Toyota RAV4 vs. Honda CR-V Comparison Test: Which Top-Selling SUV Is Best?

2024 honda crv exl vs 2024 toyota rav4 trd offroad
Comparison Test: Toyota RAV4 vs. Honda CR-VMichael Simari - Car and Driver

If you're scrolling through the never-ending list of compact crossovers available today, we understand if you're feeling overwhelmed. But two names on that list likely stand out as comforting, familiar choices, largely because the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 basically invented this segment when they first arrived in the 1990s. And they're still going strong today, with both consistently ranking among the bestselling vehicles in the U.S.

The Honda CR-V has been redesigned since the last time we visited this pair, as the sixth-generation model arrived for 2023. The fifth-generation RAV4 is nearing the end of its life cycle, but it received a small update for 2022 that brought revised styling and a few other tweaks. We figured now was as good a time as any to revisit this long-standing rivalry and choose our favorite among these popular, well-established SUVs.

2024 honda crv exl vs 2024 toyota rav4 trd offroad
Michael Simari - Car and Driver

What We Tested

Although both the CR-V and RAV4 are placing an increasing emphasis on their hybrid variants, the base gas-only powertrains still make up a large portion of sales, so the examples you see here have the standard setups with optional all-wheel drive. For the Honda, its nonhybrid powertrain consists of a 190-hp turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four with a continuously variable automatic, while the Toyota has a 203-hp 2.5-liter inline-four and an eight-speed automatic.

Toyota RAV4

HIGHS: Rugged look and feel, smooth-shifting transmission, lots of features.
Buzzy engine, less-than-comfy rear seat, dour interior.
Solid bones but showing its age.

The RAV4 lineup includes a far wider range of trim levels than the CR-V's does, and our 2024 example of the Toyota came kitted out in TRD Off-Road trim. This setup includes a few rugged-looking styling tweaks, all-terrain tires, and a modified suspension, and our version also came festooned with various extras and accessories that ballooned its sticker price to a steep $44,844. That's a whole lot more than our plain-looking mid-spec 2023 CR-V EX-L AWD, which cost only $37,565 and came with but one option, its $455 Radiant Red Metallic paint.

2024 toyota rav4 trd off road
2024 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-RoadMichael Simari - Car and Driver

How They Drive and Perform

The CR-V and RAV4 have similar strengths and weaknesses on the road. Both have accurate steering and good ride quality, but each suffers from an unrefined engine that brings lots of noise, vibration, and harshness into the cabin under hard acceleration. The RAV4's engine is the worst of the two in this regard, as the naturally aspirated four-cylinder is buzzy and harsh, while the CR-V's turbo four has more torque low down in the rev range, meaning it feels more responsive and doesn't require you to explore the upper rev range as often.

One key difference between the two is transmission type, as the Honda has a continuously variable automatic and the RAV4 has a traditional eight-speed automatic. We prefer the Toyota's setup to the Honda's, mostly because its conventional shifts avoid the droning sensation of the CVT. But the two cars' acceleration performance is similar, with the 190-hp Honda getting to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds and the 203-hp Toyota hitting the mark in 8.3 seconds.