Home » Every Argument I Made To Replace The Subaru I Regret With A 2024 Honda CR-V Hybrid

Every Argument I Made To Replace The Subaru I Regret With A 2024 Honda CR-V Hybrid

Matt Subaru This Or This Ts
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Many of you suggested that I should try the CR-V Hybrid in my quest to replace the Subaru Forester of Persistent Regret, and who am I to judge the wisdom of the masses? If my biggest qualms with the Subaru are its constant small failings and crap gas mileage, certainly a Honda is the solution.

Being a car hack, I dialed up my local Honda press officer and requested a CR-V of the Hybrid variety. Press cars are typically sold when they hit 9,999 miles as that allows for a higher resale value and, in general, aren’t loaned out beyond 10,000 miles as that distance in the sweaty palms of car journalists is like 50,000 miles for a normal civilian vehicle.

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The CR-V Hybrid in the New York fleet had 14,000 miles on it and was about to be sold but, if I could overlook the fact that the car had so many miles on it, Honda would let me borrow one for a week. Given I want to own one of these, the higher the mileage the better.

I haven’t been a fan of the last few generations of the CR-V and this blindspot made me pursue other options in my search for our next family car. Having spent a week with the new one, clearly this was a mistake.

Argument #1: Honda Fixes The Transmission Problem By Not Having A Transmission

32 2023 Honda Cr V 2 Motor Hybrid System

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The biggest qualm I have with the last two generations of Honda CR-V is that none of them came with an engine or, at least, it didn’t feel like they did when driving them. This lack of grunt was worsened by a CVT that’s just as bad as every other CVT, which is why I didn’t buy a CR-V back in 2016. The Forester also has a crappy CVT, but the car feels and sounds better than the CR-V that was on sale at the time.

How has Honda solved this problem with its new two-motor system? Simple. Honda calls the transmission an “eCVT” which is hilarious because the car’s transmission isn’t exactly continuously variable (it operates in certain fixed ratios) and also doesn’t exist. That’s right! They’ve solved the problem of modern transmissions by not having a transmission and making the vehicle essentially direct-drive.

Here’s a video sort of explaining how the original version of this system worked:

That screencap from the video is great and shows the two big electric motors. One of those motors is a motor/generator and exists to start the gasoline engine and then act as a generator the rest of the time. The other motor is used to power the wheels directly. For most of your low-speed cruising around town, the car is powered solely by an electric motor, with the engine turning on only to generate electricity as needed. This makes the car essentially a series hybrid.

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However, when driving at higher speeds where a gas motor is highly efficient, the Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter inline-four seamlessly switches on and the car becomes a parallel hybrid with the gas engine providing most of the forward power. At extremely high speeds, or in passing, the vehicle can use both the electric motor and gasoline engine for propulsion. Rather than route power via a transmission, the car is constantly and seamlessly swapping between different modes based on what would be most efficient. In fact, Honda says the two-motor hybrid system’s gas engine is one of the most thermally efficient gas motors ever produced.

31 2023 Honda Cr V Hybrid Powertraind

The version I had, and would likely buy, is all-wheel drive. Unlike the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid I drove, the CR-V has a mechanical linkage to the rear wheels instead of a separate electric motor (also, Toyota uses a planetary gearset for what it calls an eCVT). In theory, this should make it a better performer in snowy/low traction conditions.

What’s it like in practice? When driving slowly and with enough battery power, the CR-V Hybrid glides along like an electric car, albeit for shorter periods than the Corolla Cross Hybrid. Fairly quickly, the gas motor will turn on to provide power when either needing extra torque or more juice for the lithium-ion battery pack stored under the rear cargo area.

2024 Crv Hybrid Home Dept 1
The CR-V Hybrid in its natural habitat.

At higher speeds (generally around 45 mph) a clutch will connect the gas motor to the wheels and propel the car forward, though it’s not easy to feel this as a driver. Because there’s no conventional transmission, the gas engine is never stressed and so doesn’t whine much. When driving at highway speeds the engine will turn off and the car will saunter along using electric power for short distances.

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Again, none of this is particularly noticeable other than when the 2.0-liter gas motor kicks on or off, which is so effortless you won’t even notice it. For familiarity reasons, the CUV will mimic gearchanges as you quickly accelerate and, honestly, I don’t hate it.

The CR-V Hybrid isn’t fast, but it’s not slow, and it’s Santana featuring Rob Thomas smooth in the way it shuffles between various modes. My stupid CVT in my annoying Subaru is in a constant state of bugging the crap out of me, so my first big argument for the CR-V is that driving it is not a chore.

How this argument did (8/10)

Argument #2: It’s Way More Efficient Than Our Subaru

2024 Crv Hybrid Best Mileage 1

Driving a hybrid makes you pay way more attention to the fuel consumption of your non-hybrid cars. I currently own two of those, with my inline-six powered E39 BMW sharing duties with our Subaru. Based on the BMW’s internal measurements it’s probably averaging about 24 MPG and, in return, I get a rewarding driving experience. My Subaru just last week returned a miserable 12.8 MPG taking my daughter to her school, though overall it also averages 24 MPG, albeit never in a rewarding-to-drive sort of way.

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Over the course of a week of attempting to ape the driving I’d normally do in the Subaru, I managed a fuel economy high of 51.1 MPG coming back from the gym, which is a mix of city and highway driving where this thing is super efficient. If you have a route where you’re just driving between 30-50 MPH, there’s scarcely anything with a gas engine I’ve seen that’s as miserly.

To be fair, I also did the home-to-school run, which includes a bunch of stop signs. It’s also mostly uphill and generally awful. Even then, I managed a reasonable 23.6 MPG and better than 40 MPG coming back home.

