As the race progresses, the new CR-V feels stuck in its glory days.
Honda’s prestigious CR-V has won our SUV of the Year award twice (2015 and 2018), so we’re excited to get our hands on a new version for 2023. Our first (short) ride experience was mixed. We found the CR-V roomy and practical, but its design was outdated, and we were disappointed to find that savers have eliminated some of our favorite features. Our recent long drive gave the CR-V a chance to show off its better attributes, and we also had a chance to put on the timing gears and get some tough test data.
A quick recap of the new model: The CR-V will be (mostly) completely redesigned for 2023, and will be available in regular petrol and hybrid versions. We test the former here. (Our review of the 2023 CR-V Hybrid is here.) The subject of our first review was the leather-trimmed EX-L model with optional all-wheel drive. He and the fabric-covered EX cover the entire model range. Last year’s LX, SE and Touring were trimmed from the bottom, middle and top of the lineup. (The CR-V Hybrid is also only offered in two models, Sport and Sport Touring.) The exterior and interior styling is new—though “new” is a word we find difficult to apply to CR-V interiors— The 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and CVT automatic are carried over.
Let’s start with what we love most about the new CR-V, and that’s it. All of our editors who drove the CR-V praised its steering and chassis for its precision and balance, though all wished for more feel from the tiller. On the asphalt lake where the cone is located, our test team found the new CR-V to outperform the Mazda CX-50 in terms of sheer driver appeal, despite its raw numbers – 0.82 grams and 0.59 grams on a skateboard Gram’s average of 28.0 seconds for our eighth test — trailing the last CR-V we tested, a ’21 Touring AWD, which recorded 0.83g and 27.3 seconds at 0.62g.
This slump in crunching numbers has proven to be a harbinger. In all of our other tests, the new CR-V couldn’t match or beat its predecessor. At 3,613 pounds (58/42 percent front-to-rear weight distribution), the new CR-V is 92 pounds heavier than the 21 Series Touring. Although the same engine has the same power output (190 hp and 179 lb-ft), the new CR-V takes 8.7 seconds to hit 60 mph, 0.9 seconds longer than the old CR-V, and it finished the quarter at 16.7 mph One mile in seconds at 86.4 mph, 0.6 seconds and 0.1 mph slower than the aforementioned 2021. Braking performance at 130 feet is noticeably worse than the old CR-V’s 119.
Lest you think the ’21 CR-V Touring is a particularly good example, it’s not — it’s actually the slowest of several fifth-generation examples we’ve tested. To be fair, the 2023 CR-V we tested was a very early production model. But to be fair, we tested other early production Hondas and found them to perform in line with regular production models, a testament to the brand’s legendary build quality.
Our performance test results weren’t the only disappointments. Opinions on the design were mixed. Some employees thought it looked bulky, while others thought it was a welcome departure from the bulbous shape of the previous CR-V. However, most of us agree that the dashboard design feels dated. Mind you, it’s very user-friendly – the classic two-disc dashboard (which is actually digital except for the speedometer) has been a successful and unique way of delivering information for decades. Here’s the problem: The 2023 Honda CR-V’s dashboard design bears more resemblance to the 1997 Honda CR-V than its modern rivals.
As a family car, the CR-V has the basics: plenty of room, as we’ve come to expect from a CR-V. But as we mentioned in our First Drive review, we’re a bit at a loss as to what’s missing: no rear-seat USB ports (only hybrids get them), no rear-seat backrest clearance in the cargo area (the Honda CR-V who invented it) ?) and an old-school single-pane sunroof instead of the panoramic sunroof on many CR-V competitors.
Our overall reaction to the new 2023 Honda CR-V is a mix of respect and disappointment. We respect the CR-V’s ability to fit well into the model it’s set for: within its generous reach, a budding young family will find the space they need for child and car seats, bulky strollers and large carrycots box. The CR-V’s sharp street manner and unexpected driver appeal are bonuses that make the transition from sedan or coupe to SUV easier.
Still, we’re disappointed that a manufacturer like Honda, which made a name for itself by injecting thoughtful accents into their earlier cars, has trimmed them so relentlessly on this latest CR-V. As much as we love the CR-V’s space and driver appeal, we’d be happy to trade a little of the two for more of those gadgets that make everyday life in the SUV easier, or at least more modern. As much as we complain, Honda is an innovator of small powerful engines – the 1.5 turbo under the CR-V’s hood is one of its biggest efforts, that’s an honor indeed – but we’re sorry for the drop in performance, like Handsome new Civic.
Overall, the Honda CR-V is a great family SUV, just not particularly modern. Due to the drop in performance and features, we wouldn’t be surprised if all but the most loyal customers decide they’d rather drive a new SUV that actually feels like something new.
Connor Mason is a passionate automotive journalist and the author behind the popular website motonews.info. With years of experience in the automotive industry, Connor is well-versed in all things related to cars and motorcycles.