Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001)
There is bound to be competition in this world of ours. Just take a look around; when someone finds an avenue to earn a quick buck, it doesn’t take an Einstein to find out that exploiting the same idea would lead to a quicker buck, but also to a diverse range of choices, which ultimately leads to a happy consumer.
Take some everyday examples: Starbucks Coffee and Seattle’s Best Coffee; Sony Playstation and Sega Dreamcast; Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. As much as their founders would say that these are works of original vision and fuzzy-hearted boo-hoo stories, it all boils down to our world being a consumer market and these items really, I mean REALLY, sell. Now, the same is true with the automotive market. Although there are some cars that are designed because of pure vision (e.g. McLaren F1 and the Lamborghini Miura), most are actually the product of countless consumer research and study. Of course, the result of these studies point to the kinds of cars we get today, and one such example is the mini-SUVs.

The mini-SUV market was started by Toyota in the early 1990s with their first generation RAV4. Of course, this niche vehicle wasn’t born out of a great automobile mastermind’s relentless pursuit for passion, but rather a result of market studies and probably a few dozen leftover parts from an economy sedan. Whatever the reason, the battlefield drew large players. Even the Americans, British and Koreans joined into the fray. In the end, it was clear that the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CRV dominated the market.

Both of these vehicles are mechanically precise, but lack any sort of emotional attachment. It would be impossible to talk about how these vehicles have progressed through decades of careful badge development and image, since they appeared, as they are, image and all, in a span of time that equals the formation of a boy band.

Coming into the picture a full two-years earlier than its Honda counterpart, the Toyota RAV4 was a trek into unknown ground for Toyota. Known for their legendary Land Cruiser, they new they couldn’t use the same philosophy for this baby SUV (mechanically indestructible but expensive). Thus, philosophizing that a consumer would use these vehicles 99 percent of the time for city roads; the engine characteristics, the suspension and even the looks had been designed to blend well with city surroundings. Instead of looking like Farmer John’s favorite 54-bhp tractor, the RAV4 proved to be a great alternative to the dismally boring Toyota Corona. Never was Stockbroker Joey so happy before. But, good as it was, the RAV4 lacked some degree of versatility especially with its cramped seats and rather poor storage space.

Of course, by the time their CRV came out, Honda ironed out most of the faults that their designers saw with the RAV4. Instead of giving their own mini-SUV its own distinct image, Honda relied on a true and tested tactic by offering the same package with an almost flat-floor interior, a more powerful engine and more spacious cabin. The sales effect was huge as it outsold the RAV4 by a ratio of almost 2 to 1 worldwide. In fact, the CRV proved to be so good in the Philippines that for a time Honda assembled nothing but CRVs just to meet demand. The CRV became the choice not only for the yuppies, but also for starting families and some midline execs that wanted a smart alternative to a three-box sedan.

Toyota designers have gained new blood since then. Starting with the funky Echo, the once stodgy reputation of Japan’s biggest automaker started to turn for the better. Going into battle with a new skin, engine and a revised suspension, the table turned on the perennial best-seller and benchmark: the CRV.

Toyota stylists have decided to junk the Tonka-toy looks of the old RAV4, and instead introduce a Lexus-like design. Borrowing heavily from its Lexus RX300 (Toyota Harrier) big brother, the RAV4 is an excellent combination of lines and angles and look both butch and avant-garde.

Though the difference between their widths is a mere 35 mm, the overall styling of the RAV4 gives a very grown-up appearance. The bulging well arches as well as the huge 16-inch 235 / 60 H-rated tires give the petite Toyota a very aggressive look. The abrupt angle cut-offs that carries to the front, rear lights and mirrors help give this car a pit-bull look. Though the old RAV4 is known for its sharp, car-like handling wrapped around a cutesy-shell, this new one shouts its sporty pretensions from a mile away.

On the other hand, the four-year old CRV is very straightforward and uncluttered in its design. It doesn’t shout anything, but rather it likes to whisper: utilitarianism. Unsurprisingly, the CRV has a huge interior and luggage space. The two-piece hatch is a clever design as well, as it doesn’t require the same Noah’s ark-sized opening needed for the RAV4’s hatch. There are also some other neat touches that are all designed to maximize the interior space of the CRV.

Unfortunately, the target consumer probably couldn't care less about the interior space of these vehicles. There are some 300-pound people who’d try to squeeze into a Mazda Miata for the sake of the looks (pity on the Miata). The RAV4 and the CRV are the cars for the yuppies, not for the mid-forties dad or mom. The design should be a combination of dynamism and fun and using this gauge, the Toyota wins by a mile.

