2020 Honda CR-V review

By Tony O'Kane and WhichCar Staff

2020 Honda CR-V review

Priced From $31,300Information

Overall Rating


4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
Expand Section

Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

3 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

5 out of 5 stars


4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProGood value; strong turbo engine; spacious interior.

  2. ConChild seats compromise third row.

  3. The Pick: 2020 Honda CR-V VTi-S (2WD) 4D Wagon

What stands out?

The new-generation Honda CR-V is a roomy medium SUV with an easy-driving nature and a very family-friendly cabin. Power comes from a strong turbocharged engine, and the CR-V balances a comfortable ride with good handling. You can have five or seven seats, and auto braking is available.

You can also read our review of the CR-V that this car replaced.

What might bug me?

That your seven-seat Honda CR-V does not have autonomous emergency braking (AEB). Only two CR-Vs come with AEB, and they are the more expensive AWD versions – the five-seat (only) CR-V VTi-S and VTi-LX. On the others it is not available, even as an extra-cost option.

Missing out on extra safety to protect your large family. You can’t get a seven-seater version with AWD traction or active safety features such as auto braking.

What body styles are there?

Five-door SUV-style wagon only, with seating for five or (in the VTi-L only) seven.

Some Honda CR-Vs drive only their front wheels, while others drive all four wheels.

All-wheel-drive CR-Vs drive just the front wheels most of the time (to save fuel), but extend power automatically to the rear wheels when that’s helpful, such as when accelerating from a standstill.

The CR-V is classed as a medium SUV, lower priced.

What features do all Honda CR-Vs have?

A sound system with an AM/FM radio, USB and HDMI inputs, Bluetooth audio streaming, and eight speakers, controllable from a central touchscreen.

Height and reach adjustment for the steering wheel, from which you can operate cruise control and multimedia features.

Dual-zone climate control, which can supply ventilation to you and your front passenger at different temperatures, with dedicated vents for rear passengers.

Proximity-key entry, which lets you unlock the car and drive away without removing the key from your bag or pocket.

Wheels made from aluminium alloy (which don’t need pesky plastic trim), and a full-sized alloy spare. Tyre pressure monitors (which will give you early warning of a slow puncture).

A reversing camera, with top, normal and wide views. Automatic transmission.

Daytime running lights illuminated by extremely long-lived LEDs.

Roof rails, which make it easier to fit rooftop luggage systems.

A driver attention monitor, and Honda’s LaneWatch blind-spot camera.

Trailer Stability Assist, which helps prevent an oscillation developing when you are towing.

Six airbags. Stability control, which helps you avoid and control skids. (For the placement of airbags, and more on CR-V safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

Every Honda CR-V comes with a five-year warranty, with no restriction on distance

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Every CR-V comes with the same engine, a turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol. On the official test, it consumes about 7.4 litres/100km (city and country cycles combined).

This four-cylinder is a revised version of the engine in the more expensive versions of Honda’s Civic small hatch and sedan. In the CR-V it offers about 10 per cent more thrust under most driving conditions, thanks largely to a more effective turbo. That is plenty for relaxed open-road use.

Notwithstanding the higher boost pressure, Honda says you can fuel the engine with regular unleaded.

Every CR-V comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Unlike conventional or dual-clutch automatics, which select from fixed gear ratios, a CVT can vary the gear ratio in tiny increments, so that the car feels more responsive more of the time. On more expensive CR-Vs, you can select from seven artificial ratio steps using paddles on the steering wheel.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Honda CR-V is the CR-V Vi, which comes with fabric-covered seating for five, 5.0-inch touchscreen, 17-inch wheels, front-wheel drive, and the features common to all CR-Vs.

Paying more for a CR-V can get you more convenience and comfort, and either all-wheel drive or seven seats.

The CR-V VTi adds a larger 7.0-inch touchscreen and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which lets you view and operate some smartphone apps (including navigation, and voice control) from the touchscreen.

A seven-seat version of the CR-V VTi, called the VTI-E is also available and as well as the extra row comes with leather-appointed seats, bigger 18-inch wheels, and third-row air-conditioning vents mounted in the ceiling.

Coughing up for a CR-V VTi-S brings you a power-operated tailgate, which you can open and close from the key fob or from buttons on the car. Front and rear distance-sensors help you nuzzle into parking spots, and headlights switch themselves on when it’s getting dark. There is satellite navigation that does not depend on your phone. And the wheel size rises to 18 inches, for a sportier look.

Spending an extra $3200 or so will get you a VTi-S with all-wheel drive that also brings also brings you Adaptive cruise control (with Low-speed follow) and a suite of sensor-based safety aids, under the label Honda Sensing.

The Adaptive cruise control will automatically reduce your set cruising speed to follow a slower car in front, resuming when the way is clear. If the car in front comes to a halt, the system will stop you behind it – and if it takes off again, just tap the accelerator pedal and your CR-V will resume following. The sensor-based safety aids comprise auto-braking and three forms of lane-keeping help.

