Toyota RAV4 VS Honda HR-V
- Massively practical
- Impressive standard inclusions
- Ultra-comfort ride
- Manual not great
- Thrashy engine
- Might be too big for some
- RS model added
- Low-speed AEB standard
- Practicality unchanged
- Halogen headlights on base car
- No AWD model
- Full safety pack still only on top-spec
It speaks to the wide-ranging, seemingly infinite appeal of the Toyota RAV4 that a manual version of it even exists.
Sure, only the base car can be fitted with it, and we’re confident it will impress those vocal few people in every single comment section who demand it, but is it actually any good? Or does a manual gearbox tarnish the rather excellent package that is CarsGuide's Car of the Year 2019 overall winner?
While we’re at it, we’ll also give you the low-down on what the cheapest RAV4 is like. Read on to see what we thought.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The changes aren't dramatic for the Honda HR-V 2019 model. In fact, you could look at it and not even know this is an updated, facelifted model.
But there are a few nips and tucks here and there that freshen up the appeal of the Japanese brand's small SUV, which first went on sale in Australia back in 2015.
It still has practicality on its side, and the value equation remains reasonably strong, especially on lower-grade models. And now, with some additional range-wide safety gear and a sporty looking RS model, there's arguably more to like than ever before.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
When Toyota launched the new RAV4 it couldn’t afford to get it wrong.
It didn’t. Even this absolute base car is incredibly well equipped, superb when it comes to comfort, and offers the largest cabin in the mid-size segment.
I’m as surprised as you possibly are that Toyota even sells it as a manual, but honestly, it’s this car’s worst attribute. It only serves to tarnish the drive experience. Pay the extra and get the auto.
There are some positive changes to the updated 2019 Honda HR-V. The city AEB system on all models is a welcome addition, and personally, I'm absolutely sold on the look of the RS model, plus the additional effort that has been put in by Honda for this version makes it the most appealing example.
All in all, the Honda HR-V remains a favourite in the small SUV segment - admittedly one with limited choices in terms of drivetrains, and without all-wheel drive - but it possesses other strengths that make it pretty darn appealing.
The RAV4 has come far in its design and aesthetic since the previous generation. It’s much better at grabbing your eye as it cruises past, and although it borrows a lot from the Kluger which has been on the market for a while now, it still strikes the eye as modern and angular.
The double-barreled snout, air dams and chunky wheelarches add a sense of capability to its contemporary guise. Even this base car gets chunky alloys and is covered in contrast black plastic cladding, adding to its look over base-model competitors. The blue tinge of LED headlights rather than the dull tones of halogens seal the deal.
Around at the rear it modernizes the dated Kluger formula with squared-off light fittings and a roof spoiler. The wholly unnecessary dual-exhaust is nice, too.
The interior is where the most base model tells are. You’re greeted by a sea of grey plastics, although to Toyota’s credit, many of them are soft to the touch. It’s all too easy to notice the blanked-out buttons, covered over climate control dials and six-speed gearshifter that looks like it was dropped out of a last-generation Corolla.
While the big screen nestles in the dash, 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen and silver highlights help counteract the base-model blues, there’s no escaping a nasty plastic steering wheel.
The overall visual aesthetic of the RAV4 is still cool, though. On the inside there are great textures hidden everywhere. There’s a triangular pattern in all the storage areas designed to help stop objects from moving, stripped rubbery textures on the inside of the door handles and rubbery turbine patterns on the air-con and volume knobs. Nice touches.
The seats are in a plain pattern but nice to the touch and should be fairly easy to clean as they are comprised of a rugged synthetic material.
All that adds up for a cabin ambiance that easily outclasses most price-competitors, and even higher-spec cars from rival brands.
Can't tell the differences? There are a few, with new grille and headlight and tail-light finishes across the range, plus a new front bumper design. Elsewhere, it's hard to pick this as a facelifted model.
There is no denying the RS grade looks the best of this bunch, with its bigger 18-inch wheels and darkened chrome exterior styling highlights, along with the piano black body kit around the lower edges of the car and body-colour rear spoiler, all combining to create a cohesive and smart looking little SUV. The design of the exterior is really well considered.