Inside, the story is quite similar. The Toyota comes into the picture with an excellent combination of silver-trimmed accents as well as white-faced gauges and sporty blue fabric seats. In fact, it can easily fool people to believe that the interior is from a sports car than a SUV. Though most of the controls have been placed with ergonomic excellence, there are still some degrees of cheese inside, mainly the intensive use of dimpled plastics (a design trait they probably got from the CRV).

On the other hand, the Honda CRV proves to be user-friendly but bare inside the cabin. Though the radio provides some degree of distraction (it has a dolphin swimming in the display when it’s not in use), the rest of the cabin suffers from a huge spell of boredom. Uninspired, there are no rounded air vents or silver trims inside this car. In fact, stepping inside makes you feel like you’re watching the CRV inside a black & white television set. There are no splashes of color—just gray plastics—acres of it! Fortunately for Honda, they hold an advantage over Toyota since the RAV4 suffers the same cheap, plasticky feel as the Toyota Echo. On the other hand, the CRV seems to have better quality materials taken from the previous generation Accord.

The new VVTi-engine inside the Toyota is a welcome boost for the performance junkie. The 148-bhp engine gives a smooth and quiet operation. The all-new powerplant is barely audible even at engine speeds above 4,000-rpm. Never again will this unit suffer from the all-too familiar Toyota boominess that seem to plague their inline-4 engines when revved above 4,000-rpm. In fact, the RAV4’s engine is still relaxed and noticeably quiet. Though still no match for the Nissan Cefiro’s VQ engine in terms of smoothness, in quietness, it comes close.

The bad news is that to get the most out of the engine’s new found bhp, it has to be revved harder than usual. It seems that the famed silky smooth Toyota 4-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t hold true with the RAV4. Sometimes, a complete flooring of the gas pedal is needed to produce a decent burst of speed, especially in highway sections. The problem becomes pronounced during hill climbs. It is surprisingly difficult for the 2.0-liter engine as some degrees of fighting with the RAV4’s transmission system is required to give a downshift. This petite-SUV feels like a ton heavier going uphill.

On the other hand, the DOHC, non-VTEC Honda produces a more spirited level of driving experience, but at a noisier level. Although the re-tuned 150-bhp engine lacks the punch of the Toyota’s VVTi (186 Nm @ 4500 versus 192 Nm @ 4000) if mated to Honda’s 5-speed manual the CRV produces the same acceleration sensations as its sedan brother, the Honda Civic. In fact, like all other Honda engines, this one loves to rev, and it is no surprise that to get the most out of the CRV’s engine it requires heavy pressing of the right-most pedal.
Leveling the playing field and comparing automatic to automatic, the only advantage of the Honda’s transmission is during uphill climbing, where the heavier CRV frequently downshifts to give more acceleration. Besides that, once again the RAV4 dominates with a smoother experience, but at a rather sedate pace.

The RAV4 also has the upper hand in passive safety devices with brakes that are more responsive and quicker reacting than the CRV. In fact, the RAV4 offers an array of safety equipment that’s as long as the CRV’s optional stereo kit: anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution and four-wheel disc brakes. Though the ABS response could have been more refined as it activates more than it’s required, the RAV4 is sure-footed in braking to a halt. The Honda on the other hand is a bit nervous and spongy.

Mechanically, the suspension design for both of these cars is nothing special. In fact, both the RAV4 and the CRV owe their chassis, albeit reinforced and slightly modified, to the Corolla and the Civic. In effect, the ride of these two vehicles owe very much to their humble 1.6-liter origins. However, it is still surprising how some tweaks with the springs and shock settings could really tip the balance around.

The older Honda CRV should suit Miss Daisy very well with its soft and supple ride. Using double wishbone front and rear, it easily absorbs any sort of Quezon City pothole imaginable. Of course, the obvious trade-off to this wonderful ride quality is not-so-good handling. Though it’s not noticeable in a straight line, the CRV becomes more and more flat-footed when it comes to twisty roads. The body roll becomes very noticeable and during extreme cases: dangerous. In fact, in the light of the Ford Explorer snafu in the US, authorities there have begun to test SUVs on their chances of a rollover during hard cornering. The conclusion? The Honda CRV posted a 30-percent chance of rolling over, while the RAV4 (the older model) showed a result of less than 25-percent chance. Add to this the fact that the CRV suffers from vague steering which, doesn’t offer any sort of intelligible feedback regarding the road conditions.