Spending some more again will buy you more luxurious seven-seat CR-V, the front-wheel-drive VTi-L. In addition to the third seat row, the VTi-L comes with part-leather seat trim, heating for both front seats, and a driver’s seat that is power adjustable and can remember your adjustments (so that you can restore them quickly after a companion has driven the car). Your windscreen wipers work automatically when it rains.

Like the VTi-E, the VTi-L miss out on the Honda Sending safety package, which is only available in AWD versions.

The most expensive CR-V is the VTi-LX, which returns to five seats but restores all-wheel drive. It adds a radio that receives digital signals (for more stations and a better sound), and very bright and long-lived LED headlights that shine into corners when you turn the wheel.

The VTi-LX also brings you the Honda Sensing package.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Paying more for the pricier seven-seat CR-V, the VTi-L, means you can’t have all-wheel drive or the Honda Sensing safety package, with autonomous emergency braking that’s available in the slightly more affordable VTi-S AWD. The VTi-L also offers less cargo space than the other CR-Vs, and its middle-row seating is less comfortable, as is the case with the VTi-E over the five-seat VTi.

Choosing the most expensive CR-V, the VTi-LX, for its auto emergency braking and other high-tech safety features, means you can’t have seven seats.

The least costly CR-Vs, the Vi and VTi, are marginally the quietest to ride in on coarse-chip roads, because their 17-inch wheels use tyres with deeper and more cushioning sidewalls than the lower-profile 18-inch rubber on all other versions. Thankfully, the bigger wheels don’t seem to affect ride comfort much.

How comfortable is the Honda CR-V?

You can tell that the CR-V has been designed thoughtfully with family comfort in mind. Front seats are expansive enough for most adults, and from them you have a commanding view of the road ahead. The electronic instrument panel is clear and easily read in all light conditions, and all major controls fall easily to hand.

The gear selector is mounted quite high, just below the dashboard, so that your left hand won’t need to move far from the steering wheel to manipulate it. The switch-operated parking brake means that, in contrast to the previous CR-V, there is no parking-brake pedal cluttering up the driver’s footwell.

All CR-Vs have a colour touchscreen display for controlling entertainment and other cabin functions. Graphics are bright and clear, and response is swift to inputs from your fingertips. It’s not all digital though: after experimenting with virtual buttons on the new Civic, Honda has put a physical volume knob on the CR-V’s dashboard – a definite ergonomic plus.

The pillars either side of the windscreen are very slim for a modern car, which makes it easy to see around them at intersections or when cornering on a winding road. The wing mirrors are mounted well forward, to minimise head movement when checking what’s behind you.

The CR-V responds smoothly and progressively to the accelerator pedal, helped by the easy-going nature of the turbo engine and standard CVT auto transmission. Brake pedal feel is pleasingly firm.

The steering is well weighted. Effort is low around dead centre but becomes heavier as you turn the wheel, contributing to the CR-V’s stable feel.

What about safety in a CR-V?

Every CR-V comes with anti-lock brakes, stability control, six airbags, seatbelt reminders for all seats, tyre-pressure monitoring, a reversing camera, LED daytime running lights, LaneWatch, and a driver attention monitor. The package prioritises your control of the car, protection in a crash, fatigue awareness on long trips, and the welfare of bystanders when you are manoeuvring at slow speeds.

Autonomous emergency braking is available, but only on the more expensive all-wheel-drive CR-Vs, the five-seat VTi-S AWD and VTi-LX.

The airbags are in the usual places. Front occupants each get an airbag in front, and another alongside at chest level. And front and rear occupants – including those in the third seat row – get side-impact protection from airbags extending down the cabin at head level.

LaneWatch displays, on the central touchscreen, a view down the side of the car whenever you indicate to turn left, picking up cars and cyclists that might not show in your mirror.

The driver attention monitor assesses your steering for signs you may be falling asleep at the wheel – and proposes you take a break.

The VTi-S AWD and VTi-LX add Active cruise control, auto emergency braking, and three forms of lane-keeping help.

Auto braking comes in the form of Honda’s Collision Mitigation Braking System. It looks ahead of you with radar and camera sensors, warns you of impending collisions, and applies the brakes automatically if it judges that necessary. It works at city and highway speeds, and you can switch it off. An integrated Collision warning can supply just the warning.

The lane-keeping help comprises Lane departure warning, Lane keeping assist, and Road departure mitigation. All three use cameras to monitor highway road markings.

The warning component sounds an alarm if you are about to leave your lane without indicating. Lane keeping assist nudges the steering to hold you near the centre of your lane – its aim is to take some effort out of freeway driving.

