Which Crossover is Right for You?
In the incredibly popular compact crossover segment, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are sales royalty. The CR-V has served as the U.S.’ best-selling SUV for years, and the RAV4 might take that torch for 2016. Although lots of crossover options exist in the $23,000-$36,000 USD range beyond Honda and Toyota, that’s where some will start and finish the buying search. If you’ve exhausted all other crossover options and keep flipping between the RAV4 and CR-V, keep reading for reasons you might want to go with one or the other.
2016 Toyota RAV4: The SE’s Two-Tone Paint Options
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE showed up in the #MTGarage recently with eye-catching two-tone paint. Available on the SE trim as a $600 USD option, the S-Code treatment involves a choice of blue, white, or black as the base color with silver accents around the bottom of the crossover and on the side-view mirrors. Along with the SE’s attractive 18-inch wheels, the two-tone paint option really made an impression on a few editors.
2016 Toyota RAV4: Available LED Headlights
Although LED headlights are now standard on every Corolla compact sedan, the rollout to other Toyota models is taking a bit more time. Still, I appreciate the newly refreshed RAV4’s LED headlights on the SE and Limited trims. Where Honda offers an upgrade to projector-beam halogens, the Toyota’s LED headlights—on those higher-trim models—is a real improvement.
2016 Toyota RAV4: Real MPG Efficiency
Fuel economy might be a major reason Toyota stopped selling a six-cylinder RAV4 option with the last generation, and the 2016 RAV4 delivers here. Unlike many vehicles run through the Motor Trend-exclusive Real MPG tests designed to simulate real-world driving, the RAV4’s Real MPG numbers actually exceeded EPA estimates. The 24.5/30.3 mpg (9.6/7.8 L/100km) city/highway is above the EPA’s 22/29 mpg (10.7/8.1 L/100km) for a 2016 RAV4 AWD and beyond many other crossovers in Real MPG. (CR-Vs we’ve tested in the past have fallen below EPA numbers.)
2016 Toyota RAV4: Second Engine Option
So the RAV4 hasn’t offered a V-6 engine option for a few years, but for 2016, Toyota does make available a second powertrain. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is the only vehicle in its class, though we’ve heard rumors before that a Nissan Rogue Hybrid is on the way. For now, the hybridized RAV4 is the way to go if you want better acceleration than the regular model can deliver, and it comes with better fuel economy. It’s true, the RAV4 Hybrid has less cargo space than the regular model, but not by much. It has 35.6 and 70.6 cubic feet with the rear seats in place and folded versus 38.4 and 73.4 cubic feet on the non-hybrid. The RAV4 Hybrid figures aren’t too far off the spacious CR-V’s 37.2 and 70.9 cubic feet.
2016 Toyota RAV4: The Sport Seats
The RAV4 SE gets leatherlike SofTex seats, but that’s not what makes them special, nor is it the fact that they’re power operated. More than one editor commented on how comfortable the lightly bolstered seats were. After spending many thousands of miles behind the wheel of Motor Trend‘s long-term 2015 CR-V, I can say the Honda’s seats are fine, too, but Toyotas equipped with the sport-bolster seats have the edge here.
2016 Toyota RAV4: Easier Rear-Seat Reclining Feature
Depending on how often you use the rear seats of your crossover, this could be important or insignificant. But I can share from experience that when the rear-seat recline function isn’t easy to use, some passengers will simply opt to leave the seat alone for your crosstown trip instead of get as comfortable as possible. The CR-V’s interior is unbeatably flexible, but the rear-seat recline function is positioned at the top of the seat backs, so unlike the RAV4’s large handle on the side of the seat bottoms—near where your hand naturally rests once you’re sitting down—the CR-V’s is slightly more difficult to adjust once the rear-seat passenger has already sat down.
2016 Honda CR-V: Cargo Functionality
One area where the CR-V and RAV4 both excel is cargo functionality. These two crossovers partially earn their top-selling status with cargo areas with conveniently low load floors, a relatively wide opening, and tons of space before you fold down the rear seats. But say you do want to fold down those rear seats—this is where the CR-V pulls ahead of everything in its class. It’s one of very few crossovers in its class that can fold down the rear seats from the cargo area (with a pull of a lever). There’s no need to walk over to the side doors, which on the Honda open to a helpfully wide angle. From the doors, just pull a strap near the side of the seat bottoms, and watch the headrests fold automatically, followed by the seat back folding forward. These aren’t so-called “magic” seats, as the subcompact Fit’s folding functionality is known, but they’re pretty close.
2016 Honda CR-V: Driving Fun
When driving fun is a priority, the CR-V is the crossover to pick between these two (though if that’s your only priority, get a Mazda CX-5). There’s more steering feel, and as a bonus, the Honda is slightly quicker. The CR-V Touring AWD’s 8.3-second 0-60 time compares favorably to the RAV4 SE AWD’s still decent 8.7-second time.
2016 Honda CR-V: Responsive CVT
With the CR-V’s naturally aspirated engine mated to a CVT, the Honda provides a smooth, shiftless driving experience. For a four-cylinder crossover, it’s also fairly responsive, too. Non-hybrid RAV4s use a six-speed automatic, and the hybrid models go with a CVT.
2016 Honda CR-V: Honda LaneWatch
Staff opinions on Honda’s innovative LaneWatch feature are divided, but I love the blind-spot-reducing technology on the long-term CR-V. Only offered on Hondas, a rear-facing camera is placed under the passenger-side side-view mirror. Unless you turn off the feature, you see on the car’s touchscreen what the camera sees every time you turn on the right turn signal. It’s still not a replacement for doing your due diligence as a driver to make safe maneuvers, but LaneWatch can be very helpful.
2016 Honda CR-V: Superior Figure-Eight Performance
Results in the Motor Trend figure eight test, which tests acceleration and agility, points to the CR-V’s edge over the RAV4 in driving dynamics. The Honda completed the course in 27.8 seconds at 0.60 g (average) to the Toyota’s 28.6 seconds at 0.57 g (average), not the best performance in the class. The same is true with 60-0 mph braking. Our CR-V Touring AWD tester came to a stop in 119 feet to the RAV4’s 124 feet.
2016 Honda CR-V: More Screen Space
The CR-V’s navigation system trails the class leaders, but such touchscreen displays are used for far more than just getting directions or showing a map. Unlike everything in this class except for the Subaru Forester, the CR-V boasts two displays on the center stack, including a smaller screen above the 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s standard on the EX trim and up. There are so many combinations of info you can display on those two screens, and I’ve appreciated them in my time with the long-term CR-V. With the RAV4 SE’s base price just above $30,000 USD, we’d like to see the available 7.0-inch screen as standard instead of the 6.1-inch unit.
Tell us what you think. If you were choosing between these two compact-crossover sales leaders (after having exhausted other options), would you get a RAV4 or a CR-V?