Toyota RAV4 vs. Honda CR-V: The differences and the similarities

The Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V are among the best-selling vehicles in America. It’s easy to see why. They’re safe, dependable, relatively efficient, and spacious. They’re similar in some ways yet markedly different in others. Read on for our Toyota RAV4 vs. Honda CR-V comparison highlighting design, technology, performance, and fuel economy.

Tech features

Even the cheapest RAV4 gets a 6.1-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system. Note that Toyota doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility on any of its cars due to safety and privacy concerns. Better-equipped models benefit from a 7-inch touchscreen and, for audiophiles, an 11-speaker sound system made by JBL.

The CR-V comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity, a basic four-speaker sound system, and a relatively small five-inch screen embedded in the dashboard. The base model offers what we’ll call, nicely, rental car-level technology. Stepping up to the next trim in the hierarchy brings a better sound system with six speakers, a seven-inch display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, plus USB charging ports in the second row.

Performance and fuel economy

The RAV4’s base engine is a naturally aspirated (read: not turbocharged) 2.5-liter, four-cylinder rated at 174 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. It shifts through a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive comes standard, and all-wheel drive is offered at an extra cost. The EPA rates the RAV4 at 23 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg in a combined cycle. That’s on the low side for the segment, but Toyota has a fuel-saving trick up its sleeve.

2018 Toyota RAV 4
2018 Toyota RAV 4

Efficiency-minded buyers can order a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that teams the aforementioned four-cylinder engine with a small electric motor linked to a lithium-ion battery pack. The system’s total output of 194 hp goes to the RAV4’s four wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Hybrid is more expensive, but it returns 34 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 32 mpg in a combined cycle. It’s near the top of its class in terms of efficiency.

Let’s walk across the street to Honda. The base CR-V carries on with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that’s a generation old in terms of under-the-hood technology. It makes 184 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque. Like the RAV4, the CR-V comes standard with front-wheel drive and offers all-wheel drive at an extra cost. All models come with a CVT regardless of which wheels receive power. The EPA gives the all-wheel drive CR-V fuel economy figures of 25, 31, and 27 in its three testing cycles.

2017 Honda CR-V
2017 Honda CR-V

There’s no hybrid option, but Honda offers a down-sized, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that uses a turbocharger to pump out 190 hp and 179 lb-ft. of torque. Peak torque remains available over a broad band that stretches from 2,000 to 5,000 rpm so the turbo four delivers more linear acceleration than the non-turbocharged engine. Front-wheel drive and a CVT come standard; all-wheel drive is available at an extra cost. The EPA predicts buyers who get the optional engine will see 27 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway, and 27 in a combined cycle.

Interior and exterior design

The RAV4 has come a long way since the original, first-generation model made its North American debut in 1995. It’s grown in size considerably over the course of four generations. The current model went on sale in January of 2013 so it’s hardly the newest member of the Toyota lineup, though it received a face-lift in 2015 that brought a new-look front end with smaller headlights and a sharper-looking grille plus redesigned lights out back. Toyota updated the interior, too, but it nonetheless looks like a product designed in the early 2010s.

The original CR-V arrived in America in February 1997 with one mission in mind: Take down the RAV4. Like its rival, it has evolved from a utilitarian off-roader to a family-friendly soft-roader and it has swelled over the course of five generations.

The CR-V arrived in America in February 1997 with one goal:
Take down the RAV4

In terms of styling, it has the upper hand because it’s a much more modern car that went on sale in December 2016. It looks more current, sharing styling cues with other members of the Honda lineup like the newest Accord and the 10th-generation Civic. The cabin layout is more streamlined, too, with fewer switches and buttons.

Right-sized, the RAV4 measures 183 inches from bumper to bumper, 67.1 inches tall, and 72.6 inches wide (excluding the mirrors). It offers 38.4 cubic feet of trunk space as a five-seater and 73.4 cubic feet as a two-seater. The similarly sized CR-V stretches 180.6 inches long, 66.5 inches tall, and 73 inches wide. Trunk space checks in at 39.2 cubic feet with five passengers on board and 75.8 cubes with the rear seats folded flat.

Safety

In addition to stability and traction control systems, the RAV4 boasts dual front and side airbags for the front passengers and curtain airbags for the two rows of seats. Every RAV4 regardless of price also comes with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), which bundles driving aids like a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, a lane departure warning system, automatic high beams, and dynamic cruise control.

You’ll get less equipment at Honda. Every CR-V receives stability and traction control, dual front and side airbags for the front passengers and curtain airbags for both rows. Electronic driving aids like lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control aren’t available on the cheapest CR-V, however. They’re standard on the other three trim levels.

Pricing

The RAV4 lineup includes no less than 10 different models. Named LE, the most affordable trim level costs $24,510. The other trim levels are called LE Hybrid, XLE, XLE Hybrid, Adventure, SE, SE Hybrid, Limited, Limited Hybrid, and Platinum, respectively. Plan on spending $34,850 for a top-of-the-line RAV4, which puts the crossover in luxury car territory.

CR-V prices start at $24,150 and end at $32,650 The lineup is divided into four trim levels named LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring. Honda adopted a much more basic packaging solution than Toyota but both nameplates ultimately offer roughly the same set of features. The notable exception is the RAV4’s Adventure trim, a looks-focused model Honda hasn’t answered to — at least not yet.

Key rivals

The Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V compete in the same segment. Other options buyers should look at include the Chevrolet Equinox (which is available with a fuel-efficient turbodiesel four-cylinder engine), the Subaru Forester, and the popular Ford Escape.

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