The new 2023 Honda CR-V is longer, wider, and comes with more power and even some off-road capability. Honda is upping its game and heating up its midsize SUV competition with the super-popular Toyota RAV4. On paper, the 2023 CR-V or RAV4 differences are minimal. But, can the Honda’s new hybrid system compete with the RAV4’s updates? Are the 2023 updates enough?
The RAV4 and CR-V are close competitors
The 2022 RAV4 is more than just Toyota’s best-selling SUV, it is the world’s best-selling SUV right now, according to Car and Driver. But Honda says the CR-V is the “outright best-selling SUV of the past 25 years,” though it ranked No. 11 last year. The 2023 CR-V or RAV4 are great SUVs that on paper compete head-to-head very well. They both have a lot in common: they seat five in comfort, offer a ton of driver aids and new technology, look good, offer all-wheel drive, and are priced about the same. In many respects, if you’re buying one it may come down to which brand you’re more loyal to as much as the features, colors, and trim levels.
The 2023 RAV4 is basically a carry-over model
We’re not surprised that Toyota doesn’t want to mess too much with that success for 2023. The last big update for the RAV4 came for the 2021 model year after a complete redesign in 2018. The 2022 Toyota RAV4 is a five-seat SUV that comes in gas, hybrid, and plug-in variants. Consumer Reports recommends the RAV4 for its reliability and overall competence. It competes with SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage.
The 2023 CR-V is all-new for 2023
The new CR-V is coming to dealers this summer and the Hybrid model will come later in the year, Honda said. The new CR-V is wider and longer than the previous one, and that new look is highlighted by a horizontal line that emphasizes the new styling. The base EX and EX-L versions have a 1.5-liter 190-horsepower four-cylinder engine. It’s mated to a CVT transmission, but it does add step-shift programming that should make it feel more like a conventional automatic.
The new CR-V also gets Honda’s Real Time AWD optional, which should help in slippery and dirty driving situations. The new system can send up to 50% of the engine’s power to the rear wheels automatically. But, for the first time, the CR-V is getting one feature that off-roaders love: Hill Descent Control. In the CR-V, its speed is selectable from two to 12 miles per hour.
The hot versions are expected to be the hybrids
Whether you look at the 2023 CR-V or RAV4, hybrid power is key. The RAV4 comes in three different versions. You can order a gas-powered version with a 203-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. The hybrid version has a 176-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with an electric hybrid powertrain that makes a combined 219 horsepower. The Toyota RAV4 Prime is a different model and an entirely different driving experience. The RAV4 Prime has 302 horsepower and can keep up with a lot of sports cars.
The new CR-V packs 204 horsepower in the hybrid version, which is available on the Sport and Sport Touring trim levels. The new Hybrid is Honda’s fourth-generation version of its hybrid system, and it was redesigned with two motors. Honda says the new system allowed it to fit two electric motors for more power and, for the first time, it has enough juice to tow up to 1,000 pounds. With a towing package, the RAV4 can tow up to 3,000 pounds.
The interiors offer very similar features
Both offer suites of driver’s aids. Toyota calls its systems Toyota Sense. All 2023 RAV4s will get updates to the infotainment system. The new 8-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system is standard on lower trim levels. Higher trim levels, like the Adventure and Hybrid SE, will get the 12.3-inch screen. An additional 7-inch Multi-Information Display screen is also now standard on LE/Hybrid LE, XLE/Hybrid XLE, and Hybrid SE grades.
The new CR-V SUV also has Body Stabilizing Seats to reduce driving fatigue, and a new 9-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the EX-L and Sport Touring trim, while the EX and Sport get a standard seven-inch screen.
You can order the 2023 Honda CR-V in four trim levels: base EX and EX-L versions, Sport and Sport Touring. The EX and EX-l come with a 1.5-liter horsepower, while the Sport and Sport Touring come with the new hybrid system. The new interior has new higher-quality materials, Honda said. That means it should be quieter and more comfortable than the 2022, which is saying a lot. The 2023 CR-V also moved the shift lever to the console, from the dash.