Schumacher wannabes would settle for nothing less than the RAV4 as it still proves to be the more sports-oriented between the two. Dubbed as the ‘GTi of SUVs’, the RAV4 surprises with its quirky handling and reactive steering. Though the steering is a vague and over-assisted, it offers a much bigger tolerance when pushed to its limits. Understeer is the name of the game for the RAV4 when going through long corners at 80 km/h. Because of the hard suspension, the Toyota suffers from a bumpy and choppy ride. Although not as harsh as say, the Ford Lynx's or the Toyota Echo's, the main weakness of the RAV4’s overall set-up is seen in uneven roads where the suspension has a hard time keeping up with small bumps.

In addition to a firm suspension setting, another possible reason for the RAV4’s hard ride maybe because of its shorter overall length (by 266 mm). However, more importantly, the shorter body translates into less interior space for the Toyota. In fact, although huge improvements have been made to increase the interior space (e.g. the rear seats slide forward and backward separately and some controls have been pushed up), the bulky center tunnel and the huge door panels prove too be too bulky to defeat the CRV’s bigger and spacious cabin.

The CRV’s interior space is where it really beats the rAV4 into a pulp. The Honda’s controls have been intentionally pushed up and back, sacrificing a bit of ergonomics to maximize the interior space available. The introduction of an almost flat floor gives adequate space for five adults. The longer body logically means a longer wheelbase (a difference of 133 mm) which translates to more passenger room.

The same is true for luggage space as the Honda offers less intrusion by its rear double-wishbone system into the luggage area with a load area that’s obviously deeper and a bit wider than the Toyota. As mentioned earlier, there are small details that helped accomplishing this including the placing of the rear lamps up to the C-pillars as well as putting the hatch hinges outside the trunk compartment to squeeze a bit more room. Of course, this could translate to a cabbage or two for shopping moms.

As a sort of bottom line, it is very clear that the Toyota RAV4 eclipses the Honda CRV in almost every department sans ride comfort and space. Of course, the huge amount of safety equipment, plus the 10-disc CD changer and the Scandinavian-spec RAV4 doesn’t come cheap. In fact, this is where the Honda could easily sway some buyers. For a base price of 1,045,000 pesos one could get a CRV, but it will still take an additional 255,000 pesos for a base RAV4. With the peso sky rocketing, the fully imported RAV4’s price is still bound to go sky-high. On the other hand, the CRV should remain fairly stable since it’s the only mini-SUV being assembled in the Philippines.

By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang & Jason Ang
Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001) Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001)


