2020 Subaru Forester vs. Honda CR-V: Compare Crossover SUVs

November 15, 2019
2020 Subaru Forester

2020 Subaru Forester

Crossover SUVs have replaced the station wagon—and the minivan—as the family carry-all of the now. Not all crossovers are created equally though, and a pair of best-sellers rank among the top-rated family vehicles at The Car Connection.

Which would we steer you into: the 2020 Honda CR-V or the 2020 Subaru Forester? We wouldn’t direct you away from either, but one earns a higher TCC rating thanks to better looks, performance, and utility.

The 2020 Forester outpoints the 2020 CR-V for styling, something we never thought we’d say about a Subaru. The practical box-like Subies of the past have given way to smoother lines that still look weekend-ready and rugged, with a few fillips on sporty versions that don’t get in the way of its purposeful look. The Forester’s cabin is neatly arranged and looks more substantial than ever. The Honda? It lags with details that seem too busy and mar a sedately handsome shape and a center console that juts into passenger space.

The CR-V yields the passing lane to the Forester, too—but not on the powertrain front. Honda’s 1.5-liter turbo-4 delivers perfectly acceptable acceleration, and its controlled ride sorts out the road with confidence. It’s engineered for highway driving, which the Forester handles with aplomb while it also drops good off-road skills with 8.7 inches of ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive. Sure, its CVT and flat-4 engine leave excitement behind, but the Forester also rides well and steers with a more accurate feel than the Honda. 

2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

The Subaru earns very good EPA ratings of 29 mpg combined; the CR-V’s identical when equipped with all-wheel drive, but a Hybrid model in the offing will nudge 40 mpg, or beat it.

Subaru boxes out the CR-V for interior space, though both make excellent use of their compact footprint. The Forester has excellent front seats, space for three across in back, and 30 cubic feet to store stuff behind the passengers; the CR-V bests it by 10 cubic feet in back for a total of about 40 cubic feet, or 75 cubes with the back seats folded. Both wear interior trim that shames more expensive vehicles.

Both the 2020 CR-V are safety stars, with top ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS and standard automatic emergency braking. The Forester scores extra points from the IIHS for superb headlights.
For $28,405, the 2020 Forester Premium comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, power features, Bluetooth, and cloth upholstery. You’ll pay just a little more than $30,000 for a similarly equipped CR-V, since its base model has only a 5.0-inch display that doesn’t offer those smartphone operating systems.

The latest Forester—our Best Car To Buy 2019—finishes with a TCC Rating of 6.8, while the CR-V isn’t far behind at 6.5. In either case, drivers get a crossover SUV that does nearly everything well, without the minivan stigma of sliding side doors.

Summary

6.5
Expert Rating
The 2020 Honda CR-V hits right at the heart of many buyers’ needs: comfortable, spacious, quiet, and efficient.
6.8
Expert Rating
The 2020 Subaru Forester is an incredible value among compact crossovers and a former Best Car To Buy winner.

Styling

4.0
Expert Rating
The restyled 2020 CR-V favors mass appeal over outward style.
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6.0
Expert Rating
The Forester hasn’t changed for 2020 at all. That’s not bad.
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Performance

5.0
Expert Rating
Addition by subtraction this year for the 2020 CR-V; the lone engine option for now is the best.
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6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Forester can go off-road nearly anywhere, but its on-road manners are underrated.
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Comfort & Quality

9.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 CR-V excels in hauling people and cargo.
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8.0
Expert Rating
Comfortable for five with room for plenty of gear, the 2020 Forester is ready for just about anything.
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Safety

9.0
Expert Rating
Great crash-test scores are complemented by exceptional outward vision in the 2020 Honda CR-V.
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9.0
Expert Rating
Good crash-test data and abundant active safety features make the 2020 Subaru Forester a very safe pick.
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Features

7.0
Expert Rating
There’s not a bad pick in the 2020 CR-V lineup.
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7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Forester is one of the best values among compact crossovers.
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Fuel Economy

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 CR-V is efficient among rivals, a hybrid version is on the way that should be even better.
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5.0
Expert Rating
Among all-wheel-drive compact crossovers, the 2020 Subaru Forester is fuel-efficient.
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MSRP

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Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

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Drivetrain

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