That's not to say the other models don't live up to the RS, but it's certainly the standout. The entry-level VTi still looks like an 'affordable' model, with its yellow halogen lights and less appealing wheel choice.
The VTi-S and VTi-LX are harder to separate, but there are some design highlights to split them: the wheels are the same size (17-inch) but the VTi-S ones look a little tamer, and it gets body-colour door handles; the VTi-LX has chrome handles and a more attractive wheel design.
The exterior size of the HR-V hasn't changed, apart from the RS model, which is a little longer and a little wider due to its body kit. The measurements are: 4348mm long (RS: 4360mm) on a 2610mm wheelbase, 1772mm wide (RS: 1790mm) and 1605mm tall. It's hardly hard to get into, with ground clearance of 170mm, but for the concerned parents out there you can option side steps for the rear doors.
As you can see from the interior photos, the changes haven't been huge inside, and there are no differences to the interior dimensions. But the practicality - whether you choose a low-spec version with cloth trim or a flagship model with leather - is just about as good as you can expect in this segment.
I parked this RAV4 next to a last-generation Toyota Kluger and really shouldn’t have been surprised how close they were in size. Still, bracket creep means the RAV4 is now truly gigantic compared to its forebears and that means family practicality all over.
It’s things as simple as the fact that both doors are massive and open very wide, allowing for super easy access to any seat for less mobile passengers, those lifting cargo up into the cabin, and those who might need to fit child seats.
Leg and headroom for the front two passengers is stellar, and the driver’s position is very adjustable, even with the base manual-adjust seats. Visibility is up with segment leaders like the Subaru Forester, as the RAV4 is essentially a glasshouse with massive windows and wing-mirrors.
Even the dial cluster is huge and legible, and there are big dials for operating the air conditioning and multimedia while you keep your eyes on the road.
You’ll find storage areas everywhere with that triangle pattern for holding objects in. All the bottleholders (two in the doors, two in the centre console) are massive, and there’s a huge trench in front of the shift-knob suitable for even the largest phones.
There’s even a long trench above the glove box for… aesthetic purposes? It has the no-slip surface, but objects would hurtle towards passengers under heavy acceleration, so I fail to see the point of it.
There's one USB port, one 'aux' jack, and one 12-volt socket for front passengers.
In terms of rear legroom, your second-row passengers will hardly be flying economy. I had a abundance of legroom behind my own driving position. Arm and headroom were also plentiful.
All doors have a soft strip across them for elbows. There’s a drop-down arm rest even in the base car, and the same chunky, grippy doorcards with a big bottle holder.
Rear passengers get a set of air vents on the back of the centre console, too.
The boot is ridiculous with a class-leading 580-litres (VDA) of space. It’s wide and unimpeded by styling bits, and you can even stow the roller cover under the floor paneling when not in use.
The GX ships with a space-saver spare, but you can upgrade to a full-size alloy spare for $300. If you do so you’ll remove the false-floor paneling.
The Honda HR-V has cabin size on its side.
If you've never sat in one, you will probably be surprised when you do. There's a lot of room, both in the front and the back, and with the driver's seat set in my position (I'm 182cm tall), I had enough space to sit behind that spot.
There's good rear legroom and reasonable width to the cabin, but headroom could be a little better, particularly in the range-topping model with the big panoramic sunroof.
Being a Honda, the storage game is on point. There are cup holders up front, door pockets with bottle holders in each of the doors, and decent loose item storage, too.
Honda's 'Magic Seats' - fitted to all HR-V models - allow the rear seat area to double as a storage space. As you can see from the images, the base of the back seat can be flipped up, which allows you access to a huge space to store long items. You can fit pushbikes in there. Trust me. Or you can lower the seat bases down, and then drop the rear seat backs for a huge boot.
The boot space on offer in the HR-V is terrific for the class, with 437 litres of luggage capacity with the rear seats in place, with the boot dimensions expanding to 1462L with the back seats folded flat. The ridiculous floppy mesh cargo cover remains, but you can option a hard tonneau cover for the boot if you want, and there's a cargo liner available, too.
