Car Comparison: 2010 Honda CR-V vs. 2010 Toyota Rav4

Last Updated: Apr 5, 2010

The Competitors
The 2010 Honda CR-V and the 2010 Toyota RAV4 are light-duty compact SUVs based on car chassis – the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, respectively. That construction qualifies them as “crossovers.” Both are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

The CR-V is America’s top-selling SUV of any type. It seats five passengers and has a 180-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Four trim levels are offered: base LX, midrange EX, plusher EX-L with leather upholstery, and top-line EX-L with leather and a navigation system. Base price range is $22,255-$29,205 with front-drive, $23,505-$30,455 with AWD (prices in this review include destination fees).

The Toyota RAV4 is slightly larger than the CR-V and squeezes in room for a very small third-row seat, giving it seven-passenger capacity. It offers two engines, a 179-horsepower four-cylinder and a 269-horsepower V-6. Base, tauter-suspension Sport, and upscale Limited models are offered. Base-price range is $22,300-$25290 with front-drive, $23,700-$26,690 with AWD. Sport and Limited models are optionally available with leather upholstery, a navigation system, and a sunroof.

The Similarities

  • High marks from owners for initial quality and for long-term reliability.
  • Nice blend of responsive handling and a composed, absorbent ride
  • Roomy seating for five adults and a pleasing mix of soft-touch and hard-plastic interior surfaces.
  • Good cargo room.   
  • Friendly fuel economy. The Civic is EPA-rated at 21/28 mpg with front-drive, 21/27 with AWD. The RAV4 rates 22/28-21/27 (front-drive/AWD) with the four-cylinder, 19/27-19/26 with the V-6.
  • They have good resale value, and they’re popular, with the CR-V leading all SUVs sales and the RAV4 ranking third, behind the Ford Escape.

The Differences

  • The RAV4 is faster. With the V-6 – an engine also used in heavier Toyota and even Lexus models – the RAV4 easily satisfies most any driving challenge. Equipped with the four-cylinder engine, the RAV4 is only marginally livelier than the CR-V, but that’s just enough to keep from feeling as overmatched as the Honda can feel when trying to merge onto a fast freeway or climb a long grade.
  • The CR-V has a more comfortable back seat. Though second-row passenger room is surprisingly generous in both these crossovers, the CR-V has a comfortably shaped seat, while the Toyota has a flatter, harder bench. The RAV4’s available third-row seat is third-grader-sized, but comes in handy nonetheless. 
  • The RAV4 will be redesigned sooner. The RAV4 underwent a subtle styling facelift for model-year 2010 and will be substantially re-engineered for model-year 2012. The CR-V also got a few appearance tweaks – and 14 additional horsepower -- for 2010, but it won’t be fully redesigned until model-year 2013.
  • The CR-V has a liftgate. Honda gives the CR-V a conventional tailgate hinged at the top so the cargo bay is accessible from either side. The RAV4’s tailgate is a large door hinged on the right, making the cargo bay accessible only from the left or behind. It also requires quite a bit of room to open fully – an issue when you’re parallel parked.
  • The RAV has more AWD versatility. Neither the RAV4 nor the CR-V is intended for off-road use, though ground-clearance – 7.4 inches for the Toyota, 7.3 for the Honda – is enough to keep from scraping underbody parts on a snowy road or leaving them behind on an uneven gravel path. Only the RAV4, however, comes with a dashboard button to lock in a 50/50 front/rear torque split up to 25 mph, adding a measure of security in low-tractions conditions.
  • The CR-V offers Bluetooth cell-phone and USB iPod linking, but only as part of the navigation system exclusive to the highest-priced EX-L model. The RAV4 makes Bluetooth available on Sport and Limited models, but it doesn’t offer a USB interface.

The Winner
The Toyota RAV4, mainly by virtue of its available V-6 engine. The V-6 adds about $2,000 to the price of a comparable four-cylinder RAV4 but pays off in the confidence to merge and overtake safely, even with a full complement of passengers and cargo. And over time the V-6, which has a five-speed automatic transmission, probably won’t use but a smidge more gas than the four-cylinder, which has only a four-speed automatic and needs to work harder, more often.