If you’re considering a 2021 Honda CR-V, you’re in good company. The fifth-generation CR-V was crowned MotorTrend’s 2018 SUV of the Year for its roomy, well-built interior, solid driving dynamics, and great feature-per-dollar value. A midcycle refresh for 2020 simplified trim levels and introduced a hybrid version. If you’ve decided on the CR-V but need to know which one is ideal for your needs, have a look at our trim guide below.
The most notable change Honda made on the 2020 CR-V was standardizing the 1.5-liter turbocharged I-4 across every trim level. This means you get 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque even in the base LX trim. FWD is standard on the base model starting at around $26,500; AWD is available for an additional $1,500. Every CR-V also includes the Honda Sensing safety suite, which features a wide array of active safety technology.
What the LX doesn’t provide is Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, not that it would look good anyway on the meager 5.0-inch non-touchscreen. You’ll also have to make do with a four-speaker stereo and a single USB port. What’s more, upgrading the tech isn’t even an option; in typical Honda fashion, if you want more creature comforts, you’ll have to advance to a higher trim package.
2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid Pros and Cons
For those who love the form factor of the CR-V but demand even better fuel mileage, there’s the CR-V Hybrid. Available on EX, EX-L, and Touring Platinum trims, this powertrain features a 2.0-liter I-4 hybrid powertrain producing a combined 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque. That’s a rather substantial power upgrade, and as a bonus, fuel economy is rated at 40/35 mpg city/highway. Available only as an AWD version, the Hybrid trim commands a $2,700 premium over comparable gas-powered models (which net 27/32 mpg in AWD form).
2021 Honda CR-V EX Pros and Cons
At roughly $2,500 more than the LX trim, the EX trim will appeal to the majority of CR-V buyers. Here you’ll find the all-important Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions operated through a 7.0-inch touchscreen, and a lot more. There’s dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, a power moonroof, proximity key with remote start, heated side mirrors with turn signal indicators, two rear-seat USB ports, and satellite radio. EX also bumps up the wheel size from 17 to 18 inches. The front speakers gain a pair of tweeters, upping the speaker count to six.
All in all, this is a substantial upgrade in features for a relatively low cost of entry, and deserving of a closer look.
2021 Honda CR-V EX-L Pros and Cons
This is the trim MotorTrend drove in a nine-way small SUV comparison test, which the CR-V won. Ultimately, the CR-V’s overall design rather than a certain trim level earned it its first-place finish. But for those who desire extra niceties such as a power liftgate and leather seating, you’ll find them on the EX-L trim, as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a four-way power passenger seat, and an auto-dimming mirror with Homelink.
There are also two more tweeters in the rear, but all these features require spending around $2,500 more than the EX. We imagine that the two major draws of this trim level are the power liftgate and leather seats, but if you can live without those, then you’ll be better off in the EX.
2021 Honda CR-V Touring Pros and Cons
As the top dog in the CR-V lineup, the Touring trim features all the bells and whistles. The 19-inch wheels are indeed stylish, but come at the cost of ride quality, so definitely try before you buy. There’s also a heated steering wheel and a wireless charging pad for your phone, along with rain-sensing wipers. Speaker count is now up to nine, thanks to the addition of a subwoofer.
Paying a $3,200 premium over the EX-L, the Touring also gains you roof rails, chrome exhaust tips, and a hands-free power tailgate, which is undeniably convenient when you’re carrying an unwieldy load. All of these are nice-to-have as opposed to must-have, though, and again don’t improve the fundamental character of the CR-V. Some people will miss the satellite navigation exclusive to this trim level, but great phone map options make this feature less essential nowadays.
So Which 2021 Honda CR-V Trim Is Best?
The CR-V has the best balance of features in EX and EX-L trims. We’d lean more toward the EX as it provides nearly everything a buyer could want, with the exception of a power liftgate. We’d also consider opening the tailgate by hand if it meant spending that money on the CR-V Hybrid, which brings a healthy dose of power as well as superior fuel economy. If that combination sounds enticing, go for the EX Hybrid.