So. Much. Cake.
Motor Trend|July 2020
HONDA FINALLY HAS A HYBRID SUV TO CHALLENGE TOYOTA'S DOMINANCE
ZACH GALE

Go ahead, splurge. Treat yourself to the best compact SUV in the showroom—just don’t let the hybrid badge surprise you.

If that H word provokes associations of stodgy compromise-mobiles, consider this: The 2020 Honda CR-V and 2020 Toyota RAV4 hybrids offer engine upgrades that deliver more responsiveness and efficiency than almost any SUV under $40,000.

Oh, and you’ll retain the interior space you expect while traveling more than 100 miles farther between fuel stops. The hybrid models of these segment-dominating rivals provide satisfying and guilt-free motoring. If you really are set on the best on the showroom floor, though, which of these two offers the best top-trim hybrid? The CR-V Touring or the RAV4 XSE?

Most folks who buy hybrids prioritize gas mileage, so we’ll start there. The Toyota (along with Ford’s new Escape Hybrid) wins the race for data-obsessed buyers, with an excellent 40 mpg combined EPA rating. But you’re reading MotorTrend, which means you understand there’s more to the picture than simply superb efficiency. The all-wheel-drive Honda falls a tiny bit behind the others in the economy race, with an EPA-rated 40/35 mpg city/highway to the AWD Toyota’s 41/38 mpg and the Ford’s 43–44/37 mpg (frontdrive or AWD). Our real-world results with the Toyota and Honda further reflected the former’s advantage.

Even if you’re only an environmentalist when Greenpeace volunteers are at the door, how would you like three extra days of commuting without stopping for gas? With the CR-V, upgrading from an AWD model to the AWD hybrid means 126 extra miles of range if you drive as efficiently as the EPA’s estimates. The RAV4 hybrid extends driving range by 145 to 174 miles, depending on the trim. (Editor’s note—as of this writing, Toyota was working through an issue affecting an unknown number of 2019 and 2020 RAV4 Hybrids, in which a variation in the shape of the fuel tank may be impacting the car’s ability to get a full fill-up.)

Enthusiasts of good deals can get behind these hybrids, too. Honda only charges $1,200 more for the hybrid relative to its AWD non-hybrid trim, and Toyota has cut its hybrid premium to only $1,000 more than AWD non-hybrid variants. That’s compelling. Depending on how and where you drive, paying off those premiums with the money you save on gas over the course of a five-year loan should be a cinch.

“Remarkably fun.” That’s what testing director Kim Reynolds had to say of the RAV4 XSE hybrid after he drove it at the limit on our figure-eight course, which evaluates braking, cornering, accelerating, and the transitions in between. Our RAV4 Hybrid tester hit 60 mph in just 7.1 seconds, beating the CR-V Hybrid’s 7.5 seconds, almost a full second quicker than our 2019 RAV4 XLE AWD gasoline long-termer, and about 6 seconds swifter to 60 than the original 1998 Prius. Not bad for a hybrid SUV only 1 mpg off that trailblazing, stubby hybrid sedan.

At a more relaxed pace, the RAV4 XSE Hybrid’s dynamics are solid but not quite as entertaining. “The steering on the Toyota feels more artificial and has less feedback,” MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina said after driving the Honda and Toyota. It’s more than just the steering, though.

The sport-tuned RAV4 XSE is less compliant than the CR-V, yet the Honda still feels fun for a sensible crossover. Reynolds preferred the RAV4’s dynamics on the track but spoke to what we discovered on the street: The Honda feels nimbler during casual driving. The CR-V also hands the RAV4 the title for quickest compact SUV hybrid in exchange for slightly more comfortable suspension and transmission tuning.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM MOTOR TRENDView All

CULTURE SHOCK

WITH FAST 9 SLATED FOR A JUNE 25 RELEASE, WE EXAMINE THE FRENCHIE'S INFLUENCE

10 mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021

MID-ENGINE MADNESS

You can only ask this question in the context of a Fast and Furious film: How do you top a ’68 DodgeCharger with a jet engine in the trunk?

7 mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021

The Israeli Job: “Fixing” traffic control to liberate $1.2B in lost commuting time

Who hasn’t been stuck seething at an interminable red light with zero cross-traffic?

3 mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021

NOTHIN' BUT A GOOD TIME

TWO TYPE R’S, AND THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE AROUND HERE

10+ mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021

WITHOUT ITS ROADSTER, PORSCHE MIGHT NOT EXIST TODAY

That was the headline on a New York Times story published on January 20, 1996, detailing the German marque’s effort to turn around its finances and reinvent the way it had built cars for more than 40 years.

10+ mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

HOW DID ROB CORDDRY MAKE THE JOURNEY FROM FUNNYMAN TO AUTOMATIVE HOOLIGAN? WE GO BEHIND THE SCENES

7 mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021

2022 Volkswagen Golf R

Drifting a Volkswagen Golf is weird. Like, really weird. The Golf has long been a beacon of front-wheel drive—and FWD-based all-wheel-drive— excellence, but getting its rear to swing wide typically meant yanking a handbrake or getting hit by a dump truck.

2 mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021

LETTING THE DAY GO BY

BENTLE ROLLS-ROYCE, AND AN EPIC SOCIALLY DISTANCED DRIVE UP THE PACIFIC COAST

10+ mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021

BIG POWER, BIG LUXURY, JUST PLAIN BIG

2024 GMC HUMMER EV SUV

4 mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021

2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport HPD

Perception Matters: Looking more like a truck is no bad thing

3 mins read
Motor Trend
July 2021
RELATED STORIES

SURFING OVER LAND

Curtis Cole’s Hilux Surf was engine-swapped and overland-equipped in record time

3 mins read
Four Wheeler
July 2021

How Toyota Dodged The Chip Shortage

As rivals shutter plants, the automaker’s close monitoring of its supply chain gives it an edge

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
April 12, 2021

National Cycle VStream Sport Windscreen for Honda Africa Twin

There are many ways to improve motorcycle rider comfort, covering everything from bar risers to footpegs. Having done almost all of them, I decided to switch out my stock windscreen to see if it made a difference, especially on long trips.

1 min read
Adventure Motorcycle (ADVMoto)
March - April 2021

2021 SUV OF THE YEAR

Enter the battleground

10+ mins read
Four Wheeler
May 2021

Auto chip shortage may have domino effect in smartphone industry

Auto industry leaders are experiencing disruptions, with estimated production shortfalls in single-digit percentage range in the first quarter of 2021.

1 min read
Industry Leaders
March 2021

CHASING SQUIRRELS

“ There is a hole here,” I said, gazing through the lime green tubing as the front passenger tire inched closer to the hole. “Uh-huh,” he replied.

6 mins read
4LOW Offroad Magazine
February/March 2021

The Top 5: If you're building a 4x4, then these should be the first items on your list

I was listening to my buddies Verne Simons and Trent McGee on a podcast the other day, and one of the hosts asked them, “What’s the best off-road upgrade you’ve made to a 4x4?” I won’t divulge their answers because, in my opinionated opinion, only one of them answered correctly.

2 mins read
Four Wheeler
March 2021

First time ‘in charge'

You would expect some lessons were to be learned on extended trailer trip

10+ mins read
The Good Life
February 2021

AUTOART - 2018 TOYOTA CENTURY

1:18 | $230 | no. 78762

3 mins read
Die Cast X
Winter 2021

TRAVEL TOY

Snow, sand, and mud—Joel Lawrence’s 4Runner does it all with an M101 trailer in tow

3 mins read
Four Wheeler
February 2021