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2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Subaru Forester: Which Is Better?

Without a doubt, the 2020 Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester will surely be two of the most popular compact SUVs in the coming year. The Subaru was fully redesigned just last year, while the CR-V has been around in its current form since the 2017 model year and receives an update for 2020. The Forester offers just one engine option in what is overall a relatively streamlined lineup. The CR-V, on the other hand, can be had with either a regular gas engine and, for the first time for 2020, as a hybrid.

As buyers looking for a new compact SUV in 2020 are likely to at least consider both of these SUVs, we’ll compare the two in a number of categories below to outline their major differences.

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Subaru Forester exterior


The Forester and CR-V both wear rather forgettable exterior designs. While neither is particularly rugged, the Forester wears the more aggressive exterior of the two. Up front, it wears a smallish square grille with angular, “surprised”-looking headlights. The Forester also has the boxier greenhouse of the two vehicles. Around back, the Forester has bracket-shaped taillights with few other design elements of note. A Sport trim level is available that gets you orange trim and black accents.  See the 2020 Subaru Forester models for sale near you

The CR-V is what you might call egg-shaped, thanks to curved rear haunches and a rounded greenhouse. Up front, the updated fascia and headlights go together nicely, with intricate LED lighting and a grille that incorporates mesh, black plastic and chrome. As for the side profile, the CR-V’s beltline is high while the rear window kinks upward. Around back, the CR-V’s most noteworthy design element is its taillights that extend all the way up the D-pillars on either side of the rear window.  See the 2020 Honda CR-V models for sale near you

The CR-V is just under two inches shorter than the Forester when it comes to overall length, an inch-and-a-half wider. The Subaru is an inch-and-a-half taller than the Honda.

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Subaru Forester interior


Inside is more of the same. Neither of these vehicles has an interior that pushes the envelope. Depending on trim level, the Forester can be had with metallic orange accents on its Sport trim or brown leather seating on its top-of-the-line Touring trim. The CR-V comes with a black or gray interior, with upper trims adding wood accents, which frankly look pretty dated here in 2020. The Forester’s interior is particularly conservative, with the only feature of note being a secondary infotainment screen perched atop the dashboard, above the main screen that resides in the center stack. The CR-V’s most unique interior design element is its shift lever that juts out from the base of the dashboard rather than emerging from the center console. Beyond this, there’s not much else to see here when it comes to these vehicles’ interiors.

In terms of rear seat space, the CR-V offers 40.4 inches of legroom to the Forester’s 39.4 inches, so the CR-V comes with a 1-inch advantage here. On to cargo space. The two vehicles are fairly similar. With their second rows in place, the CR-V offers 39 cubic feet while the Forester offers 35. With their second rows folded flat, both vehicles come with 76 cu ft. of room overall.

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Subaru Forester mechanicals


For 2020, all non-hybrid CR-V trims come with 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder making 190 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque and paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission. Any gas-powered CR-V can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive. Equipped with AWD, the non-hybrid CR-V returns 27 miles per gallon in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined.

New for 2020 is the CR-V hybrid. Power will come courtesy of a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gas engine paired with an electric motor for a total output of 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful CR-V in the lineup. Fuel economy figures for the CR-V hybrid have yet to be released, but we expect 40 mpg combined. More details will be revealed closer to when the CR-V Hybrid goes on sale in early 2020.

The Forester is offered with just one engine, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that makes 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque and comes paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission, just like the CR-V. Given that this is a Subaru, the Forester comes standard with AWD and returns 26 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined.

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Subaru Forester tech

Features & Tech

Features available on the 2020 Honda CR-V include a 7-in touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a foot-activated hands-free power tailgate, a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power seats, a heated steering wheel and LED headlights.

The Forester offers just about all of these features as well. Lower trims get a 6.5-in infotainment system, while Limited and Touring models get a larger 8-in unit, although Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard across the board. Unique to the Forester is a PIN-code entry system, premium audio and a few different driver-selectable traction modes. While it offers a power tailgate, the Forester lacks the clever foot activation feature you get with the CR-V.

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Subaru Forester safety


Both the 2020 Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester earn Top Safety Pick+ designations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for their excellent crash test performance and array of active safety features.

The 2020 CR-V comes standard with Honda’s suite of active safety features, which the company refers to as “Honda Sensing.” This consists of forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert come on all but the base trims.

The Forester comes with a few active safety features as standard as well, although the Subaru’s offering isn’t as generous. Subaru brands this grouping of features as “EyeSight.” On every 2020 Forester, you’ll find pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and lane-centering (new for 2020), adaptive cruise control and lead vehicle start alert, which notifies you if a stopped vehicle in front of you starts moving again and you aren’t paying attention. Automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking and a driver distraction mitigation system enter the picture with upper trims.

While both of these vehicles are among the safest in the segment, the CR-V earns a leg up for offering more active safety tech on lower trims.

2020 Honda CR-V vs. 2020 Subaru Forester reliability


Honda and Subaru build vehicles that are generally pretty reliable. Either company offers a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, in line with the rest of the industry, although not as generous as the offerings of Hyundai, Kia and, for the time being, VW.


Factoring in unavoidable extra fees, the 2019 Honda CR-V starts at $26,145 and tops out at around $35,000. Pricing for the 2020 CR-V Hybrid has yet to be released. The all-new Forester starts at $25,505 and tops out at a little over $35,000 as well, again factoring in those extra fees.


The Forester and CR-V are designed to compete with one another, and therefore they’re pretty evenly matched. Both offer just about all of the features you’d expect out of a modern compact SUV, including great safety ratings and standard active safety tech, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and relatively large cargo areas. While the Forester comes standard with AWD, the cost of this feature is still built into the price of the car, so we don’t really view it as the advantage the Subaru wants you to think it is, as you can get the same functionality on the CR-V for roughly the same price. For this reason, it’s hard to call one of these compact SUVs the clear winner here, but we’re inclined to give the nod to the CR-V for its more generous offering of active safety tech on lower trims and the addition of the new hybrid model for 2020, which we expect to be pretty compelling once official pricing and specs are revealed. Find a Honda CR-V for sale or Find a Subaru Forester for sale

Chris O'Neill
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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  1. OBVIOUSLY a pro-Honda bias here. Notice that the Subaru is always shown in a very unpopular Green, but the CR-V is in Red or Blue, except for the pair of photos where a Silver Honda is professionally illuminated, but the Subaru is a bad back-lighted snapshot… I guess it’s Blue. The Forester is a much better car, and it’s reliability cannot be touched by the once-reliable Honda. 

    • I hope the Subaru has finally fixed the head gasket problems. Our family has owned 13 Subaru models, and have had bad head gaskets in 7 of them. I currently have an Impressa sitting and waiting for a new engine.

      I have had over 60 Hondas in our company vehicle program, and have only had 1 fail because of a timing belt. I still have to stick with Honda, even though my son works for a Subaru dealership.

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