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2020 Subaru Outback vs Honda CR-V

2020 Subaru Outback vs Honda CR-V
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

2020 Outback vs CR-V - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

If you are looking for an SUV this year but don't want to deal with something large and difficult to navigate in tight parking lots, you might want to consider test driving both the 2020 Subaru Outback and the 2020 Honda CR-V. Truth be told, these are two of the strongest competitors in the segment this model year, so finding something better than these will be tough to accomplish.

So, how do the Outback and CR-V stack up? The CR-V has its standard 1.5-L engine that is quick to accelerate, and the amount of space you get in the cabin and cargo area is cavernous. Oh, and we cannot neglect to mention the spunky handling and cozy ride quality! Unfortunately, the touchscreen display is the one downside to the CR-V since it gets really fussy and does not have a separate tuning knob. The Outback was fully redesigned for the model year and is also quite spacious and comfy. The optional turbocharged engine puts forth a good thrust of power too. It is also a capable off-roader with standard all-wheel drive (AWD). But the small item storage areas aren't all that well thought-out, the turbo XT models give a bumpy ride quality over broken pavement, and the buttons for the climate control system are super tiny.

But we need to go further in-depth with these two SUVs if we are really going to enhance your knowledge. This comparison review will get into details on what makes these vehicles enjoyable (because they are both delightful in many ways) to drive, how safe they are, and what types of powertrain options are available. After that in-depth look, we will let you know which vehicle has the most value and is the overall best purchase. Be sure to read on through to the end to find out which SUV comes out victorious!

The Powertrain

First, let's talk powertrains. The 2020 Honda CR-V is powered by a base 1.5-L 4-cylinder engine that, paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission(CVT), generates 190 hp and 179 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard while AWD is available as on option on every trim level. Also, new for 2020 is a hybrid powertrain that is matched up with a 2.0-L engine. Its combined hp is 212, and you get standard AWD.

The 2020 Subaru Outback has a base 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine that, paired with a CVT as well, gets 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. The XT variants come with a turbocharged 2.4-L 4-cylinder that does much better, getting 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. And, since this is Subaru we are talking about here, AWD is standard across the line-up.


Power generated is only one element of a vehicle's drivability factor. In fact, quite a few things go into what makes a vehicle a pleasure (or displeasure) to drive. Comfort, interior design, technology features, and utility are all important components of what makes a vehicle's performance stand out, whether it is in a good or bad way. Here, thankfully, it is pretty much all good since Subaru and Honda are both known for their high standards and good reputations.

Let us first give our attention to the 2020 Honda CR-V. The CR-V's 1.5-L engine is a swift little thing, getting from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds - one of the quickest times in this segment. The brakes feel like they are well controlled and can be modulated with ease in any given situation. You can come to a panic stop in a safe distance, whether you are in the gas-powered or hybrid variant. The ride quality is balanced smartly with secure handling capabilities as you get just the right amount of feedback coming from the steering wheel. Those pesky mid-corner bumps you encounter? Those will get smoothed right out, pronto. Even curvy mountain roads are easy to navigate. Steering and handling are utterly precise.

When it comes to comfort, Honda loads the seats with padding. The driver's seat is highly adjustable, making it perfect for people of all sizes to find a good position in. The rear seats are also cozy enough for long road trips. The cabin remains calm and collected while riding over bumps since the suspension works to smooth everything out. Any little impact you do feel will only be experienced once. You will hear some wind and tire noise coming in on the highway, and the engine will only let out a moderate growl when pushed to full throttle. The automatic climate control system is the only problem when it comes to comfort since it does not always maintain your settings.

The interior of the CR-V is rather immaculate, bordering on entry-level luxury SUV style on the higher trim levels. The front and rear doors open out wide so that it is easy to get in and out. And, of course, finding the right position behind the wheel is quick work. The inside really is bigger than you might expect, besting basically all of its rivals. You can easily fit four full-sized adults inside this vehicle.

