If a blend of performance and practicality is something you require from a new crossover SUV, then the 2021 Honda CR-V might be on you wish list this year. As part of the CR-V's fifth generation that was introduced back in 2017, you will not find too many changes. Last year's revisions (the turbo 1.5-L engine becoming standard, new exterior styling, and more standard driver aids on each trim level with Honda Sensing) satisfied a lot of buyers and reviewers alike. The only downside is that you still have to put up with a too-touchy touchscreen that does not have a separate tuning knob. Could this be the crossover of your dreams? Read on and find out.
What's New For 2021?
Essentially everything carries over from the previous iteration of the CR-V. Honda is saving the big changes for 2022's total redesign, which will come with a totally new hybrid option. Otherwise, expect to see 2020's changes come equipped: the standard 1.5-L turbo engine, the same exterior styling elements, and the Honda Sensing suite which come equipped on every trim level.
The 2021 Honda CR-V is only available as a compact crossover SUV. Right now, you can only get it as either a gas-powered or hybrid powertrain. Both will be getting totally overhauled for 2022.
The 2021 Honda CR-V comes in four different trim levels: the base LX, EX, EX-L, and the line-topping Touring. Each one comes with that turbo 1.5-L 4-cylinder engine, which generates 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission (or, for short, CVT) is paired up with it for fuel efficiency, and front -wheel drive is standard while all-wheel drive is available as an option.
Of course, if the gas-only engine doesn't sound that appealing and you would like to consider the hybrid, it can be ordered as either the EX, EX-L, or Touring (with essentially the same features as those on the regular CR-V). This hybrid powertrain consists of a 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine, battery pack, and motor. The CVT comes equipped too. In total, it puts out 212 hp and comes with standard AWD.
So, what should you look for on the trim levels? On the LX, you will find Honda Sensing, a suite of driver aids that includes collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist. You also get a 5-inch infotainment screen, a 4-speaker sound system, and single-zone automatic climate control.
Moving up to the EX nets you even more features, such as a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, keyless entry with the push button start function, power adjustability on the driver's seat, heating on both front seats, smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment display.
The EX-L takes all of that and adds more luxury-oriented items, such as an 8-speaker sound system, a power liftgate, and lovely leather upholstery. Topping it all off is the Touring trim, which decks the vehicle out in built-in navigation, LED headlights, LED headlights, and a premium 9-speaker audio system.
When it comes to the gas-powered CR-V, the vehicle's snappy little 1.5-L turbo engine will put forth power quickly, whether you need it to accelerate on the highway or on a slow city road. It only needs about 7.5 seconds to get from 0 to 60 mph, which is swift enough for its segment. Modulating the brakes in a panic stop also feels quite secure. Ride quality and handling feel well-balanced, and the steering is precise, always sending you a good amount of feedback through the wheel.
What about the hybrid? Its powertrain is actually quite smooth and delivers a lot of power to all four wheels with ease. The hybrid motor shifts over to the gas engine without interruption, which is something you typically only find in expensive luxury hybrids. The regenerative brakes are smooth too. But the acceleration is dull, as the vehicle clocks in at 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. Climbing up a hill requires you to press your foot down hard on the accelerator.
Here's the scoop on the CR-V's fuel economies. As far as the gas-only engine goes, it has an EPA estimate of 30 mpg combined (with 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway). It is a small-displacement engine, though, so it is going to be sensitive to how you drive it. If you have a lead foot, you'll burn through gas more quickly. If you drive more conservatively, you won't.
The Hybrid gets an EPA estimated 38 mpg combined (with 40 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway), but in real-life driving, the numbers fall short. Tests show the vehicle barely hits 32 mpg combined while driving conservatively, and this could be due to how underpowered the 2.0-L engine is in that hybrid. Here's hoping to see this improved for the 2022 overhaul.
The 2021 Honda CR-V shows just how much Honda loves leading the competition, and 2022 looks to widen that gap. While we like a lot about this model year - especially the abundance of standard safety and infotainment features - we recommend that buyers hang on one more year until Honda releases the redesigned CR-V. Still, if you have to buy now, you really cannot go wrong with the gas-powered version.
Formula for Calculating Dealer Cost:
Total Dealer Cost - Rebate and Incentive + Taxes / Licensing Fees = True Dealer Cost. (You can get rebates and incentives here)
Note: All Honda CR-V MSRP, invoice and dealer cost dollar figures above are approximate amounts. Prices are subject to change without notice.
A note about rebates: Most rebates are subtracted from the "on the road" figure. In most cases, you can have the rebate if you are arranging your own financing or you are paying cash. If you decide to use the manufacturer’s low interest financing, you do not usually get the rebate. Ask your dealer for details.