If you are looking for a compact SUV, there is no better place to start your search than with the two models that started the revolution: 2020 Honda CR-V vs 2020 Toyota RAV4. They started the compact segment, and they have dominated it ever since. With nearly a quarter-century in the books, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are still at the top of their game. So, when faced with a decision this close, how exactly do you decide? While brand loyalty certainly plays into some people’s reasoning, it’s going to come down to the small details—the fine print, you might say. Maybe not the most fun details, but necessary, nonetheless. So, to make an informed decision, you’ll want to consider what it is you want from an SUV in a compact (or not-so-compact) form.
What Should an SUV Offer?
Segmental semantics aside, what does everyone need from an SUV? You want a lot for your money, essentially. You want to maximize your investment, and purchasing a vehicle is one of the most significant investments a lot of us will make in the next few years. With a compact SUV, possibly the one feature that carries the most weight, in terms of value, is space. The Honda CR-V has more front headroom and rear legroom, which translates to happier passengers, especially with a smaller SUV. With two SUVs that are so equally matched, this is certainly a consideration to take seriously.
Another feature to keep your eye on when narrowing down your list is the resale value. While both the RAV4 and CR-V have excellent resale value, the CR-V takes the title as having the highest resale value in its class. Honda’s resale value, in general, is the envy of the industry, and this applies to the CR-V as well. In the case of the CR-V, this is due to an abundance of high-tech equipment, impressive fuel economy, and copious cargo space, not to mention its engaging driving dynamics and contemporary styling.
Yet another important thing to consider is not just the overall price but the price at each trim level. The Honda CR-V has lower prices at higher trim levels than the Toyota RAV4. Whereas the RAV4 prices can climb quickly with options, the CR-V takes a more measured approach to its pricing, which allows for much more value and a lower overall price for your budget. So let’s look at these differences—and some of the similarities—between the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. You might be surprised how close this comparison is until you consider how essential the differences can be when viewed over an extended period of time (because let’s be honest, both SUVs are known to last a long, long time, so you will want to make sure you are happy with your purchase).
The Honda CR-V won Kelley Blue Book’s Best Buy of 2020, the fifth time it has won the award. So what makes the CR-V worthy of consistently winning such an honor? Kelley Blue Book states that the CR-V is simply better than its competitors in the segment. That’s quite a blanket statement to make about such a crowded segment. One of the reasons for this is because while Honda knows it has a great product, it does not stop changing and reengineering the CR-V. New for this year is a hybrid model, and this is after a recent facelift for the CR-V, where only two years ago Honda brought a whole new formula of practicality, efficiency, refinement, and value to the segment.
And now, the 2020 model year adds a new turbocharged engine, Honda Sensing standard across the model range, and a new hybrid model. Everyone is still trying to catch up, it seems, as Honda keeps making the CR-V—already among the nation’s best-selling compact-crossover SUVs—even tougher for the competition. So let’s take a look at the engine options for these two SUVs.
The hybrid engines, however, show a little separation as the Honda engine edges out the Toyota. The CR-V’s 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder, with a dual electric motor, offers 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque while returning 40 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway. The Toyota RAV4 has a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine, with electric motors, and sees 219 hp, though only 163 lb-ft of torque, while returning 41 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway. Again, it’s remarkably close, but the abundance of torque in the Honda hybrid engine gives it an edge where it counts the most.
The Honda CR-V’s base engine is a 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 that produces 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque. This engine returns an excellent 28/34 MPG (city/highway). This is solid power, incredible fuel efficiency, and an excellent option for the standard engine. The Toyota RAV4 has a 2.5-liter inline-4 with similar numbers: 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque (26/35 MPG). Both of these engines are great options, and the numbers are tight, so you can see how this is such a close comparison.
The 2020 Honda CR-V makes everyone happy. With so much room and cargo space, you will be able to impress your friends with how much valuable space you have in your compact SUV. It is among the leaders in overall interior space, which is actually considered one of its best attributes. You can see why it was considered the best buy of the year—it’s the best in just about every important category. The 60/40-split rear seats fold easily with a pull of a lever, and the rear cargo area features a 2-tier setup where the floor can be flat or recessed to keep objects secure. The CR-V Hybrid features 33.2 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 68.7 cubic feet with the seats folded, while the standard model has 39.2/75.8 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Toyota RAV4 has a good amount of space, too, though it is not quite as roomy where it counts the most. The standard RAV4 features 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the RAV4’s rear seat and 69.8 cubic feet with its back seats folded down. So for the standard models, the CR-V features 6 cubic feet more space with the seats folded down and almost 2 cubic feet more with the seats folded up. That could mean the difference between an extra suitcase, a fishing pole, or a beach chair. Space is valuable when you are packing your vehicle for a trip, and the more you have, the better.
Lower Price at Higher Trims
The RAV4’s pricing runs higher than most of its competitors, including the CR-V. The Honda CR-V has a starting price of $25,050, and the top of the line Touring edition begins at $33,250. The Toyota RAV4, on the other hand, starts slightly higher than the CR-V at $25,950 and quickly climbs to $34,480 at the highest trim. And if you want off-road capability and other optional features and packages on higher trims, this can push the RAV4’s cost to near $40,000. So for affordability purposes, the CR-V is the way to go, yet again.
So, Which is Better?
While it’s close, it’s not too close to call: the 2020 Honda CR-V wins this comparison easily. With a better hybrid powertrain, more space, and significantly lower high-trim prices, it is clear why the Honda CR-V continues to win awards for being the best.