Road departure mitigation aims to prevent your inadvertently leaving the road altogether (perhaps because you had gotten distracted). It recognises marked road borders, and can deploy auto-steering and selective braking to keep you on the tarmac.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the CR-V its maximum Five-Star rating in July 2017.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

You will enjoy driving the CR-V, provided you understand it is a family wagon and not a sports car. The 1.5-litre turbo engine is a strong performer, and very capable of hauling the CR-V at highway speeds and up steep hills.

This new generation CR-V has wider tyres than the outgoing car, and suspension tuned for sharper response to your steering. The steering is also more direct – 2.3 turns lock-to-lock compared with 3.1 turns – so that you don’t have to turn the wheel as far when guiding the car. The result is a more secure grip on the road and a more agile feel.

Honda’s Agile Handling Assist helps here too: it gently brakes the inside wheels automatically when you are cornering hard, pulling the car into the turn more effectively.

All-wheel drive CR-Vs have a grip advantage when you’re accelerating, but it’s only obvious if you’re attempting to drive in truly slippery conditions such as on a muddy trail or wet grass. On the road, they don’t feel quite as sprightly as front-drive CR-Vs due to their extra weight – roughly equivalent to a teenage passenger.

While the all-wheel drive helps you handle loose or soft surfaces, the CR-V is not built for handling rough tracks or other difficult off-road conditions. Dedicated off-roaders have lower gearing, better-suited suspension, more ground clearance, and protection underneath. If you do venture off the beaten track, at least the CR-V carries a full-sized spare wheel to get you home safely should you puncture a tyre.

How is life in the rear seats?

Second row comfort varies depending on whether you’re in a five-seat CR-V or a seven-seater.

The five-seater has plenty of rear leg room and headroom for the average adult, and more than enough space for three kids to sit across the bench. A pair of USB ports on the rear of the centre console allows rear passengers to keep phones and tablets charged up. Face-level ventilation outlets should keep them cool in summer as well.

The seven-seat CR-Vs add a pair of retractable seats behind the second row, but the second row itself is also different. Able to slide forward and back, and to tumble forward to improve access to the third row, its seating area is flatter, firmer in its cushioning and less supportive than in the five-seater. It’s also placed higher, pushing passengers’ heads closer to the roof – an issue even for adults of average height.

Passengers in the third row of the seven-seaters get their own fan controls and head-level air vents, as well as integrated cupholders. The knee and foot room available is best suited for children.

With the middle row tumbled forward, access to the third row is at least easy - even for adults.

The CR-V has provision for securing up to three baby capsules across the second-row seat. However, the top-tether anchorages for them are fixed to the cargo-area roof, just ahead of the tailgate opening. That means that when a child-seat is fitted, its top-tether bisects the space behind it where a third-row passenger would sit.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The CR-V excels as a cargo-lugger. Its tailgate opens wide (and on all but the least costly CR-V it is power-operated), and the lip to the cargo area is low. You can fold all the rear seats flat, using boot-mounted handles, making it a cinch to carry all kinds of outsize loads.

The seven seater can’t carry quite as much as the five-seater because it has a higher floor in the boot.

Cargo volume for the five-seater measures 522 litres with the rear seats in place, or 1084 litres with them lowered.

The seven-seater has 472 litres with the middle row up and the third row down, and 967 litres with both rear rows down. (Put the third row up, and there’s only 150 litres of storage between it and the tailgate.)

Sizable door bins in each door and a very deep, multi-configurable, centre-console box provide plenty of in-cabin storage for odds and ends. The centre console can even swallow a laptop computer.

Where is the Honda CR-V made?

The CR-V is manufactured in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Unless you have chosen an AWD CR-V, autonomous emergency braking. AEB is standard on all Nissan X-Trails, Toyota RAV4s, Volkswagen Tiguans and Mazda CX-5s, for example.

Among many other mid-size SUVs worth considering are the Ford Escape, Holden Equinox, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, and Subaru Forester. The X-Trail and the Mitsubishi Outlander also offer seven-seat versions.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

The VTi-S 2WD is arguably worth its price premium over the Vi and VTi, for its satellite navigation, front and rear parking sensors, and powered tailgate. If you want auto-braking, and the long-journey safety-net of lane-keeping assistance, as well as all-wheel-drive traction, it’s worth shelling out about $3000 more for the VTi-S AWD.

If you want seven seats, however, the leather-trimmed VTi-E is offers plenty of features for its lower price.

Are there plans to update the CR-V soon?

No. This fifth-generation CR-V arrived in July 2017, and so there is no reason to expect a significant revision in the near future.

Honda added the Vi to bottom of the range in August 2018, which brought the starting price for the CR-V under $30,000.

In January 2019 Honda Australia added a second, and more affordable, seven-seat CR-V called the VTi-E.

Honda has said it is aiming to make autonomous emergency braking – initially available on the VTi-LX – standard on all CR-Vs, and got the ball rolling by adding the technology to the CR-V VTi-S AWD from January 2019.

An update is expected in the middle of the 2020 which includes a facelift and redesigned centre console. A hybrid version will be available overseas, but it is unlikely to join the Australian range.