cubic feet and 68.7 cubic feet, respectively. I haven't been able to directly compare our CR-V Hybrid to a regular CR-V, but I would guess that the reduction in the Hybrid's cargo space is due to a slighter higher cargo floor. Honda said it packaged the hybrid battery and some of the hybrid componentry under it.

What have you fit in it so far?

So far I've used our CR-V Hybrid's cargo area to haul groceries, stuff for a family road trip during the winter holidays, and boxes I needed to take to a storage unit. For the boxes, I folded down the rear seats and removed the cargo cover. Folding down the seats is easy; there are release handles both in the rear cargo area and on the tops of each rear seatback section.

The road trip was trickier. Either I overestimated how much space our CR-V Hybrid has or I underestimated how much stuff we'd be taking (or both). But the end result was that I had to pack the cargo area up to the roof and fit a bunch of overflow stuff around my two kids in the rear seat. For this particular trip I wouldn't have minded a larger vehicle. But our CR-V Hybrid has worked out well for everything else so far. As you can see from the picture of the grocery bags in the photo carousel below, there's a lot of room for everyday stuff.