SUVs continue to fly off dealer lots faster than hand sanitizer on grocery store shelves — and each month, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 battle for the slot of compact SUV favorite. Toyota added a hybrid model to the redesigned RAV4’s lineup for 2019 and Honda followed suit for 2020 with the CR-V Hybrid. So, which of the fuel-sipping versions of these perennially popular rivals is better?
Related: What’s the Best Compact SUV of 2019?
I’ve driven both, and here’s how they stack up in the areas of acceleration, fuel economy and price.
Acceleration: RAV4 Hybrid
By the numbers, it looks like the powertrains have similar output, but they actually perform quite differently. The RAV4 Hybrid is much quicker off the line than the CR-V Hybrid (and the regular RAV4); it’s surprisingly brisk from a stop and stays strong for smooth passing power. The CR-V Hybrid, meanwhile, takes its time to wake up from a stop but eventually spools up steadily for adequate passing power.
The RAV4 Hybrid pairs a 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder engine with electric motors, a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack and a continuously variable automatic transmission that’s good for 219 horsepower total. The CR-V Hybrid operates without a conventional automatic transmission; it pairs a 2.0-liter gasoline engine, an electric drive motor and an electric motor-generator and has a total system output of 212 hp.
Both models have an EV mode that allows them to operate briefly on electric power alone when selected, but in each, the mode was tough to sustain for long periods of time and at speeds above a crawl.
Fuel Economy: RAV4 Hybrid
The numbers are close, but Toyota wins this one with slightly higher mileage. The RAV4 Hybrid, which comes standard with all-wheel drive, is EPA-rated at 41/38/40 mpg city/highway/combined for the base L model, much higher than the non-hybrid base AWD L’s rating of 27/33/29 mpg.
Meanwhile, the CR-V Hybrid, which also comes standard with AWD, answers back with mpg ratings that are pretty close; it’s EPA-rated at 40/35/38 mpg compared with the non-hybrid model’s 27/32/29 mpg rating.
Price: CR-V Hybrid
The 2020 CR-V Hybrid starts at $28,870 for the base LX trim, slightly less than a base LE RAV4 Hybrid at $29,470 (prices include destination).
Both models are well equipped in the safety department. The CR-V comes standard with the Honda Sensing bundle of safety and driver assistance technology, including automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control.
The RAV4 Hybrid comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 system standard; it includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams, road sign assist and lane keep assist.
More From Cars.com:
- 2019 Toyota RAV4: 5 Things We Like (and 5 Not So Much)
- 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid: Lower Price, Lower MPG Than Escape, RAV4 Rivals
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- Research the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
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Overall: RAV4 Hybrid
The two models are pretty close, but the RAV4 edged ahead. Price is a big consideration, but the RAV4 is more efficient and has more confidence in the power department.
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