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The Anti-German Solution: Volvo S40 (2003)
April 20, 2003
Great Expectations: Mitsubishi Lancer (2003)
March 25, 2003
Personal Isolation: Toyota Camry (2003)
March 25, 2003
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Honda Accord (2003)
March 25, 2003
Flair Game: Isuzu Hi-Lander Crosswind SUV (2003)
February 3, 2003
Rule Them All: Ford Expedition XLT (2003)
February 3, 2003
Room with a View: MCC Smart (2003)
February 3, 2003
Mitsubishi Pajero (2002) Driven
January 1, 2003
The Replacement Killers: Ford Escape XLT vs. Honda CR-V vs. Toyota RAV4
December 4, 2002
The Sky's the Limit: Peugeot 206 CC (2002)
November 3, 2002
Class of the Titans: Lynx GSi, Civic VTi, Corolla 1.6 J (2002)
November 3, 2002
Any Given Sunday: BMW 318i (2002)
October 1, 2002
Sexy Sensibility: Volvo S60 (2002)
October 1, 2002
Anti-Lexus: Toyota Echo (2002)
September 30, 2002
Borrowed Time: Mitsubishi Lancer (2002)
September 30, 2002
The Right Stuff: Ford Escape (2002)
September 30, 2002
Torque Wrench: Ford Focus (2002)
August 1, 2002
Siren Song: Nissan Serena (2002)
July 2, 2002
Top Level: Nissan Cefiro Brougham VIP (2002)
July 2, 2002
One More Time: Opel Astra (2002)
July 2, 2002
Staple Food: Toyota Hi-Ace Super Grandia (2002)
May 26, 2002
King of Plain: Toyota Camry (2002)
May 26, 2002
Energizer Bunny: Honda Accord (2002)
May 26, 2002
Conspicuous Consumption: Ford Expedition (2002)
April 28, 2002
Utility Sport: Honda CR-V (2002)
April 28, 2002
Fighting to Stay Ahead: Mitsubishi Adventure (2002)
April 28, 2002
The One: Honda Civic VTi-S vs. Corolla Altis (2002)
March 13, 2002
Welcome Mr. Hyde: Honda Civic Type-R (1997)
March 13, 2002
Better the Second Time Around: Ford Lynx (2002)
March 12, 2002
The Weakest Lynx?: Ford Lynx (2002)
February 19, 2002
Ultimate Toy Story: Porsche Boxster 2.7 (2002)
February 16, 2002
Spiritually Correct: Porsche 911 Cabriolet (1997)
February 16, 2002
Steady as She Goes: Hyundai Starex (2002)
January 21, 2002
King of the Hill: Ford Ranger 4x4 XLT (2001)
January 21, 2002
Lost in Space: Ford E150 (2001)
December 12, 2001
Not Quite Yet: Isuzu Crosswind (2001)
December 12, 2001
As Good As It Gets: Chevrolet Venture vs. Kia Carnival (2001)
December 12, 2001
Superman The Ride: Ford F150 (2001)
October 21, 2001
The X Factor: BMW X5 (2001)
October 21, 2001
RAVishing Performance: Toyota RAV4 (2001)
October 21, 2001
Viva La Carnival: Kia Carnival (2001)
September 10, 2001
Class Leader: Toyota Corolla Altis (2001)
September 10, 2001
Condition Normal: Honda Accord Long-Term Test Update
September 10, 2001
Four-Eyed Monster: Mercedes Benz E320
August 15, 2001
Different Road: Nissan Exalta Grandeur (2001)
August 15, 2001
Happy Endings: Nissan Cefiro (1998)
August 15, 2001
Ultimate Experience: BMW 318i and 325i (2001)
July 19, 2001
Slick Cat: Jaguar S-Type (2001)
July 2, 2001
Toyota RAV4 vs Honda CR-V (2001)
May 18, 2001
Slow Advancement: Toyota Revo (2001)
April 15, 2001
Below Expectations: Toyota Echo (2001)
April 15, 2001
Civic Revolution: Honda Civic (2001)
April 15, 2001
White Collared Brawl: Honda Accord and BMW 523i (2001)
March 12, 2001
Bus Driving 101: Mercedes-Benz MB100 (2001)
March 12, 2001
Everyday Transport: Toyota Corolla (2001)
February 5, 2001
Beautiful Day: Toyota RAV4 (2001)
February 5, 2001
Civilized Monster: Ford Explorer (2000)
December 18, 2000
Empty Space: Mitsubishi Spacegear (2000)
November 18, 2000
First Class Effort: Hyundai Starex (2000)
November 18, 2000
Service Please! Nissan Cefiro Classic Long-Term Test Update (1998)
November 18, 2000
Astra La Vista: Opel Astra (2000)
September 18, 2000
Old World Brute: Nissan Patrol Safari
September 18, 2000
Newly Hatched: Toyota Echo (2000)
September 18, 2000
Goodbye Beetle: Toyota Echo (2000)
August 15, 2000
Steer Flick'n Good: Audi A4 (2000)
July 9, 2000
No Lucky Stars: Ford Taurus GL (1998)
June 11, 2000
Simply Bulletproof: The Honda Accord VTi-L Long-Term Test Update (1998)
June 11, 2000
Still Life: Mitsubishi Lancer (2000)
May 13, 2000
Living with America: Ford F150 (2000)
April 16, 2000
Civic Minded: Honda Civic (2000)
February 20, 2000
Ford Lynx Ghia (2000) Driven
January 18, 2000
White Lightning: Honda Civic (1999)
December 18, 1999
The Lost World: Volkswagen Polo Classic (1998)
December 12, 1999
Against All Odds: Mazda 323 (1999)
September 29, 1999
Warp Speed Transport: Nissan Sentra Super Saloon (1995)
August 30, 1999
Complete Change of Mind: Nissan Cefiro (1997) Long-Term Test Update
August 30, 1999
Honda City LXi (1999)
July 12, 1999
Alternative Nature: Mitsubishi Galant (1999)
June 20, 1999
The Bavarian Delight: BMW 328Ci (1999)
May 15, 1999
Alpha and Omega: Opel 2.5 V6 Omega (1999)
February 5, 1999
Opel Vectra (2.0 (1999) Driven
January 1, 1999
The Daily Nightmare: Nissan Cefiro (1998)
December 1, 1998
VTEC with a Vengeance: Honda Accord (1998)
November 10, 1998