There's a space-saver spare tyre under the boot floor.
Only the VTi model misses out on roof rails, so if you want to fit a roof rack you might need to consider that.
Price and features
That’s right. The GX manual is the cheapest way to get into a Toyota RAV4 today. Starting at $30,640 (MSRP – before on-road costs) we’d even consider it great value despite the manual 'box.
To understand why you just have to take one look at its specification sheet. Remember, this mid-sizer competes against the (also surprisingly still manual) Nissan X-Trail ST ($29,890), Honda CR-V Vi (auto - $28,290), and Mitsubishi Outlander ES ADAS (auto - $33,290).
If you’re happy milling your own gears, you get better kit than the auto entry-level CR-V, the manual X-Trail ST and even significantly undercut the entry-level Outlander (if you include the fact that the Mitsubishi requires the ADAS pack to even compete on safety).
Included spec on this absolute base car includes not-so-budget stuff like 17-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (which will ship have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto imminently, but if you buy a current-stock car you will have to return to the dealer for a software upgrade), DAB+ digital radio, built-in sat-nav, manual air conditioning (this base grade strips the cool little screens out of the dials), auto LED headlights, a 4.2-inch display in the dash, front and rear parking sensors, and heated auto-folding wing mirrors.
Other regular sort of spec items include six speakers and a reversing camera.
That’s the best kit at this price in the mid-size SUV world by a solid margin. That’s not all though, even this manual RAV4 features the full 'Toyota Safety Sense' suite. More on that in the safety section of this review (spoiler: It’s good).
Among the few giveaways that the GX manual is the cheapest one is the turn-key ignition, cloth seat trim, and urethane steering wheel. Still… are you really going to complain against its unprecedented list of inclusions at this price?
Options are limited to premium paint (every colour except for ‘Glacier White’ - $600).
So, you want to compare Honda HR-V models? You want to know what you get if you buy the top of the range model vs one of the entry grades? You've come to the right place.
Kicking off the price list is the value-focused VTi, which lists at $24,990 (RRP - that's the price before on-road costs, not a driveaway price). The next model up in the range is the VTi-S, listing at $27,990. Then there's the new RS model, at $31,990. How much is a top-spec HR-V? That'll be the VTi-LX, at $34,590.
Now we're done with the price guide, let's run through what each model is fitted with.
The entry-level VTi model is attractively priced, and scores some points on specifications, too.
Standard features include a 7.0-inch touch screen with in-built satellite navigation system (sat nav, GPS - whatever you want to call it) with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB connectivity. Sadly, no model comes with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so you'll just have to sync your iPhone or other smartphone by USB or Bluetooth.
The media screen doubles as a display for the reversing camera. There's cruise control, single-zone climate control air conditioning, and the VTi has projector halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights. You don't even get HID lights on the base spec, which is disappointing.
Step two in HR-V trim levels is the VTi-S, which sees the addition of keyless entry (smart key) and push-button start, auto on/off LED headlights, LED 'optical style' tail-lights, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' side camera system. This version gets roof rails, too, which the base grade misses out on.
The interior of the VTi-S model moves up to chrome and piano black finishes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-bound gear-knob, and the passenger's side vanity mirror is illuminated. Plus you get an extra pair of 12-volt plugs (one in the back seat, one in the rear), and a second map pocket in the back (the VTi has only one).
RS models are the sportiest looking versions in the range, and they get a different steering and suspension tune to live up to the look.
Beyond the stylish model-specific 18-inch alloy wheels, the RS gets piano black exterior trim for its body kit, including a lower front spoiler, side skirts, rear spoiler and wheel arches, plus smoked chrome look front and rear elements. This version also has dark chrome front door handles, auto-tilt passenger side mirror, black mirror covers, and additional sound deadening over the lower grades.
