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2017 Honda CR-V vs. 2017 Toyota RAV4: Which Is Better?

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author photo by James Riswick December 2016

Today, we have a head-to-head battle of the two best-selling SUVs in the U.S. Well, sort of. The 2017 Honda CR-V has been completely redesigned, so we'll see if it still warrants its best-seller status and beats out the second-best-selling 2017 Toyota RAV4, which carries over mostly unchanged. More importantly, we'll also help you figure out which vehicle might be better for you and your family.

2017 Honda CR-V

2017 Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V was redesigned from the ground up for 2017. It has a bigger back seat and cargo area, more ground clearance and a more refined driving experience. Its cabin offers improved quality and comfort, as well as additional features. A new turbocharged engine option also improves fuel economy.

Check out our article "2016 vs. 2017 Honda CR-V: What's the Difference?" to learn about all the changes.

2017 Toyota RAV4

2017 Toyota RAV4

For 2017, every RAV4 gains Toyota's Safety Sense suite of accident-avoidance technologies as standard equipment. A new range-topping Platinum trim level also debuts.

2017 Honda CR-V2017 Toyota RAV4

Reliability

Historically, both the CR-V and the RAV4 have been two of the most reliable vehicles on the road. That has certainly been the case with the current-generation RAV4, but since the CR-V is an all-new model, there's no reliability data at present. Honda's touchscreen interface has caused problems in other models, but that may change with the updated version in the 2017 CR-V. We expect its excellent reliability to continue.

2017 Honda CR-V2017 Toyota RAV4

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Honda CR-V is available with one of two engines, both of which are more efficient than what's offered on the RAV4. (Well, sort of, but more on that later.) The CR-V LX trim has a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. All other trims get a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which has a similar output of 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque. The two engines behave differently, however, and the new turbo gets superior fuel economy. The base engine returns 26 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive lowers all figures by 1 mpg). The turbo engine returns a superb 28 mpg city/34 mpg hwy.

The RAV4's fuel economy also depends on trim level, but not as much, and they all come with the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that produces 176 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. As you can see, that's less than both CR-V engines, and not surprisingly, it means the Toyota is the slower vehicle. Load it up with people and stuff, and you'll likely notice the difference between these two family-haulers when getting up to speed or passing on the highway. Fuel economy stands at 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy for the popular LE and XLE trim levels. Opting for other trims and/or all-wheel drive reduces those estimates by about 1 mpg. In terms of actual money spent on fuel, opting for the CR-V can save you up to $200 on average, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now, as we alluded to, the RAV4 is available with a unique hybrid model that returns 34 mpg city/30 mpg hwy. Those are the best figures in the class, and they should save you an average of about $100 per year over the turbo CR-V -- although the RAV4 Hybrid is costlier to purchase.

2017 Honda CR-V2017 Toyota RAV4

Safety

Both the CR-V and the RAV4 are leaders when it comes to safety features. The 2017 RAV4 comes standard with forward-collision warning with automatic braking, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. A blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert are optional on upper trim levels. All of those features come standard on the CR-V EX trim level and above -- and they're all typically only available as options on competitors' upper trim levels.

The CR-V has yet to be crash-tested by a third party, but the RAV4 received the best-possible 5-star overall crash rating from the government. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick+ for its best-possible performance in all crash tests and for its front-crash prevention system's Superior rating.

2017 Honda CR-V2017 Toyota RAV4

Technology

The 2017 CR-V is available with more infotainment features, but the RAV4 is a little easier to use. Every RAV4 includes an easy-to-use touchscreen, though you do have a choice between a 6.1-inch one on the LE and XLE trims and a 7-in one on the Limited and Platinum. We're especially fond of the simplicity of that touchscreen's audio controls.

The CR-V comes standard with a large color audio display with a traditional array of buttons and knobs. It's easy to use, but it lacks the feature content included with the touchscreen interface found on the EX trim and higher. Those features include satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and four USB ports. Among those, the RAV4 only offers satellite radio and is limited to one USB port. That said, the CR-V's touchscreen will probably be more difficult to use than the RAV4's, despite being updated from what's found in the Honda Civic and Pilot.

2017 Honda CR-V2017 Toyota RAV4

Driving Experience

The 2017 Honda CR-V feels like the more grown-up SUV to drive. It has stronger engines, a quieter cabin with fewer vibrations and a ride that offers an impressive degree of comfort and composure. And although the CR-V doesn't feel quite as lithe as it used to (credit its less responsive steering off-center), it handles better than both its predecessor and the RAV4. The Toyota feels like more of a suburban runabout, whereas we'd be more inclined to take the Honda on a cross-country road trip in addition to using it as a grocery-getter.

Interior Quality and Space

This generation of the RAV4 has always been a bit too utilitarian, with its rather industrial dash design and its abundance of hard black plastic. Sure, the padded bit of stitched simulated leather on the dash is a nice touch, but it's not enough -- especially on pricier upper trims. You can't even get real leather seating in the RAV4, and its SofTex synthetic substitute won't convince anyone that it was sourced from a cow. The center console is also inefficiently designed, with separate single cupholders and oddly shaped bins.

The 2017 CR-V stands in sharp contrast. Not only is it superior to the RAV4, but it sets a new benchmark for the segment. It's more visually appealing, and the materials have a rich look and feel. The uppermost trim looks legitimately luxurious, and real leather seating is available. We're also quite impressed with the CR-V's versatile center console, which does a great job stowing small and large items alike.

Both the CR-V and the RAV4 are class-leaders when it comes to space -- by quite a lot. This is especially true in regards to cargo capacity: The CR-V's best-in-class maximum of 75.8 cu ft. and the RAV4's second-best-in-class 73.4 cu ft. are 5 to 20 cu ft. better than their competitors. Each also has a usefully low load floor (your back and/or your dogs will appreciate that), and the cargo areas themselves are usefully boxy, facilitating the stowage of bulkier items.

Passenger space is also better than most, although the new CR-V has a bit more rear legroom, and the seat itself is a bit more comfortable. Again, the Honda feels more grown-up and accommodating than its Toyota rival.

Value

The RAV4's base price is about $900 higher than the CR-V's. With that, you do get the standard Toyota Safety Sense tech (likely worth more than $900), but Honda also provides standard alloy wheels, automatic climate control, a higher-quality cabin and a more powerful and efficient engine. The pendulum continues to swing in Honda's favor when you compare the midgrade RAV4 XLE and CR-V EX. They're basically equally priced, but the CR-V has a few extra features and an even better engine. Things get really out of whack on the top end -- the new, range-topping RAV4 Platinum costs nearly $2,500 more than the comparable CR-V Touring. Besides its heated steering wheel, it's hard to see what it provides that the CR-V doesn't. In fact, given its lack of leather and Apple/Android connectivity, it effectively has less.

Autotrader's Advice

The Toyota RAV4 offers superior utility and reliability compared to most compact SUVs, but there's really nothing it does well that isn't matched or bettered by the CR-V. Honda's completely redesigned SUV outdoes the Toyota in terms of fuel economy, interior quality and overall refinement.

Find a Honda CR-V for sale

Find a Toyota RAV4 for sale

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Used 2016 Honda CR-V FWD LX
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Certified 2016 Honda CR-V AWD LX
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Used 2016 Honda CR-V AWD Touring
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Used 2016 Honda CR-V AWD Touring
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Honda CR-V vs. 2017 Toyota RAV4: Which Is Better? - Autotrader