The new Honda CR-V offers a choice of petrol or hybrid power, packaged into a larger body equipped with new technology and upgraded safety borrowed from the Civic hatch.
The next-generation 2023 Honda CR-V has been revealed in the US, ahead of first Australian arrivals likely to occur sometime in the next 12 to 18 months – though specific details are still to be confirmed.
Revealed 25 years after the original CR-V arrived in Australia, the fifth generation of Honda’s family favourite has grown to straddle the gap between the medium and large SUV segments, with an available hybrid powertrain option.
It benefits from the array of new technologies and safety features introduced with the new Civic range, with a dashboard that’s near identical – and for buyers that don’t want a hybrid, a familiar 1.5-litre turbo engine.
Drive has contacted Honda Australia for details on local launch timing, however expect Australian CR-V models to launch sometime within the next 12 to 18 months – by which time Honda’s local arm will field a range of three SUVs. Pricing remains unconfirmed.
Measuring 4694mm long, 1864mm wide and 1691mm tall, the new CR-V is 59mm longer, 9mm wider and 12mm taller than its predecessor – sitting on a wheelbase that’s 40mm longer, at 2700mm.
The growth spurt pushes the CR-V from the heart of the medium SUV segment, to one of the larger vehicles in the class, blurring the line between mid-size and large SUVs alongside the Mitsubishi Outlander and Skoda Kodiaq.
The new Honda CR-V’s styling is more restrained than the car it replaces, with a mix of smooth surfaces and some sharp creases. There are standard LED headlights, new vertical LED tail-lights (with Volvo-esque styling), and 18-inch or 19-inch wheels.
Top-spec Sport and Sport Touring models in the US add unique front and rear styling, with rectangular exhaust outlets and black accents. In a nod to the original 1990s CR-V, the ‘AWD’ badge is printed on the rear window glass.
Inside, many buyers would be hard-pressed to tell the new CR-V’s dashboard apart from a new Civic hatch, with a similar tablet-style infotainment screen, a wide honeycomb mesh air vent, and similar designs for the shifter and switchgear.
The touchscreen is available in 7.0- or 9.0-inch forms – the latter offering wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – while a 7.0-inch instrument display sits in front of the driver, with an analogue speedometer. The Civic’s 10.25-inch full digital instrument display is not available.
Available tech features include multi-zone climate control, four USB ports (two front, two rear), a 12-speaker Bose premium sound system, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and four-way power passenger seat.
Entry-level models offer cloth upholstery, with higher grades trimming the seats in leather, and spreading orange contrast stitching across the seats, centre console, steering wheel and gear selector.
Honda USA doesn’t state if the new CR-V will offer a seven-seat option, with its press release implying five seats will be the only layout available in North America.
However, there’s a fair chance the third-row option will be retained in Australia, given the new CR-V is larger than the old model, and the Odyssey people mover’s demise leaves a gap for a three-row car in Honda’s local line-up.
Our CR-Vs are likely to be built in a different factory to the US-made American models, opening the door further for differentiation between markets.
Features for rear passengers include an additional 15mm of second-row legroom, a 60:40 split-folding rear seat bench with eight recline angles, and plenty of storage to join the nine-litre front centre console bin.
Honda USA claims 1028 litres of boot space with the rear seats up (up 34 litres for the petrol model, or 88L for the hybrid), increasing to 1113L with the false boot floor removed, and 2166 litres with the rear seats folded.
However, it’s worth mentioning these figures are measured to the roof – rather than the height of the parcel shelf or window line, as is the norm in Australia. Here, the outgoing CR-V five-seater claims 522L with the rear seats up, or 1084L with them down (measured to the window).
Powering the new CR-V in the US will be a choice of two engines, including a Toyota-rivalling hybrid. Expect both to come to Australia, as Honda Australia has committed to offering a hybrid version of each new model it introduces.
The range is opened by a revised version of the current 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine developing 142kW and 243Nm – identical outputs to the outgoing model in the US (but 2kW/3Nm up on Australian figures).
It sends drive to all four wheels through a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT). Honda claims improved programming for the CVT, reduced engine and transmission noise, and peak power available across a broader rev range.
Meanwhile, buyers can instead opt for a hybrid powertrain, combining a 2.0-litre non-turbo four-cylinder petrol engine with two electric motors (now mounted side by side), developing up to 152kW and 335Nm.
While that’s technically 6kW lower than the 158kW claimed for the old CR-V hybrid in the US, the new model’s power peak appears to be concurrent – meaning it’s the maximum total power sent to the wheels at any one time, rather than the individual peak outputs of the engine and electric motors on their own, which arrive at different points in their respective rev range.
The hybrid (now with direct fuel injection) uses a “Linear Shift Control” system that’s said to “[mimic] the vehicle speed-linked rev feel associated with a conventional drivetrain shifting gears”. Towing capacity sits at 450kg for this variant.
Hill descent control and up to four drive modes are available, while the all-wheel-drive system can now send up to 50 per cent of engine torque to the rear wheels.
A 15 per cent stiffer body, 15 per cent higher spring rate, and retuned steering and suspension systems are said to deliver a sharper driving experience.
A full suite of advanced safety systems are available, including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian/cyclist/motorcycle detection and intersection support, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, traffic jam assist, lane-keep assist and driver attention monitoring.
The outgoing CR-V’s LaneWatch camera – which projects a camera feed from the side of the car into the infotainment screen – has been ditched in favour of traditional sensor-based blind-spot monitoring.
There are 10 airbags, including redesigned front airbags intended to minimise brain injuries, standard front knee airbags, and new lower side airbags for the rear passengers (in addition to head-protecting curtains, as offered on the old CR-V).
Curiously, at least on North American models, there’s no mention of a centre airbag between the front passengers – a feature common to other mid-size SUVs in Australia with five-star ANCAP safety ratings under the latest test criteria.
The 2023 Honda CR-V will launch in the US before the end of August in 1.5-litre petrol trim, with the hybrid to follow later in the year.
Australian launch timing is yet to be confirmed; Drive has contacted Honda Australia for comment.
While the CR-V will be built in the US and Canada for North American markets, Australian models are expected to come from a factory closer to local shores – most likely in Thailand, as per the current model, or Japan, like the new Civic and HR-V.
That opens the door for features or changes specific to Australia and surrounding South-East Asian countries – which could include different engine tuning, or the continuation of the third row of seating.
Honda Australia has indicated plans to offer a line-up of three SUVs within the next 12 to 18 months, comprising the HR-V, new CR-V and a third model, set to be badged ZR-V, slotting between the two with dimensions similar to a Mazda CX-5.
Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020. Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines as a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.