2020 Honda CR-V vs 2020 Toyota RAV4

By , 9/23/2019

The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4 are the best selling SUVs available, can one outshine the other?

It may not be the most exciting comparison of all time, but it sure is the most important. The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V have sold more units in the past several years than any other vehicle. The closest next SUV is the Nissan Rogue, and even that barely competes. 

That leads me to this: Which of these two powerhouses is the one I would choose? That proves to be a difficult question. Both of these SUVs represent the pinnacle family SUV, and are renowned for their reliability, practicality, and viability. 

The Honda CR-V vs Toyota RAV4 competition is like being forced to pick your favorite Power Ranger. Sure, the Red Ranger has superhuman speed, but the Yellow Ranger has a sonic scream. How do you choose?

Both the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V mix practicality, versatility, and fuel-economy into an appealing and affordable package, what’s not to love in either?

Styling

The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V may be the most practical vehicles available today, but they don’t exactly have a lot going for them in the looks department. SUVs have never exactly been known for their beauty. The inherent shape of an SUV makes difficult to style due to the need for space and squared dimensions. Sedans or coupes aren’t as restricted by size requirements or practicality needs and therefore low swooping lines or aggressive hard angles are possible. SUVs are confined to more or less the same dimensions to a box with an engine. Not exactly a great canvas to start with

That being said, after nearly 20 years of production, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 have begun to find their strides in design. Honda, following their current design patterns carried over from the Accord and Civic, have gone with a more muted and contemporary look for their family SUV. Hardly a surprise. Taking a risk and designing an important vehicle like the Honda CR-V with unorthodox styling or polarizing design could prove to be detrimental to sales. Especially in a segment as competitive as the small SUV class. That being said, Honda could have given the CR-V slightly more uniqueness. Next time you can't remember where you parked, you will be hard stretched to find your CR-V in a crowded parking garage. It blends in better than a pig on a farm. Some would say that’s a good thing, though I’m not in that faction. 

The Toyota RAV4, on the other hand, was redesigned for the 2019 model year, and stylistically set itself apart from the rest of its competitors, especially when you buy the right trim level. In standard trims, the RAV4 looks like most other family SUV’s, only with slightly more flair. The parking lot may still feel a bit like a Where’s Waldo? book in a RAV4 LE. If you choose the Adventure or even XLE trim level, the aggressive angles and rugged design start to be apparent. The angled headlights and gaping mouth encompass a more modern approach to the front end and the creases and angles along the side of the RAV4 continue the modern aggressive into the rear of the vehicle. All in all, it comes out to be quite an attractive SUV, and the aggressive modern design fits in nicely with the current automotive landscape. 

Between the Honda CR-V vs Toyota RAV4, the two SUVs look about as exciting as one can expect. There clearly will not be any design awards given for the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, but the designs are modern enough to not raise any red flags. The Honda CR-V is a bit boring but fits in with the rest of the crop of SUVs The Toyota RAV4 has a more aggressive and modern style, but not so much to make that you have to think about if you like it or not. Out of the two, the more recently designed RAV4 is clearly a better-looking vehicle, for now. However, Honda is soon expected to release a mid-model refresh of the CR-V which will modernize its aging look. 

Interior

It’s important to like the way your car looks on the outside, but what’s really going to make you happy is when you sink into the driver's seat, look around, and are pleased with where you are spending your time. It’s important to surround yourself with things that make you feel good, successful, and happy. Your surroundings and immediate environment have been proven to directly influence your personal happiness, professional development, and mindset. Therefore, loving the space that you spend 17,600 minutes per year in, is a decision that can directly impact you the way you think. That is why I put so much importance on the interior of your vehicle. Even the slightest annoyance in the interior is enough to throw off the entire space. 

The Honda CR-V’s interior is nicely designed and is indeed, a nice place to be. The dash is ergonomically suitable, meaning it has buttons and dials placed in logical positions. And most importantly, the slidey dial thing that Honda thought was a good idea for the volume control, is gone. In its place is a traditional dial. Thank you, Honda, for listening to us on that one. The materials are fine and there aren’t many places that cost-cutting is apparent. But “fine” is the keyword here. There is nothing that stands out as glaringly bad or faulted in the interior of the Honda, the materials are fine, the seats are fine, the infotainment system is - you guessed it - fine. But that isn’t exactly what everyone is looking for. Mediocrity works well in many aspects, playing it safe means that you offend no one and everything works well. However, the unique quirks of the car are what make us love it. Would you love your husband as much without his quirks and oddities? Okay, maybe that was a bad example. Nonetheless, those oddities are, like it or not, what makes him unique opposed to every other husband. I’m not complaining that there aren’t more things wrong with the CR-V, but some Honda uniqueness would fit in nicely inside the cabin. 

