Compact crossovers have become the new family sedan with vehicles such as the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4 ranked as the best sellers of any auto in the U.S. that is not a pickup truck.
Honda’s CR-V ranks third among those crossovers with sales of nearly 255,000 for the first eight months of this year. The automaker wants to make up some ground by introducing a hybrid version of its popular crossover.
Hybrid compact crossovers are a growing trend. Toyota’s RAV4 leads the pack. Ford plans to launch a hybrid version of its Escape next year. Honda’s goes on sale this fall.
FIRST HYBRID SUV
The 2020 CR-V Hybrid is the first electrified SUV from the Honda brand in America. The company already sells hybrid sedans, including the Accord and the Insight. Honda sees hybrids as a fuel economy play. It plans to equip all of its core U.S. models with its two-motor hybrid-electric system in the coming years.
The new hybrid CR-V variant comes as Honda makes improvements to the model’s entire line. The 2020 CR-Vs get new front and rear styling, redesigned wheels and standard Honda Sensing safety and driver-assistive technology. The automated safety suite previously came only on higher CR-V trim levels.
The non-hybrid CR-Vs also get a new standard engine, the automaker’s 1.5-liter turbo. It also was only available on higher trim levels previously.
“The Honda CR-V is the best-selling CUV over the past two decades and the updates we’ve made to the 2020 model, including a new hybrid-electric variant, solidify its position as a leader in the compact SUV market,” said Henio Arcangeli, Jr., senior vice president of automobile sales at American Honda Motor Co.
HONDA ELECTRIFICATION INITIATIVE
Honda wants two-thirds of its global sales to come from electrified vehicles by 2030. They are a growing source of U.S. sales. For the first eight months of 2019, sales of Accord Hybrid, Insight and the electric drive Clarity reached 42,270 combined sales, a year-over-year gain of 67.9 percent.
But some analysts question whether it makes sense to invest in hybrid vehicles, arguing instead that full-electric vehicles will become an increasing consumer choice.
Speaking of Ford’s move into hybrids, Morgan Stanley Research analysts asked, “When do they stop diverting capital to products with limited shelf life and concentrate on future-proof tech?”
In a recent research report for investors, the analysts noted that other leading automakers such as General Motors and Volkswagen have pulled back from hybrid development, opting instead to push into battery electric vehicles.
Honda says the hybrid will offer improved fuel efficiency while maintaining a balance of interior space, driving dynamics and comfort. The CR-V uses the two-motor hybrid powertrain of the Accord Hybrid. It combines two electric motors with a 2-liter gas engine. The system produces up to 212 horsepower. It is expected to get 50 percent better fuel economy in city driving but Honda did not provide expected mpg numbers.
The CR-V Hybrid also is the first application of all-wheel drive to Honda’s two-motor hybrid system in the U.S. When available traction is low, an electronic clutch activates, sending the appropriate level of power from the electric motor to the rear wheels.