The RS also comes with leather seats (well, leather-appointed seats, as Honda puts it) which have been redesigned in this spec and the model above, plus the front seats are heated. It also adds rear tinted windows, auto wipers, alloy sports pedals, and a "smooth sports leather-wrapped steering wheel" with paddleshifters.
At the upper end of this model comparison is the VTi-LX, which builds on the equipment of the models below, with additions such as electric driver's seat adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, electric folding side mirrors, chrome exterior door handles, auto up/down windows for all doors, LED interior lights, dual-zone climate control, and front parking sensors.
As before, VTi-LX models have the more comprehensive safety suite, including high-speed auto emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (not active lane assist) and auto high-beam lights (but still no blind spot monitor). We'll run through the rest of the safety technology in the safety section below.
However, the VTi-LX drops back to a 17-inch wheel instead of rolling on 18s like the RS, and it doesn't get the sports leather steering wheel.
While the multimedia system covers off most infotainment needs, there's no DVD player or CD player, and no DAB digital radio, either. The sound system is identical between all four models, with six speakers (no subwoofer).
And if you're wondering about things like a power tailgate or heated steering wheel, the HR-V range doesn't quite go that far in terms of luxury.
Accessories-wise, customers have a range of options to choose from - and it goes well beyond floor mats. There are roof racks, black 18-inch alloy wheels or two-tone silver/chrome rims, a hard tonneau cargo area cover, a ow bar and bike attachment, bonnet protector and even a camping tent. Other ones that might appeal include a rear and front metal-look garnish (the latter is hardly a bull bar or nudge bar - if you want one of those, you might need to shop the aftermarket).
How many seats in the Honda HR-V? Five, and they're very practical!
Oh, what about colours (or colors, depending on where you're reading this!)? Well, there are seven on offer: the new hero colour is 'Phoenix Orange', but there are the usual suspects like 'White Orchid', 'Lunar Silver', 'Modern Steel' (grey), 'Ruse Black', 'Brilliant Sporty Blue', and 'Passion Red'.
Every one of those paint options will cost you $575 more, with only 'Taffeta White' non-metallic paint coming at no cost (RS models aren't available in that colour, but the paint cost is factored in to the list price).
Oh, and this time around there is no purple colour, and the green that looks so appealing on the Japanese market 'Honda Vezel' still isn't offered in Australia.
Engine & trans
The six-speed manual version of the GX as tested here can only be had with a 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol engine.
Those power figures are so-so and you’ll need to push up the rev-range (and compromise your fuel economy while doing so) to make the most out of them because there’s no turbo.
There are more sophisticated powertrains available in this segment with superior outputs, although not many at this price.
The manual transmission does let you wrangle the most out of this engine, although I was less impressed with the way it feels. More on that in the driving segment.
There are no changes to the engine specs of the drivetrain on offer in the updated HR-V.
The engine size and specifications go unchanged for the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, remaining at 105kW of power (at 6500rpm) and 172Nm of torque (at 4300rpm). So, it's no horsepower hero - and there's no turbo engine in sight, which is a shame.
The motor is only available with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) - and there is no manual transmission option, as much as we'd like to see a version with a clutch in the RS spec. The CVT has been updated with 'stepped ratios' to "enhance the sporty feel" and provide "more responsive acceleration".
The HR-V sold in Australia remains a 4x2 (front-wheel drive) model only - there are some markets that get an AWD / 4x4 model, but we miss out. Likewise, there's no diesel version, and you can rule out LPG, too.
Does fuel tank size matter to you? The fuel tank capacity of the HR-V is 50 litres. And if you're curious about the kerb weight, the number for the VTi is 1269kg, the VTi-S is 1274kg, the RS is 1294kg and the VTi-LX is 1319kg.
You may want to reconsider fitting a towbar, because the towing capacity ratings of the HR-V are minuscule: 500kg for an un-braked trailer, 800kg for a braked trailer.
You may want to check out our Honda HR-V problems page if you have concerns about automatic gearbox problems and suspension issues, and be sure to consult your owner's manual for information on oil type, capacity and consumption and the correct battery you'll need. Timing belt or chain? It's a chain.