2024 Crv Hybrid Fuel Economy 1

Overall, I ended up at 37.8 MPG in a week of mixed driving. The math on this works out in my favor. Assuming I continue to drive about 10,000 miles with the CR-V Hybrid I will use approximately 264 gallons a year, compared to 417 gallons annually for the Subaru. That’s a little more than 150 gallons of fuel a year, but we’ll round down just to be fair to Subie. At $4 a gallon for fuel that’s $600 a year. Gas might get a little cheaper or, as often happens, it might get a little more expensive.

My goal for the Subaru was to own it for 10 years, but its constant disappointments mean I’m going to abandon it in its eighth year. Assuming I can hold onto the CR-V hybrid for a full decade, I should save between $5,000-$6,000 over the life of the car (before considering all the random crap on the Subaru I’ve had to fix or replace).

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In addition to the money I’ll save, I will also be doing more for the environment by burning less fuel. That’s nice, too.

How this argument did (9/10)

Argument #3: It’s Nice, But Not Conspicously So

2024 Crv Hybrid Interior 1

One of my good friends just leased a new Kia Sportage PHEV, partially on my recommendation. It looks good, but it’s also a bit much. You notice it. The interior is attractive, yeah, but don’t she know it? It also has a lot of fidgety controls and the weird dual-mode touchscreen controls I don’t love.

By comparison, the CR-V Hybrid, even in the higher Sport Touring trim I had, looks and operates like a normal car. The two most distinguishing features are the screen that pops out of the dash (I don’t love it) and the thin honeycomb grille that covers the air-con vents (I do love it). There are physical dials and buttons for climate control, basic buttons for audio control, and a physical rocker switch to toggle between driving modes.

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2024 Crv Hybrid Front Exterior 1

While I’m not a fan of the tacked-to-the-dash screen, this one at least has some buttons and allows you to use Apple CarPlay as the dominant operating system while driving. All of this works better than the Subaru though, to be fair, that’s because it’s a newer car. The Subaru also has a lot of buttons and dials and this has similar usability.

My daughter was extremely pleased to find a rear A/C vent, something lacking in the Subaru, as well as more than three extra inches of rear legroom.

2024 Crv Hybrid Interior 1 (1)

My least favorite feature is the wireless charging pad, which takes up a lot of space and barely works. I’m also not a fan of the Sport Touring’s leather seats as they’re not particularly supple and a little firm for my taste. Just to be safe, my daughter and I went to the local Honda dealer to sit in a non-Touring hybrid with cloth seats and those were deemed to be more comfortable.

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As the Sport, Sport Touring, and Sport L trims are all mechanically identical, I’m not convinced the extra money (a Sport Touring Hybrid is $40,800, compared to $34,350 for the base Sport Hybrid) is worth it. The base Sport is nicely spec’d.

2024 Crv Hybrid Groceries 1

On the outside, the RAV4 is a little busy and almost looks like it’s cosplaying as a tougher car, though it’s not unattractive. The new Escape looks like an old rental car. The Mazda CX-5 is probably the most attractive car in this segment. The CR-V looks almost like an old BMW in its restrained handsomeness. It’s the first CR-V since the original I would describe as handsome.

Black wheels are not my first choice, but black wheels are all you get when you get a hybrid. I’m also meh on the chrome-esque brightwork around the windows. Given enough time I’d make the window trim look black and the wheels look white. While stately in blue, I’m tired of having a car with a boring color.

How this argument did (9/10)

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This Might Be The One

2024 Crv Hybrid 3 4 1

Conventional wisdom would dictate that a bunch of internet commenters are the last people you’d ask for car-buying advice, but in this particular instance, I’m glad I listened long enough to open my mind to the possibility of the CR-V Hybrid.

In an ideal world where I can just buy whatever I want, I’d probably go with the Ford Maverick Hybrid. It returns similar mileage to the CR-V Hybrid, is cheaper, and is a truck. The overall cost savings didn’t negate the fact that it’s a truck and my family cannot picture the bed as a giant trunk, even if I get a hard tonneau cover for it. The CR-V Hybrid is also much nicer than the Maverick on the inside.

The family was ok with the Corolla Cross Hybrid being a little smaller than most of the cars I looked at and, on digital paper, it should be cheaper than a comparable CR-V Hybrid. Unfortunately, getting a Corolla Cross Hybrid near MSRP isn’t easy, if you can get one at all. The CR-V Hybrid, by comparison, isn’t hard to find and is transacting at a reasonable price. Also, I know a guy.

While wireless CarPlay and the slightly larger interior screen would be nice, it’s not worth the premium. I think an AWD CR-V Hybrid in Radiant Red Metallic is the best of all worlds. Plus, it’s a Honda, so I’m hoping to spend very little money to keep it running over the years.

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There’s one listed for $37,355 at Galpin Honda right now and it seems to check all the boxes.

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Bill Garcia
Bill Garcia
28 days ago

I’d love to see Honda use this engine to make a 100mi+ PHEV version à la BMW i3 REx – and use it on the CRV, Passport, Pilot, Ridgeline and Odyssey!

J Money
J Money
1 month ago

Look, I know Hondas do everything well and I respect this ability of theirs. However….you run The Autopian. Isn’t there a rule (and if not, shouldn’t there be?) where automotive enthusiasts should simply not be allowed to own this level of banal car?

I feel like CR-Vs are always the ones dawdling along at 12 under the limit in the left lane.

Hillbilly Ocean
Hillbilly Ocean
1 month ago
Reply to  J Money

CRV’s are the new Camry that we used to find at the front of every line of left lane traffic. They’ve become the chosen car of retired boomers in my area.

MGA
MGA
1 month ago
Reply to  J Money

You’re thinking of the Lexus RX, I think.

CRVs don’t make it to the left lane around here.

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