Canada’s Compact SUV Kings: The 2019 CR-V vs the 2019 Toyota RAV4May 29th, 2019
The popularity of SUVs is showing no signs of slowing down. While the Civic remains the number one selling car nationally, here at T&T Honda the CR-V has outsold the Civic over the last couple of years. It’s a similar story over at Toyota. The RAV4 had a significant lead on Toyota’s own Corolla in 2018. In some ways, it’s not hard to understand why. The CR-V has a marginally smaller footprint than the Civic. It’s only bigger on the outside in height. This makes for easy parking whether the downtown, at the mall, or in the garage at home. The Civic and the CR-V have comparable people space – it’s just configured a little differently. The Civic is more economical king but the CR-V still provides an impressive blend of acceleration and efficiency. Throw in available AWD and cargo flexibility into the mix and it’s no surprise that many buyers are willing to pony up just a few more dollars to move from sedan to SUV.
The CR-V and the RAV4 have been fierce rivals since their arrival on the Canadian market in the late nineties. Both have grown in size and stature in the last couple of decades and for many customers in they currently represent that sweet spot in terms of size, price, room, and efficiency. So, how do they stack up against each other?
We’ll start under the hood. The CR-V and the RAV4 take decidedly different approaches. The CR-V has turbocharged 1.5 litre four paired to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) while the RAV4 uses a normally aspirated 2.5 litre four with an eight-speed automatic. (We’ve come a long way from three speed automatics!) The RAV4 engine has the edge on power and torque over the CR-V. It puts out 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque vs the Honda’s 190 and 179 respectively. Despite being down on hp and torque the CR-V is a little lighter, allowing it to keep pace with the RAV4. In acceleration tests, the two are evenly matched, hitting 100 km/hr within a second of each other. Fuel economy is very similar as well.
As is often the case with such close competitors, the numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Motor Trend (MT) describes the RAV4’s engine as coarse and loud and the CR-V’s as silky and seamless. The Toyota’s engine may get the job done well enough but doesn’t seem too happy about it. The operation of the CR-V’s CVT was also favoured by MT staff. Now when given the choice enthusiasts usually prefer the stepped power delivery associated with a conventional automatic, especially under hard acceleration. However, the RAV4’s automatic is too eager to downshift and prone to lurching and Honda’s CVT’s are consistently praised as some of the easiest to live with.
The general consensus is that both SUV’s ride comfortably, handle competently, and brake securely. However, some reviewers found that the vague steering and degree of body roll exhibited by the RAV4 made for a less confidence inspiring experience. The CR-V remained composed even when pushed hard.
Both vehicles are more refined than their predecessors. Consumer Reports (CR) found the CR-V to be significantly quieter than the RAV4 but that had more to do with the Toyota’s gruff engine than differences in wind and road noise.
Passenger room is plentiful in both but the RAV4 doesn’t always use that space to its best advantage. The front passenger seat is set too high and is lacking in height adjustment. The rear seats don’t offer much contouring and are set too low for adequate thigh support. They’re also trickier to access as the doors don’t open very wide. Contrast this to the CR-V rear doors which open to nearly 90 degrees. The CR-V also leads in front passenger storage between the seats, both in terms of space and versatility.
The CR-V can accommodate a bit more cargo at 2,146 litres vs the RAV4’s 1,976.5. It’s easier to expand the cargo area in the CR-V which is equipped with quick release pulls just inside the hatch on both sides. The RAV4 comes only with seat-back mounted release levers which have to be accessed by opening the rear doors. Additionally, the CR-V has a lower floor height and a higher roof line, better for loading heavy and bulky objects. Both are available with hands-free power tailgates with programmable height.
The 2019 RAV4’s infotainment system is a step up from that of the previous generation. Apple CarPlay is finally available (standard on the CR-V). However, Android Auto is not (also standard on the CR-V). Apple may still lead in the Canadian market but 43% of smart phones on our side of the border use Android. It seems like a strange oversight on Toyota’s part.
There are a number of other features available on the CR-V that are absent in the RAV4 line up, ranging from small conveniences to luxury items: a panoramic moonroof, remote engine start, capless fueling system, and a power adjustable front passenger seat.
Again, on paper and by the numbers, it’s hard to imagine two more closely matched vehicles. Let’s face it: the 2019 RAV4 is a solid choice, especially with the improvements seen in this latest generation. Nonetheless, the CR-V manages to pull decisively ahead not with a knockout punch in any one area but by benefit of dozens of extra touches and that extra bit of polish that make for a friendlier and more functional SUV and more engaging driving experience.