The manual version of the RAV4 wears a claimed/combined fuel consumption rating of 6.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. That’s pretty low, although nowhere near as low as the Hybrid auto’s amazing 4.7L/100km combined rating.
Over a week of driving in conditions I would consider true to combined freeway/urban driving, I scored 8.0L/100km which is not bad at all considering the RAV4’s size.
The RAV4 drinks base grade 91RON unleaded petrol and a 55L fuel tank. There’s no diesel version this time around.
Fuel economy for the models in the range is dependent on which variant you choose.
For instance, the VTi model has claimed consumption of 6.6 litres per 100km (so, the fuel consumption km/L figure is 15.1). The RS model claims 6.7L/100km (14.9km/L), while the VTi-S and VTi-LX models claim 6.9L/100km (14.5km/L).
So you can expect fuel mileage to vary slightly between models, but all versions have an 'econ mode' if you want to keep the consumption down. The HR-V can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol.
The idea of a six-speed manual with rev-matching technology (complete with three modes) sounds fantastic on paper. Comment section pundits will be overjoyed. The bad news is it’s simply not that great.
It seems to be geared quite tall, and there’s a long throw between each cog. There’s not much feel to it locking in, nor is there any feel through the extremely light clutch pedal, so I admittedly ground the gears on more than one occasion.
As much as I hate to admit it, I prefer the CVT auto in this SUV for the same reasons I believe all SUVs this size should have spongy suspension.
It’s not meant to be a driver’s car. This is a practicality appliance for families that just so happens to have wheels. It should be comfortable and easy to use.
Thankfully, the rest of the RAV4’s drive experience is exactly that. The suspension has a lovely soft comfort-focused tune, and the combination of soft springs and small wheels (shod with relatively high profile rubber) makes for a quiet and refined cabin.
Of course, the trade off is that the RAV4 is hardly a corner carving sport machine, but ask yourself – do you need that?
The steering is very light, making the big body easy to swing around city streets, but it does lose a little feeling at speed.
As already mentioned, the visibility is excellent out of this car, the amenities are easy to use without becoming distractions, and it’s reassuring that the safety stuff is all really rather good.
A riveting drive the RAV4 is perhaps not, but it nails the brief as an easy-to-use family machine.
The majority of my launch drive time was spent in the RS model, which is - understandably - the version Honda wanted to show off most.
It's a new nameplate for the HR-V line-up, and it has the most visual differentiation compared to the other versions. But it's also the best to drive, with a more fun-focused edge to it.
In truth, the HR-V has never been that much fun to drive. The RS model changes that - to a degree - with a different steering system to the rest of the range. The new variable ratio set-up feels a bit more like real steering in your hand, as opposed to the standard electric system in the other models, which doesn't feel as natural or progressive.
The RS's unique steering requires less effort at higher speeds, but there's a slight downside: in combination with the bigger 18-inch wheels (with wider tyres than any other model in the range), the RS model has a bigger turning circle (11.0m vs 10.6m - or a radius of 5.5, vs 5.3m).
The suspension of the RS model has also been tweaked - the set-up remains a MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear suspension, although the RS gets a specific tune to the dampers which Honda claims "deliver a more rewarding drive with flatter cornering, greater control and a more stable ride".
It's a decent improvement, with more agility and control to the vehicle over bumps. We drove the RS and VTi-LX, and in comparing those two models it was clear the RS was the better tune in terms of body control and overall compliance, even if it offered a minor penalty to pay over sharp edges at lower speeds. But the RS's suspension never felt too harsh - which is important for a vehicle like this.
The real question is - why didn't Honda just do the RS suspension tune for all HR-V models? Presumably that suspension set-up would be even more impressive on a smaller wheel with a bigger tyre sidewall...
The performance from the 1.8-litre engine isn't terrific, but it definitely gets the job done. You're not going to win many acceleration races, and it doesn't gather speed with as much urgency as some of its competitors that roll with turbocharged engines.
