How the two electrified family SUVs stack up
Just like Ford and Chevrolet seem to constantly be one-upping each other, Honda and Toyota do the same—why else do you think new Accords and Camrys happen to regularly appear in the same model year? The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid may have just debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show, but the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is just now playing catch-up with the already-released Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Let’s see how these two electrified family SUVs stack up.
Beauty is almost certainly in the eye of the beholder, but it’s fair to say that despite its minor face-lift for the 2020 model year, the Honda CR-V Hybrid isn’t what you’d call classically pretty. Its grille is bold and lines generally clean, but the CR-V lacks the beautiful and purposeful lines that define some of the segment’s design standouts.
That’s not to say the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid belongs in the same conversation as, say, a Mazda CX-5 on the design front, but the current RAV4 is nonetheless one of the most successful designs to roll out of Toyota in a while. The RAV4, unlike the CR-V, attempts to make a statement, with bold lines, a distinctive frontal signature, and unique traits like the ability to opt for a contrasting black roof. If only the Toyota sat a little more squarely on its wheelbase, the RAV4 very well could be considered among the better-looking vehicles in the segment.
Unlike in decades past, both the CR-V Hybrid and RAV4 Hybrid are devoid of any screaming “look at me!” tell-tale signs of their electrification. Both wear hybrid badges on their front-quarter panels and tailgates and have subtle shades of blue in their trim—in the Toyota’s case, it’s in its badge, whereas Honda works it into the CR-V’s badge and headlights.
While the RAV4 Hybrid walks away in the sheetmetal contest, the CR-V Hybrid hits back strong inside its cabin. With the 2020 CR-V Hybrid, Honda continues to offer up a functional, high-quality, and thoughtfully designed cabin. The biggest change to the cabin is the revamped center console, which now includes more room for purses and other bags, as well as wireless phone charging and a push-button shifter on the hybrid. The CR-V Hybrid also continues to be a packaging marvel, offering up segment-leading passenger and cargo volume, although the hybrid does lose its space-saver spare tire to the powertrain’s battery, in favor of an inflation kit.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid scores highly on interior design, too. Its cabin feels much more truck-ish than the Honda’s, with big knobs and buttons and a large infotainment screen, though we’re no fans of Toyota’s infotainment systems. Where the RAV4 loses ground to the CR-V Hybrid is in passenger and cargo space; rear seat room is tight on the Toyota, and the RAV4’s cargo area is of little use with the rear seats folded as they don’t fold fully flat like the Honda’s. Notably, the RAV4 Hybrid still has a space-saver spare in its trunk.
Under the Hood
Although both the Honda and Toyota have hybridized powertrains, the ways in which each vehicle is electrified is decidedly different.
The CR-V Hybrid is the more traditional of the two powertrains. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter I-4 with an electric motor sandwiched between it and its CVT automatic. A traditional mechanical driveshaft connects the front wheels to the rear, giving the CR-V its standard all-wheel drive. Honda hasn’t publicly disclosed horsepower yet, but given that the CR-V Hybrid’s powertrain is the same one that’s in the Accord Hybrid, we expect the engine and motor to combine for about 212 hp. Fuel economy figures have yet to be released either, but you can expect the CR-V Hybrid to significantly improve on the non-hybrid all-wheel-drive model’s EPA-estimated 27/32/29 mpg (8.7/7.3/8.1 L/100 km) city/highway/combined score.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid breaks with tradition in its layout. Upfront is a 2.5-liter I-4 paired with a CVT, while in back is an electric motor whose sole job is to drive the rear wheels, giving the RAV4 Hybrid all-wheel drive. An advantage for this type of powertrain is reduced weight and complexity by getting rid of the driveshaft, though in extreme situations with a depleted battery, RAV4 Hybrid owners could temporarily lose all-wheel drive. Combined output for the two systems is 219 hp and the Toyota scores an EPA-estimated 41/38/40 mpg (5.7/6.2/5.9L/100 km).
Pricing has yet to be announced for the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid, but we expect it to go for a small premium over the non-hybrid model. Prices for the base Honda CR-V Hybrid LX should start around $27,750 USD and top out around $36,500 USD for a loaded CR-V Hybrid Touring. The hybrid powertrain will also be available on the mid-tier EX and EX-L trims. The CR-V Hybrid is expected to go on sale by the first quarter of 2020.
The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s starting price—if we’re right on our Honda pricing estimates—should be slightly higher than the CR-V’s. The base RAV4 LE Hybrid starts at $29,220 USD and tops out at $37,750 USD on the RAV4 Limited Hybrid. Toyota also offers the hybrid powertrain on the XLE and XSE RAV4s.