By Eric Brandt
The 2020 Honda CR-V is a conventional compact crossover, while the 2020 Subaru Outback is more of a rugged wagon.
The Outback is all-new for 2020, and the CR-V got a nice face-lift for 2020.
The CR-V has a new hybrid option, but there’s no hybrid Outback available.
The Honda CR-V and the Subaru Outback aren’t exactly in the same segment, but they’re two crossovers that are often cross-shopped with each other. The Honda /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -1.84% has a lot of appeal as a practical, reliable option that’s simply good at everything the average driver values in a small SUV. The Subaru, /zigman2/quotes/200526066/composite FUJHY -2.58% on the other hand, is a bit quirkier, with its lifted wagon body and distinctly outdoorsy attitude accompanied by standard all-wheel drive.
The Outback is all-new for 2020, and the CR-V got a pretty significant mid-cycle refresh this year that includes the addition of a hybrid model. Let’s take a closer look at the differences and similarities between these two crossovers and see which is better.
The CR-V and the Outback look pretty different. The CR-V has the size and shape of a pretty traditional compact SUV, while the Outback looks more like a wagon but could also be considered an SUV because of its ground clearance. The Outback kind of looks like a hiking boot, which is a good thing if you’re one of the many outdoor enthusiasts attracted to the Subaru brand. We’d hesitate to call the CR-V boring looking, but it has a pretty conventional look compared with the Outback.
If you’re wondering about specific dimensions, the CR-V and Outback are almost identical in height and width, but the Subaru is 9 inches longer than the Honda. So, it’s kind of like someone took a CR-V and stretched it out to be a longer car.
The Outback is a bigger car than the CR-V, but the way the interior spaces compare might surprise you. The Outback has a little more passenger room than the CR-V, and the Honda actually has more cargo space than the Subaru. The CR-V is one of the roomiest compact crossovers on the market, and while the Outback has a pretty generous amount of space for both passengers and cargo, the Honda’s cargo hold is even bigger. The point is, if you get either of these crossovers, you won’t hear any complaints about legroom from back seat passengers, and you’ll have no shortage of room for stuff.
As for interior design, both are pleasantly modern and comfortable on the inside. One of the biggest improvements of the redesigned 2020 Outback is the interior, which has a premium look and feel, uses nice materials and has a great infotainment system that we’ll get into shortly. The CR-V has an interior that’s practical and straightforward. It’s perfectly pleasant on the inside and never feels cheap, despite its affordable price.
The CR-V and the Outback both have two engine options each, and they’re quite different. The Subaru uses flat boxer-style engines, while the Honda uses more traditional inline-four engines. The Outback has an exciting, performance-oriented turbocharged engine available, and the CR-V’s optional engine is a hybrid that obviously prioritizes fuel economy.
2020 Honda CR-V engine
1.5-liter turbocharged inline-four; 190 horsepower, 179 lb-ft of torque; up to 28 mpg city/34 mpg hwy
2020 Subaru Outback engines
2.5-liter flat-four; 182 hp, 176 lb-ft of torque; 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy
2.4-liter turbocharged flat-four; 260 hp, 277 lb-ft of torque; 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy
Unfortunately, as of this writing, we do not have the performance or fuel economy numbers for the CR-V Hybrid. Its closest rival — the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid — achieves 41 city/38 hwy mpg, and we hope to see a similar fuel economy rating for the Honda.
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That said, even the non-hybrid base engine in the CR-V is more efficient than the base engine in the Outback while delivering very similar performance numbers. However, when you add AWD to the CR-V, the fuel economy gets closer to the Outback.
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If performance on-road or off is a priority for you, then you’ll probably prefer the Outback over the CR-V. The CR-V, unfortunately, doesn’t have a performance model, but if you upgrade to a turbocharged Outback XT model, you’ll be delighted by the exciting driving experience paired with pretty good fuel economy. The standard AWD in the Outback -— plus its generous ground clearance — makes for a great off-roader, no matter which engine you choose.
The CR-V and the Outback are both extremely generous when it comes to standard driver assistance technology. Every 2020 CR-V comes standard with Honda Sensing, which includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, road departure warning and adaptive cruise control. Every 2020 Outback has a similar suite of safety tech called EyeSight, which includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-centering and lane-keeping assist.
As for infotainment technology, these both come with a bit of a bare-bones unit with Bluetooth and a backup camera on the base trim, which you’ll probably want to upgrade to the better optional system. In the CR-V, you get a standard 5-in screen that is upgradable to a 7-in unit, along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. In the Outback, the standard infotainment system is a dual-screen setup with two 7-in screens, and it’s upgradable to a bigger, tablet-style 11.6-in screen. Every Outback comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, including the dual-screen system in the base model.
The CR-V is a little more affordable than the Outback. The Honda has a starting MSRP of $25,050, and the Subaru starts at $26,645. On the high end, the CR-V gets into the mid-$35K range, while the Outback can cross the $40K mark with the turbocharged engine in the top Touring XT trim. As of this writing, pricing has not been confirmed for the CR-V Hybrid, but we don’t expect it to be drastically more expensive than the non-hybrid model.
It’s hard to declare one of these crossovers better than the other since they’re so different in character. If you’re looking for a practical, roomy, efficient compact SUV, then the CR-V is a clear leader in its class. However, if you’re looking for something a little more rugged and outdoorsy, the new 2020 Outback is better than ever while retaining distinct Subaru charm.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com .