But the revisions to the CVT have been worthwhile - it feels a little more willing when you plant your foot, and there's less droning from the transmission. Plus RS and VTi-LX models gain additional sound deadening to try and reduce road noise, and these versions get different seats to the lower grade versions, too. They feel a bit more plush, then, and not just because of the leather seat trim.
There is no off road review to be done here. While the numbers suggest the HR-V could cope with some rough terrain, (ground clearance mm: 170mm), the off road capability is limited by the fact it is front-wheel drive only.
Sure, you might be able to fit a set of off-road tyres to the alloy wheels, and yes, that would look pretty cool. But I wouldn't go testing the wading depth in my HR-V, if I were you.
That's fine, though - this is a city-focused SUV, and it nails that task.
Cabin design and practicality is where the HR-V still shines brightest, even if it isn't as up-to-date as it could be. There are little things, like the fact that every model is fitted with a space-saving electronic parking brake, and those 'Magic Seats' that are fitted to all variants, that add to the smartness of the space. Admittedly, to be even more enticing, things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto would be added, plus a digital speedometer.
But all in all, the updated HR-V is an improvement on what was already a very good small SUV.
Even though this is a rare manual, it doesn’t miss out on much of the RAV4’s impressive standard active safety suite.
Included is auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian and cyclist detection day and night), active cruise control (yes, even on the manual), lane departure warning (with lane keep assist), but no ‘lane trace alert’ available on the auto, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
That’s among the best active safety in the entire mid-size SUV category, and it’s all on the manual base model. Toyota’s here to win.
The RAV4 also has an above-average seven airbags, hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera (pretty good), and ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the outer two rear seats.
It also has the expected stability, traction, and brake controls.
Somewhat unsurprisingly once you’ve digested all that, the RAV4 wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (with excellent scores across the four new categories) as of May 2019.
The safety rating of the Honda HR-V remains a maximum five-star ANCAP score, which it was originally awarded in 2015.
The safety features list has been improved for this facelifted model, with the addition of a low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) system, known as 'City-Brake Active'. It will warn the driver and apply brake force at speeds from five-32km/h.
The best safety package is still reserved for the range-topping model, which gets full forward collision warning and AEB, plus lane departure warning and auto high-beam. You can't option that tech on the other models, either, which is kind of disappointing. Unlike some rivals, you can't get blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross-traffic alert, or adaptive cruise control. So the high-spec model's kit is good, but not great.
There's a reverse camera on all grades, and Honda's 'LaneWatch' camera on the top three specs. The base model can be optioned with rear parking sensors, and those are fitted to the three higher specs as standard, with the top spec model gaining front park assist sensors.
If you need to fit a baby seat, you'll be pleased to know there are two ISOFIX anchor points in the outboard rear seats, plus three top-tether attachments.
All HR-V models have six airbags.
A lot of people search "where is the Honda HRV built?" Well, firstly, it's the HR-V - hyphens are important. And secondly, you might be surprised to learn the answer is not Japan, it's Thailand.
The RAV4 is covered by a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty that Toyota thankfully upgraded to earlier in 2019.
But that’s not quite the whole story. If you keep your service record genuine and up-to-date Toyota will cover the engine for an extra two years, and you’ll also be covered by seven years of roadside assist and a 60-day money-back guarantee (if your car should suffer an issue which renders it ‘undrivable’ inside that period).
The five-year base coverage also includes panel work and any genuine accessory you might have fitted.
The RAV4 requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km whichever occurs first, and is covered by a capped price of just $210 (incredibly cheap) for the first four years.
The RAV4 is built in Japan.
Honda has a strong ownership plan compared to some of its small SUV rivals.
With a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, it's among the best in the class. No need to worry about an extended warranty, like you might if you bought a Toyota C-HR or Suzuki Vitara. No model in this segment has anything better than the warranty that Honda offers.
As for capped price servicing, the plan spans up to 10 years or 100,000km - meaning service intervals of 12 months/10,000km, whichever occurs first. The service costs are pretty well under control, too, with the average capped price service costing $296, before additional consumables.
See our Honda HR-V problems page for issues, complaints, common faults and defects. It should be able to help you gauge the reliability rating of the car.