Cheap gas is just a mirage. You know that, right?
Don’t listen to the so-called or self-appointed experts who poo-poo hybrids. Yes, I’m a hybrid fan, an early adopter and advocate, but I’m also a realist when it comes to cars. The naysayers will lecture you about how long it will take to recoup the hybrid investment. But they don’t live real life like you do.
The growing class of hybrid SUVs, including the newly released Honda CR-V Hybrid, get it. And, they are changing the landscape, giving you all you want and need in a car including great fuel economy and fewer stops at the gas station. For a $1,200 premium over the Honda CR-V gas model, you’ll get 30-50% better fuel economy and some premium features, even in the base model.
So, if you live someplace where the price of gas fluctuates from reasonable to pricey, where the daily drive can often be all day, where weekends are all about the getaway, you now have better choices. And if your odometer racks up 15,000 or 20,000 miles in a year, you’ll be glad.
“Which SUV Gets the Best Fuel Economy?”
This is probably the #1 question I get from readers and friends. And it’s a real concern. If you don’t have to give up something in your car purchase, why should you?
Until a few years ago that was not an easy question to answer. But with ever-better hybrid technology, car makers can offer hybrids in some of our favorite SUVs. Like the Honda CR-V.
This best-selling compact SUV, which is responsible for 60% of Honda sales, is reliable, fun to drive, easy to park, has flexible seating and a very capable all wheel drive system. Last year the CR-V got a makeover with new features and a sharp new look. For early 2020 Honda has added a hybrid model that gets 40 MPG in the city (and 35 highway).
Same CR-V Look, But Some Unique New Features
The CR-V Hybrid joins the Insight and the Accord in the Honda hybrid family. All feature a unique two-motor hybrid system and have regenerative paddles that allow you to feed energy back into the battery to increase your battery range and fuel economy. Additional features include:
- Honda Sensing driver assist and safety features, which are being added as standard equipment on all new models will be on all CR-V Hybrid trim level
- A push button gear selector that frees up space on the center console; this is in keeping with other Honda (and Acura) model
- A drive mode selector on the center console that allows you to easily pop into eco, EV or sport mode
- Hybrid driver information screens that let you see how efficiently you’re driving
- USB ports have been moved to bottom of the center console under the dashboard – so no digging around in the arm rest to plug in your phone; in the EX trim and above there are also two USB ports in the back seat
- In the Touring trim there is a wireless phone charger
- An acoustic ‘alterting’ system that makes a sort of sonic whirring sound that increases in volume as you move faster letting pedestrians and bicyclists know you’re there
- Real time AWD in all models
How Much Money Will the Hybrid Save?
Well, that depends. So let’s do some math.
First, if you drive less than 10,000 miles a year or you don’t want or need all wheel drive, the CR-V Hybrid may not be worth the added expense.
But, if you drive 12K or more miles a year and want or need AWD, you should definitely take a look. If you drive 15K miles or more a year, or if you live someplace where gas is expensive, the benefits quickly start to tip in your favor.
- Drive the gas model 15K miles averaging 29 mpg; that’s 517 gallons of gas $2.50 per gallon = $1,293 spent on gas, versus driving the hybrid 15K miles averaging 38 MPG and using 395 gallons of gas at $ 2.50 a gallon = $986 spent on gas. At a savings of$307 a year it will take 4 years to recoup the difference in price
- Increase your annual mileage to 20K miles a year averaging 38 MPG, using 526 gallons of gas at 2.50 a gallon, you’ll spend $1,315 on gas and save $400 a year, taking 3 years to recoup the added expense
- Drive 20K miles a year paying $4 a gallon and it’ll take you just 18 months to recoup the difference.
- Use the regenerative paddles to increase your fuel economy and it gets better. Keep the car for 5 years or more and you come out ahead.
And, it’s not just fuel economy that’s precious, but time, too. Any car that will offer me fewer trips to the gas station—and less time standing in the cold, rain, snow, blistering sun or hair-ruining humidity to get my hands dirty while filling the tank, well that’s valuable, too. 8 or 10 or 12 fewer trips to the gas station? Yay.
What’s it Like to Drive?
The CR-V Hybrid has a two-motor hybrid system with one that starts the car and recharges the battery and another that is a propulsion motor—it helps the car to gain and maintain speed. The two-motor system is unique to Honda and is part of the company’s overall mission of moving toward all electric cars. The end result is a more normal ‘engine’ feel and solidly good fuel economy without too much attention to how you drive.
But if you want to play the “how many more miles can I eek out of this tank of gas” game, you can. Just focus on pulling left regenerative paddle as often as you can and you’ll see your fuel economy creep up. The regen paddle slows the car, so you can’t use it all the time, and when you start to accelerate again it stops the regenerative process. But as soon as you’re coasting on a hill or creeping through stop and go traffic you can put it to work. I tried this out and was impressed–I got my MPG to 44.1.
The CR-V Hybrid has slightly more power than its gas counterpart with 212 horsepower (versus 190 HP in the gas engine) and 232 torque (vs 179 in the gas engine). Driving them back to back it was hard to tell the difference, though. Both are fine for all the city driving you’ll need to do, and even in a sandy rodeo rink it was fine for plowing through the fine dirt.
What The Honda CR-V Hybrid Costs
While this model carries a $1,200 premium over the gas version, it also has more features even at the base trim level. Here’s how it stacks up:
- Base LX model, which includes Honda Sensing driver assist and safety features, 17” wheels, all wheel drive, smart entry and push button start, automatic high beam headlights and 2 front USB ports, $27,750
- EX model adds 18” wheels, LED fog lights power driver’s side seat with memory, blind spot monitors with rear cross traffic alert, moonroof, 7” infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, multi angle rear view camera, 2 additional USB ports in the rear, heated mirrors with turn signals, $30,260
- EX-L model adds leather seats, heated steering wheel and front seats, power tailgate, power passenger seat, $32,750
- Touring model adds front and rear sensors, 19” wheels, wireless phone charging, navigation, roof rails, rain sensing wipers, hands-free tailgate and 9 speaker premium audio, $35,950
- Delivery charge: $1,120
- Price of the model we drove: $37,070
Part of Honda’s zero-carbon mission is to have two-thirds of the cars and light trucks it makes to be electrified to some extent by 2030. That’s a lofty goal, and if they are going to be successful, they have to build cars that people want. SUVs especially; ones that you can drive all day, that fit your style, your family, your streets and your garage. It’s a realistic approach to making cars more fuel efficient and one that I appreciate. So I’m glad they aren’t listening to the naysayers either.
What We Listened to in the Honda CR-V Hybrid
This fun little car has a quiet, comfortable cabin that is great for turning up the music and singing, either solo or with pals. Here’s what I loved to listen to on my test drive:
Disclosure: I was Honda’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided, but all opinions– including 15 years driving a hybrid SUV, are my own.