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The Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 have been competing against each other for decades — with both models helping to pioneer the compact crossover SUV segment in the 1990s. However, despite getting a complete overhaul for the new model year, the 2023 Honda CR-V loses to the Toyota RAV4 in one big way. It is not as capable for off-road use, which has other implications, including driving in snow and on poor-quality roads.

2023 Honda CR-V is not as capable for off-road use as the 2023 Toyota RAV4

Black 2023 Toyota RAV4 compact crossover SUV driving off-road
2023 Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

Drivers are increasingly looking to head off the beaten path to fulfill their desire to wander and get away from the chaos of daily life. Consequently, automakers are offering off-road capable vehicles — not only for trucks and larger SUVs — but also for the compact SUV segment. This includes the 2023 Toyota RAV4, which is better for off-road use than the 2023 Honda CR-V.

There are multiple factors that make the RAV4 a superior off-road vehicle to the CR-V. For one, Toyota has more expertise than Honda in building vehicles that can hit the trails. This includes the 4Runner midsize SUV and the Tacoma midsize truck, which are two of the best off-road vehicles available. 

Also, while both compact SUVs offer an all-wheel drive system, the one for the RAV4 provides better traction for travel on rough terrain. Another factor is higher ground clearance. The RAV4 has up to 8.6 inches of clearance, compared to 8.2 inches for the CR-V. The higher clearance enables the Toyota SUV to safely travel over uneven surfaces, such as rocks and other obstacles. 

Unlike the 2023 CR-V, the 2023 RAV4 has off-road models

Side view of blue 2023 Honda CR-V compact crossover SUV
2023 Honda CR-V | Honda

Furthermore, unlike the 2023 Honda CR-V, the 2023 Toyota RAV4 offers off-road models. This includes the Woodland Edition, Adventure, and TRD Off-Road trims. The most capable one is the TRD Off-Road, which has beefy all-terrain tires, a TRD-tuned suspension, special shock absorbers, and larger overfenders. 

Even if you never plan on driving a compact SUV off-road, these capabilities are beneficial in other ways. The RAV4 is more effective for driving in inclement weather, such as snow, rain, and icy roads. This makes it a better option than the CR-V for drivers that live in a harsh winter climate. Also, the off-road prowess is helpful for driving on poor-quality roads, such as ones with potholes, cracks, and loose gravel.

Additional benefits of the Toyota RAV4 over the Honda CR-V 

The 2023 RAV4 has some additional benefits over the 2023 CR-V. This includes better performance. The RAV4’s base-level 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine generates 203 horsepower, while the hybrid model delivers 219 horsepower. And for even greater performance, there’s the Prime plug-in hybrid model, which doles out 308 horsepower and provides sports car-like acceleration. Also, the Prime can drive with electric-only power for up to an estimated 42 miles. 

In comparison, the CR-V’s base-level turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine produces 190 horsepower, while the hybrid generates 204 horsepower. Plus, the CR-V doesn’t have a plug-in hybrid model.

Another strength of the RAV4 is towing. It can tow up to 3,500 pounds, compared to 1,500 pounds for the CR-V. 

Furthermore, the RAV4 is cheaper. It has a starting price of $27,975 MSRP — and the CR-V starts at $28,410 MSRP.

The 2023 Honda CR-V is a good all-around vehicle, but it loses to the 2023 Toyota RAV4 for off-road capabilities. Whether for heading out into the wilderness or driving in the snow, this off-road prowess has multiple benefits for compact crossover SUV drivers.

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