The Korea Herald


[Behind the Wheel] Honda CR-V kicks it up a notch for hybrid EVs

As Japanese cars struggle from boycott, Honda seeks to get back on its feet with hybrid EVs

By Jo He-rim

Published : Feb. 16, 2021 - 15:56

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Honda CR-V Hybrid (Honda Korea) Honda CR-V Hybrid (Honda Korea)

The more environmentally-friendly version of Honda’s flagship sports utility vehicle CR-V has been launched in Korea, boasting an ample interior space, and with distinguishable driving modes that offer a little more fun to driving.

The Japanese automaker has kicked off the new year by presenting the new CR-V Hybrid, a hybrid electric vehicle model of the CR-V, and aims to get back on its feet in the Korean market, where it has been suffering from a nationwide boycott against Japanese goods, following a trade spat between the two countries.

Japanese automotive companies have been suffering from plunging sales here, and the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the situation.

Honda Korea, which had been on a roll until 2017 when it recorded annual sales of 10,299 units, witnessed its sales dive in the following years. In 2020, Honda sold 3,056 units, less than half of the number it sold in 2019, which was 8,760 units.

According to Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association, the total number of Japanese brand cars sold in South Korea was 20,564 units in 2020, pushing the market share to fall to 7.5 percent, from 15 percent in 2019.

Honda CR-V Hybrid (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald) Honda CR-V Hybrid (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

Honda hopes to achieve a breakthrough by expanding its hybrid EVs here to meet the rising demands for more environmentally-friendly vehicles among Korean customers. With the CR-V Hybrid, along with the new Accord Hybrid it has also released, Honda said it set the target to sell 3,000 hybrid EVs this year.

So is the new CR-V Hybrid a suitable choice for Korean consumers?

In a test drive event, The Korea Herald took the CR-V Hybrid Touring model for a spin on the Korea International Circuit, the 5.62-kilometer motorsport circuit located in Yeongam, Jeolla Province, and on a 150-kilometer roundtrip from the racing circuit to Marine Natural History Museum in Ttangkkeut in the same province.

For hybrid EVs, fuel efficiency and environmentally-friendly features appear to be the most important topics, but the driving dynamics are often left out of the discussion. 

Inside the Honda CR-V Hybrid (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald) Inside the Honda CR-V Hybrid (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

Honda, on the other hand, put emphasis on the driving experience its new CR-V Hybrid offers. The car is equipped with the i-MMD Hybrid (intelligent Multi-Mode Drive), a hybrid system combining a petrol engine with two electric motors and a lithium-ion battery, and can exert up to 184 horsepower and a maximum torque of 32.1 kilogram-meter.

The car has physical buttons on its center console for its three driving modes -- Sport, EV and Econ -- and they showed some distinguishable differences in the driving experience. The automaker also planned a separate session to test the differences of the three driving modes on the speed circuit.

The EV mode came to be useful driving under the speed of 40 km/h, when it ran solely on electricity. On the digital gauge, it displayed an equal energy distribution to all four wheels.

Under the Sport mode, the car’s loud engine sound made the acceleration and braking feel more exuberant.

On the outside, the hybrid model has been given a slight makeover, with a sharper front and the “L” shaped tail lamp highlighting its character as a Honda vehicle. The “H” logo is outlined in blue to signal that it is a hybrid model.

The inside of the CR-V Hybrid is spacious with ample headroom. The storage space between the driver and the passenger is also thoughtfully designed to enable safe keeping for many items.

As for the instrumental panel and the infotainment display, there is room for improvement. The 7-inch display came to be slightly too small, and the user interface was a little outdated and slow in reacting, considering that its competitors are racing to present the most digitalized infotainment and gauge systems. The car is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The car comes with a standard sunroof that extends out to just above the driver and the front passenger seat. But considering the spacious headroom and the widespread rooftop, it would have been nice if the automaker had prepared the option for a panorama sunroof.

Overall, the new CR-V Hybrid appears to be a decent four-wheel base car for families residing in cities.

The new CR-V Hybrid is offered in two trims, with the price for the 4WD EX-L starting from 45.1 million won ($40,900) and 45.7 million won for the 4WD Touring. 

By Jo He-rim (