Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD
Pros: Has Distinctive styling, comfortable ride, easy-to-use touchscreen.
Cons: Loud engine noise, not as spacious as the CR-V, well equipped versions are more priced.
Pros: Spacious rear seat, responsive handling.
Cons: Noisy on the highway, frustrating touchscreen, not fuel economical.
These two models have led a charge of compact SUVs that now found their way into more garages than any other new vehicle. But is one of these two cars a better pick than the other....
Spending time with AWD versions of the RAV4 and CR-V makes it clear why each has become so eminently popular. Easy to drive and easy to live with, both the RAV4 and the CR-V can easily fit a wide variety of lifestyles, thanks to their versatile interiors and user-friendly personalities.
The 2017 CR-V, and the 2019 RAV4 are near mirror images of one another in terms of dimensions. Toyota and Honda manufacturers have been imitating each other in this car undustry for a while now, and although they look different, both stretch about 73 inches wide and 180 inches long. Both the Toyota and the Honda also feature two rows of seats and space for five people, and both can accommodate up to 10 carry-on suitcases in their cargo holds.
CR-V makes better use of its space than the Rav4 does. Its rear seat feels more spacious both for two and three passengers, with a wider bottom cushion and more legroom. That's not to say that the RAV4's back seat is squuezed; it will comfortably accommodate two adults, but has more stretch-out space in the rear of the CR-V. Loading cargo also is a bit easier in the CR-V due to its load floor having a 1.2-inch lower liftover height than the RAV4's.
The CR-V's audio system, however, lags behind the RAV4's both in responsiveness and appearance. Honda has since come out with a more advanced system, but it's currently limited to the Honda Accord sedan and the Honda Odyssey minivan. The CR-V's 7.0-inch HondaLink touchscreen looks outdated as compared to the Rav4, is slow to respond to inputs, and lacks a tuning knob. In contrast, Toyota's 8.0-inch Entune touchscreen is more visually appealing, is quicker to respond, and has menus that are easier to navigate. The Honda's only clear tech advantage is that it offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, while the Toyota will only play nice with your iPhone.
The RAV4 has a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, while on the other hand the CR-V is powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter four mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Despite the Toyota's having a larger and more powerful engine, it produces 203 horsepower against the Honda's 190 horse power. Yet the RAV4's larger engine is more efficient than the CR-V's smaller one in our 75 mph highway fuel-economy test drive.
Both the CR-V and RAV4 go down the road smoothly, and both SUVs ride comfortably firm, with handling that inspires confidence. The Honda's steering feels slightly lighter than the Toyota's, which can make it feel more eager in corners, but the Toyota's solidity and planted composure make it equally satisfying on a twisted road. However, both of these cars generate excess noise. The CR-V's loudness stems mostly from an excessive amount of road and wind noise penetrating the cabin, while the RAV4's biggest issue is its buzzy and intrusive engine note. There's more engine noise than we'd like in the Honda as well, but at least it's not as coarse in tone as the Toyota's. Several quieter, more serene SUVs exist within this vehicle segment, namely the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Hyundai Tucson.
The Bottom Line
The fully loaded honda CR-V Touring and Toyota RAV4 Limited versions represent the top of their respective model lines. Even so, there is a significant price difference between the two, with the RAV4 costing slightly lower to the CR-V’s for the 2012 model in Nairobi, Kenya. In this matchup, the Honda simply provides a better value and is our choice over the Toyota. While the RAV4 is slightly more distinctive in appearance and a bit more tech-forward with its sharper touchscreen interface, the CR-V makes up for its lack of style with impressive substance. The Honda provides more space, better engine performance, and plenty of features, all for less money than the Toyota. That's a winning formula as much today as it was when the CR-V first hit the scene more than 20 years ago.