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2018 Honda CR-V vs. 2018 Subaru Forester: Which Is Better?

  • The Honda CR-V was all-new for 2017.

  • The 2018 Subaru Forester offers a sporty turbocharged XT model.

  • The Subaru Forester will be all-new for 2019.

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2018 Honda CR-V review, and the 2018 Subaru Forester review.

Two of the most popular compact SUVs on the market are the 2018 Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester. Both offer reliability, practicality and all-wheel drive. Below we’ll look at the major differences between the two to determine which is the better vehicle in 2018.

The Honda CR-V was fully redesigned for the 2017 model year. The 2018 CR-V starts at $24,250 and tops out at around $35,000. The Forester was last redesigned for 2014, and will be all-new again for 2019. The 2018 models start at $22,795 and reach beyond $36,000 in the fully-loaded 2.0XT Touring trim.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Subaru Forester Exterior

Basic Specs

The engine found in the entry level CR-V LX is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder making 184 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. EX, EX-L and Touring models come with a 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 190 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. Either engine is available with front- or all-wheel drive.

The differences between the two engines are marginal. Equipped with all-wheel drive, the 2.4-liter achieves around 27 miles per gallon combined, while the 1.5t achieves 29 mpg combined. Opt for front-wheel drive, and both of these figures improve by one mpg. The likely reason for the inclusion of the 2.4-liter is to further differentiate higher trim level CR-Vs from the entry level model.

With the 1.5-liter turbo engine, the CR-V goes from 0-to-60 mph in 7.2 seconds.

All CR-Vs are equipped with a continuously variable transmission. See the 2018 Honda CR-V models for sale near you

The Forester is also available with two engines, though unlike the CR-V, one is a performance option. The engine in volume-selling Foresters is a 2.5-liter boxer 4-cylinder making 170 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. Performance-oriented XT models come with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, enough to hustle the Forester XT from 0-to-60 mph in 6.3 seconds.

Non-turbocharged models earn 28 mpg combined, while turbocharged XT models earn 25 mpg overall.

All Foresters are offered with standard all-wheel drive. Entry level models are available with a 6-speed manual, although most models will come equipped with a CVT. See the 2018 Subaru Forester models for sale near you

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Subaru Forester Exterior


Both Honda and Subaru have reputations for being generally reliable, although Subaru’s 2.5-liter engine has been known to experience overheating issues on occasion. Both Honda and Subaru offer a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, on par with the rest of the industry.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Subaru Forester Exterior


Both the 2018 Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester earn Top Safety Pick designations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The CR-V achieves scores of Good in all major categories, while the Subaru achieves these scores in all but one category.

Honda’s full suite of driver assistance safety features, which it refers to as “Honda Sensing,” is offered as standard starting with the CR-V EX. This means EX through Touring models come with adaptive cruise control, front automated emergency braking, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and rear cross-traffic monitoring.

Like the CR-V, entry-level Foresters are unavailable with driver assistance safety features. Upper trim levels are offered with either optional or standard Subaru EyeSight, which includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist. Also optional are automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and reverse automatic braking.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Subaru Forester Exterior


The CR-V is 180.6 inches long, 73.0 inches wide and 66.5 inches tall, offering 8.2 inches of ground clearance. The Subaru Forester is slightly longer than the CR-V at 181.5 inches, narrower at 70.7 inches and taller at 68.2 inches. The Forester offers 8.7 inches of ground clearance.

Up front, the CR-V offers 40.1 inches of headroom and 41.3 inches of legroom. Back seat passengers get 39.2 inches of headroom and 40.4 inches of legroom. The Forester offers a little more room up front than the CR-V, with 41.4 inches of headroom and 43.0 inches of legroom. Back seat Forester passengers are offered 39.8 inches of headroom and 38.0 inches of legroom.

The CR-V offers slightly more cargo space than the Forester. The CR-V offers 39 cu ft. of storage behind the second row. With the second row folded, this figure increases to 76 cu ft. The Forester offers 34 cu ft. with the second row up, and 75 cu ft. with it folded.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Subaru Forester Interior

Interior Design

Thanks to its recent redesign, the CR-V has an interior that is, overall, modern and attractive. The CR-V is available with black or gray cloth or leather interior. While certain aspects of the CR-V’s interior look futuristic, the inclusion of faux wood trim feels dated. We’d prefer to see aluminum or piano black in its place.

Despite the vehicle’s age, the Forester’s interior still looks attractive and simple. Black or gray cloth or black or brown leather seating surfaces are offered. In addition to the main infotainment screen, the Forester has an additional, smaller screen at the top of the dashboard displaying various bits of information.

2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Subaru Forester Interior

Technology & Infotainment

The CR-V offers an available panoramic moonroof, hands-free power tailgate, keyless access, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a power driver and passenger seat, heated steering wheel and LED headlights.

Among the Forester’s highlights are an available power liftgate, heated steering wheel, power driver seat with memory settings, Harmon Kardon Audio, LED headlights and a panoramic moonroof.

Starting with EX models, the CR-V get s a 7.0-in infotainment screen. To the joy of many, the 2018 CR-V has gained a physical volume knob for its infotainment system for 2018. While Honda’s infotainment menus are said to be frustrating, the CR-V is available with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which allows buyers to circumvent the CR-V’s lackluster native system. The CR-V offers one 12-volt outlet, located in the center console storage box, and four USB ports.

The Forester comes with either a 6.2- or 7.0-inch touchscreen running Subaru’s Starlink infotainment system, which is said to be pretty easy to use. The 2018 Forester does not offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The Forester comes with three 12-volt outlets, two USB ports and an aux port.

Autotrader’s Advice

We’re inclined to give a slight edge to the CR-V here, simply due to its newness. The 2018 CR-V is a 1-year-old design, while the 2018 Forester has been on sale since 2014 and is at the end of its lifecycle. Additionally, the CR-V offers a superior infotainment experience with amenities like Apple CarPlay and Android auto, along with other modern touches. Still, the Forester offers most of the features on the CR-V, and with an all-new model about to hit dealer lots, there are likely upcoming deals for the outgoing 2018 model.

That said, if it’s performance you’re after, check out the potent Forester XT. A rare, sporty offering in the compact SUV segment, the XT offers 250 hp and a sport-tuned suspension, and is regarded as being particularly enjoyable to drive. Find a Honda CR-V for sale or Find a Subaru Forester for sale

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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