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Subaru Forester Vs. Honda CR-V: Compare Cars

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2015 Subaru Forester 2.5i

2015 Subaru Forester 2.5i

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Compact crossovers are popular with car shoppers for a reason: they're do-it-alls that can tuck away up to five passengers and some big-box bargains, all with the promise of all-weather traction and tractability.

Two of the more popular compact crossover wagons are hardy perennials in this segment: the Honda CR-V and the Subaru Forester. But which one offers the better mix of utility and other important features, like safety?

Styling is neither ute's strong point. The Forester's more handsome than in the past, and the cockpit has a smart functionality to it that transcends its uninteresting design. It's far from runway material, but the simple design is refreshing and the cabin's trimmed out to a good, sturdy standard. The CR-V lacks excitement, to be sure, but it at least has a more confident look to it these days, with a tapered rear glass that makes it easier to identify in crowded parking lots. We give the nod to the Forester, because its careful styling nets big visibility gains, while the Honda's blocky rear pillars steps in the way of a clear view to the rear.

2014 Honda CR-V

2014 Honda CR-V

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Honda's never given the CR-V more than an adequate powertrain, and this year's edition makes no greater claims. The four-cylinder and five-speed automatic are mated up for moderate acceleration and excellent fuel economy, and they deliver on those, with an EPA rating of up to 31 miles per gallon highway (30 mpg with optional all-wheel drive). The CR-V keeps an even keel with handling, too--it doesn't steer or respond with much verve, and its lighter-duty all-wheel-drive option is optimized for snow and mud, at a maximum.

The basic Forester? It's no lightning bolt either, but its flat four-cylinder can be turbocharged for 250 horsepower and truly brisk acceleration. A manual transmission is standard on the base wagon, but most other versions sport a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) programmed with shift points that mimic a six- or eight-speed automatic. Fuel economy lags the Honda, at 29 or 28 mpg, depending on the drivetrain, but we've consistently hit Subaru's combined numbers in our six-month road test. The Forester's handling is superior to the Honda's too, and it has actual trail prowess, with its 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive.

The Forester's interior space is close to that of the Honda, but the CR-V's smart seat-folding system gets kudos. Open one of the back doors, and with one arm and a simple pull of a strap, in a very fluid motion the lower cushion tumbles forward into the footwell, the headrest angles forward, and the rear seatback flips forward, all tucking nearly behind the front seat, to a completely flat position. The Forester has more vertical space and fold-down rear seats with one-touch action, but the seats don't quite fold flat. Both have a lot of small-item storage.

Safety is a defining split between the excellent Honda and the class-leading Forester. The CR-V earns great scores from the NHTSA, but because of a "marginal" score in a new crash test, the IIHS has revoked its  Top Safety Pick award. The Forester has standard all-wheel drive, a rearview camera, and nearly perfect crash-test scores--plus, it offers EyeSight, a camera-based forward-collision warning system called one of the best such technologies on the market.

Equipment varies by model, but all CR-Vs and Foresters include the power and entertainment basics. On the CR-V, more of the optional features we like are tucked away in the most expensive EX-L model. The Forester's Limited package is more affordable, and offers leather and a power tailgate. Neither crossover has a very good infotainment setup, though we expect Subaru's new interface will make an appearance on the Forester soon.

By then, a new CR-V will be in the works as well. It could wrest away our best-buy awards then--but for now, the Subaru Forester wins this crossover face-off.

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2015 Subaru Forester 2014 Honda CR-V
2015 Subaru Forester 2.5i 2014 Honda CR-V
TCC Rating
8.4 The 2015 Subaru Forester remains one of the best cars you can buy, thanks to exceptional safety, versatility, and all-weather capability. 7.6 The 2014 Honda CR-V isn't exactly sprightly, but it nails efficiency on a few levels and finally brings more features to the family-wagon fight.
Styling
8The Subaru Forester isn't runway material, but its simple design is refreshing and its interior is trimmed well. Read more7Simplicity rules inside, while on the outside some might find the 2014 Honda CR-V a little too nondescript. Read more
Performance
8We'd opt for the turbo Forester XT for occasional fun with its Sport # mode; all models have a modicum of off-road ability. Read more7The 2014 Honda CR-V is confident and smooth, even though excitement is sorely lacking. Read more
Quality
9It's somewhat plain inside, but the Subaru Forester has excellent passenger and cargo space for a compact wagon. Read more8You'll find loads of interior space and very smart seat-folding; yet materials and trims might be a disappointment to some. Read more
Safety
9The Forester is one of the top-rated vehicles in crash tests from both major agencies. Read more8The 2014 Honda CR-V gets mostly top ratings from both major U.S. safety agencies, but the IIHS small overlap test leaves room for improvement. Read more
Features
8The Forester's acquired options like leather and a sunroof over the years; its infotainment system is fairly dreadful. Read more8Available infotainment systems are on par with those found elsewhere--although you still need to move to the top EX-L to get some extras, like satellite radio. Read more
Green
7A top combined EPA rating of 27 mpg puts the Forester in good stead with other compact crossover wagons. Read more7Mileage ratings for the 2014 Honda CR-V are among the highest mileage in its class, but tall gear ratios don't always translate that to real-world driving. Read more
MSRP
from $22,195 from $23,120
Invoice
from $20,995 from $21,717
Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway
25 26
Front Leg Room (in)
43 41.3
Second Leg Room (in)
38
Read Full Specs
38.3
Read Full Specs
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