The RAV4 suffers a similar fate to that of the Honda CR-V, though to a slightly less extent. The more recently designed interior is obviously more modern and makes better use of its materials. Soft, comfortable seats and a dash that actually incorporates some form of artful design create a more inviting environment. However, the overuse of plastics and a poorly designed steering wheel take away from the overall experience. Creative use of LED accent lights does help to bring some charm back into the interior. In the Adventure trim level, some interesting colors have been incorporated into the interior, however, including a light grey with bright orange accents. In this color scheme, the interior can even be called “Fun”. 

Features

Between the two SUVs, the interior design may leave much to be desired, when it comes to tech, however, they are both loaded. Apple CarPlay is standard kit in both vehicles, as is automatic/remote activated hatch, adaptive cruise control, and automatic climate control. 

Safety features in both vehicles are where they shine over the rest of the competition. The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V both come standard with forward automatic braking, lane departure warning, cross-traffic alert, and forward collision alert, automatic high beams, features you that are still being charged for in domestic brands

Other safety features available include road sign assist, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and more. Both vehicles received 5-star crash safety ratings and are also IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus recipients. Unparalleled safety is something Toyota and Honda both do right. 

The Honda CR-V does have some special features that outshine the Toyota. Standard heated front seats are a nice bonus, as is standard remote engine start. You cold weather folk out there will like that. (Trust me, we get the need for that, we’re from Detroit!) The true special feature of the Honda, however, is the value. The CR-V starts at a lower MSRP and since the residual value is rated better than Toyota’s, the CR-V typically has much better lease offers. So in lieu of some special features, you get to save a little in the long run. 

Toyota’s special features include a terrain management system that actively monitors the vehicles wheel spin, wheel articulation, and inclinometer readings to provide the driver with the most available traction on any surface. The digital rear-view mirror is also a nice party trick that actually proves to be extremely helpful. The panoramic sunroof and wireless charging pad are nice added bonuses as well. 

The Numbers

When looking at the analytical data of these two SUVs, you need to pull out a micrometer to see the differences. In nearly every aspect, the SUVs are close enough to be inconsequential. The wheelbase is 1.2 inches larger in the RAV4. Passenger volume goes to the CR-V by 3 in3. Cargo Volume? CR-V takes it by 1 ft3. Even fuel economy numbers are similar enough. The RAV4 is rated at 25 city and 33 highway while the CR-V is rated at 27 city and 33 highway. 

When there are numbers this similar, it becomes obvious that these companies benchmark each other's products when developing their own. 

The good news for you is that you can but these cars based on emotion, rather than being forced into one because it has slightly better fuel economy or cargo space. Which means you can buy the one you like rather than buying the one that you should. 

Price

The final number, and truthfully, the important number. The price. Let’s break it down for each.

Honda CR-V Toyota RAV-4
LX $24,450 LE $25,650
LX AWD $25,850 LE AWD $27,050
EX $27,350 XLE $27,450
EX AWD $28,750 XLE AWD $28,850
EX-L $29,850 XLE Premium $29,650
EX-L AWD $31,250 XLE Premium AWD $31,050
Touring $32,850 Adventure $33,050
Touring AWD $34,250 Limited $33,650
    Limited AWD $35,050

Closing

These two SUVs are probably the most difficult vehicles to compare today. Full disclosure, this comparison took me longer to finish than any other ever before. Comparing two vehicles as similar as these proves to be extremely difficult, and these two SUVs are so hilariously similar it's obvious the two brands have reached a stalemate. 

As soon as one develops a new feature, the other quickly jumps to match it. If Honda is up on MPG, you better believe Toyota will be there to catch up. If Toyota is more feature-rich, you can bet your bottom dollar that Honda will be right behind it with the same options. This is necessarily a bad thing, though. Nothing makes a product better than good old fashioned competition. 

The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 may be some of the less exciting vehicles available today, but they sure are the most interesting. Products like these that reach thousands of customers are interesting in their own right. So while they’re not as exciting as the Toyota Supra or Honda Civic Type-R, they sure make a much more compelling subject to study.
When faced with the decision between these two vehicles, you may be tempted to compare figures or find the best pricing, but the best way to buy one of these two vehicles is emotion alone. 

Which do you like more? Which one catches your interest more? Either way, getting into a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 is going to leave you with the absolute best SUV you can buy today, so the choice is easy, choose the one that you prefer and you won’t be making the wrong choice. 

2020 Honda CR-V vs 2020 Toyota RAV4

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