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

toyota rav4 vs honda cr v 2019 header

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 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system. Toyota finally offers Apple CarPlay, but it continues to resist Android Auto due to safety and privacy concerns. Better-equipped models benefit from an 8.0-inch touchscreen and, for audiophiles, an 11-speaker sound system made by JBL. Buyers can also order the RAV4 with a digital rear-view mirror, which appears on a Toyota for the first time, plus a wireless phone charger and up to five USB ports.

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 affords you 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 (meaning not turbocharged) 2.5-liter, four-cylinder tune to deliver 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It shifts through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive comes standard, and all-wheel drive is offered at an extra cost. The EPA rates the RAV4 at 26 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg in a combined cycle. Those figures are pretty good for the segment, but Toyota has a fuel-saving trick up its sleeve.

2019 Toyota RAV4

Efficiency-minded buyers can order a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that teams the aforementioned four-cylinder engine with three electric motors linked to a lithium-ion battery pack. The system’s total output of 219 hp goes to the RAV4’s four wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Hybrid is more expensive than the standard RAV4, but it returns Toyota-estimated fuel economy figures of 41 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 39 mpg combined. It delivers improved performance, too.

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 180 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.

toyota rav4 vs honda cr v 2018

There’s no hybrid option, but Honda offers a downsized, 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-gen model made its North American debut in 1995. It’s grown in size considerably over the course of five generations. Introduced in 2018, the current RAV4 takes on a more traditional SUV look than its predecessor, with angular lines, a frowning grille, back exterior cladding, and other elements cribbed from the Toyota 4Runner and the futuristic FT-AC concept. Under the skin, the RAV4 rides on the same Toyota New Global Architecture platform as the Camry and Prius, among other models.

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. In terms of styling, it shares styling cues with other members of the Honda lineup like the newest Accord and the 10th-generation Civic. Designers streamlined the cabin layout by removing as many buttons and switches as possible. They took the volume knob out, too, but later brought it back by popular demand.

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

Right-sized, the RAV4 measures 180.9 inches from bumper to bumper, 67.2 inches tall, and 73 inches wide (excluding the mirrors). It offers 37.5 cubic feet of trunk space as a five-seater and 69.8 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, a knee airbag for the driver, 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 five trim levels. Named LE, the most affordable trim level costs $25,500. The other trim levels are called XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, and Limited. Plan on spending $33,500 for a top-of-the-line RAV4, which puts the crossover in entry-level luxury car territory. Toyota hasn’t announced pricing for the Hybrid model yet.

CR-V prices start at $24,350 and end at $34,150. The lineup is divided into four trim levels named LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring, and each one is offered with two- or four-wheel drive. Honda adopted a 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, the Mazda CX-5, and the popular Ford Escape.

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