Honda and Toyota’s best-selling vehicles go head-to-head, it’s the RAV4 vs CR-V for the top compact crossover.
Perennial contenders for the top sales spot in the crossover segment, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V have been duking it out for over two decades. Folks love their crossovers and these pioneers of the segment are a big part of the reason why. The CR-V and RAV4 tick all the boxes for crossovers: high seating position, plenty of room for people and cargo, and AWD all while not exceeding the footprint or the price of your average sedan.
The RAV4 is America’s best-selling crossover while the CR-V is a consistent reviewer favorite. Below we lay out five key differences that can help you make the call between the two.
Each of these crossovers now have two powertrain options, a traditional ICE and a hybrid version. While Toyota has offered a hybrid version of the RAV4 for years now, Honda has finally matched them with a hybrid version of the CR-V for 2020.
The RAV4’s base engine is a 2.5L I-4 producing 203hp and 184lb. ft. of torque paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The CR-V’s base engine is a 1.5L I-4 turbo making 190hp and 179lb. ft. of torque mated to a CVT.
As you might guess, those two transmissions make a bigger difference than either the size of the engines or the turbo boost when it comes to driving experience. The RAV4’s automatic lends a pleasant, punchy quality to its acceleration that the Honda’s CVT isn’t capable of replicating.
Moving on to the hybrid options, the RAV4 adds two electric motors to the aforementioned 2.5L for a slight power boost of 219hp and 200 lbs. ft. The CR-V trades out the 1.5L for a 2.0L I-4 and two electric motors for 212hp and 232 lbs. ft. As far as efficiency, the RAV4 hybrid edges out this part of the comparison with 40mpgs combined versus the CR-V hybrid’s 38mpgs combined.
The Mazda CX-5 is known to provide an enjoyable driving experience, at least when compared to the rest of the segment. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 represent that “rest of the segment”. The CX-5 is good, but you really need to jump up to the Mercedes-Benz GLC or Porsche Macan for before you can drop the proviso of good “for a crossover”.
2020 Honda CR-V – automobiles.honda.com | Shop 2020 Honda CR-V on Carsforsale.com
Neither the RAV4 or CR-V will wow you with their power or maneuverability, neither can be called “sporty”. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t clear distinctions to be found between them. The RAV4 comes with more horsepower than the CR-V (203hp to 190hp from their base engines) and feels the faster of the two, but it’s actually the CR-V that is quicker off the line (with the turbo providing strong torque at just 2,000 rpms). The trouble is, the CR-V doesn’t feel like it, the CVT strikes again.
2020 Toyota RAV4 – toyota.com | Shop 2020 Toyota RAV4 on Carsforsale.com
The steering proved the more decisive factor, with the RAV4’s responsive, point-and-go steering a clear step above the CR-V’s fairly vague set up. The sharper, “sportier” handling and the responsive engine of the RAV4 put it ahead of the CR-V when it comes to drivability. Though, admittedly, the bar for crossovers is set pretty low.
With its rugged imitation of a 4Runner, the RAV4 beats the CR-V pretty handily in the exterior looks department (though your mileage may vary on that statement). What’s less up for debate is that the CR-V boasts a more refined, more stylish interior. Given we usually spend more time inside our vehicles driving them than we do just staring at them, the nicer interior was a big mark in favor of the Honda.
Perhaps, you wonder, are we weighing the value of the CR-V’s faux wood trim too heavily? No, we are not. In fact, what might feel tacked on or just plain tacky in another interior feels perfectly at home in the CR-V, which has a nice, modern look that’s more refined than what we found in the RAV4. For its part, the RAV4 features bolder lines and offers a nice touch with rubber grips on many of the dash knobs.
But it’s not just looks that make the CR-V the more livable interior. It also offers considerably more space for both passengers and cargo. The CR-V grants more legroom, with 40.4” versus the RAV4’s 37.8″. The case is the same for cargo. The CR-V offers 39.2” with all the seats in use and 75.8” with the second row folded down. The RAV4 is closer to the segment average with 37.5” in back and 69.8” with the second row down.
Both the CR-V and RAV4 are relatively generous when it comes to standard features, but the RAV4 gives a little more in its base model and some nicer upgrades. Take the infotainment situation. The base touchscreens for both are just 7”, but only the RAV4 gives you the option of upgrading to an 8” screen. The RAV4 has the better infotainment software, which is intuitive and responsive while the CR-V’s system suffers from lag issues and has yet to be updated to the latest version found in the Accord (a clear miss on Honda’s part). Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available on both vehicles.
Honda and Toyota equip their crossovers with their safety suite packages. The Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 comes with lane departure warning, lane keep assist, pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, auto high-beams, and lane trace assist that works in conjunction with the standard adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitoring, reverse automatic braking, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. The RAV4 offers a 360° camera view, something the CR-V lacks.
Honda provides their Honda Sensing package that covers much the same ground, but is slightly less robust. It includes road departure warning, collision mitigation braking, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control.
CR-V does have a few of its own tricks, including standard remote start and a start/stop mode (which can be toggled off if you so choose). Unique to the RAV4 is a panoramic sunroof.
What sets these two crossovers apart, after the radically different styling, is the price. Up and down the trim levels, the RAV4 is consistently more expensive than the CR-V. The base RAV4 starts at $25,950 while the CR-V opens at $25,050, nearly a grand less. This trend continues all the way up the trim levels to the top. The top trim Touring CR-V clocks in a $33,250. The RAV4 Limited $34,380 and the TRD edition, for if you want a rugged tinge to your crossover, will cost you $35,180. The sole exception to the trend is the hybrid upgrade, with the CR-V adding $2,700, while the RAV4 only adds $2,400.
In a segment defined by its everyday practicality, the Honda CR-V was just a few steps ahead of the Toyota RAV4. The additional passenger and cargo room, the upscale interior trim, and comfortable seats outweighed the RAV4’s slightly better driving experience. And now that the CR-V also has a hybrid option, the Honda covers (almost) all the crossover bases out there, and all for less than the RAV4.