Technology has previously been a rough patch for Honda, but they have done a lot of work after listening to consumer complaints. Smartphone app integration is standard on all but the base trim, and you get Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming as standard features. The navigation screen displays clear graphics but can feel a bit clunky, and the voice controls are also laggy at times.

Now, when it comes to utility, Honda thrives, soaring well above the other automakers out there. The CR-V has 39.2 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats left up, but when you fold the rear seats down, you get 75.8 cubes. There is some exceptionally designed small item storage areas that allow you to organize and conceal your devices. The center console's configuration has a sliding tray where you can hide your valuables. The LATCH system has easy-to-access anchors in the rear seats, but the tether anchor for the center seat is located in the roof, which does obstruct rear vision.

The 2020 Subaru Outback puts forth some stiff competition for the CR-V, but its base engine is really slow to accelerate with a 0-60 time of almost 9 seconds. The turbo engine does a lot better, but, of course, you have to spend more to get that. The CVT does provide some seamless shifting, and the steering always feels like it sends enough feedback and has a nice on-center point it can maintain. And, with 8.7 inches of ground clearance, this still-wagonesque vehicle can be taken off the beaten path.

Inside, the cabin is nice and cozy. The front seats are soft and supportive, equipped with a good amount of bolstering for a long ride. The ride quality itself is decent even though you will experience minor vibrations. However, the suspension dispatches those without becoming too drift-y and light. The ride remains controlled and compliant with your commands. The climate control system works nicely at heating and cooling the cabin but has an awful interface on the touchscreen display.

The interior design itself is modest yet practical. The driver's seat can easily be adjusted, but the front seats still have that more reclined station wagon design that Subaru was known for a few decades ago. The back seats have a ton of head and leg room, and the cabin has a feeling of openness. The massive windows make for excellent outward visibility and help to diminish the size of blind spots. The controls that are routed through the touchscreen are the worst part. The system is sluggish, and you will go through numerous menus just to do something as simple as change your destination in the navigation system.

Technology is hit and miss here. The stereo sure does sound nice, and there are enough charging ports to go around. But do skip the optional 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen display. It takes forever to do anything, and the graphics show up in an awkward arrangement. The smartphone app consumes the top half of the screen while in use, and the bottom half is rendered useless. You also cannot get the voice controls to recognize basic requests, so you will have to rely on your smartphone.

Utility is pretty typical for its segment. The Outback has less cargo space than the competition since it is based on a lifted wagon design. The cargo floor is flat and low in height, so you can easily load and unload items. You can also install gear atop the roof rails without hassle since the vehicle is not that high. There are some crafty storage spaces for small items in the cabin, but there is not much volume. The front seat passenger does get a nifty phone shelf, and there are huge bottle holders on the back doors. However, the center console just seems small next to that of the CR-V.

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Safety is definitely a chief concern for both Honda and Subaru, and it reflects in their ratings. They come packed with plenty of features, to be sure, but it is how they stack up in tests set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (best known by the acronym NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (also referred to as IIHS).

The 2020 Honda CR-V has the Honda Sensing suite, which bundles driver aids into one system. Lane keep assist comes standard, as do lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. The collision control system sometimes sends unwarranted warnings, but the bundle otherwise works pretty well. And, as far as safety ratings go, NHTSA gave the CR-V 5 out of 5 stars overall with only one star lost on the front barrier passenger side test. The IIHS assigned it "Good" ("G") ratings on most of its tests. The headlights on the hybrid variants received "Average" ("A") for the inadequacy of the high and low beams on left curves and "Marginal" ("M") for the lights on the LX, EX, and EX-L showing some glare. The LATCH system also got an "A" for that pesky tether cord.

The 2020 Subaru Outback has the Eyesight bundle, which is akin to the Honda Sensing suite. Eyesight comes with basically the same features but can be obnoxious with how often it beeps out notifications. NHTSA gave the Outback 5 stars overall with a single star lost on the rollover test. Recalls currently include a loose or missing brake pedal mounting bracket bolt. Consumers have complained about a mysterious crack that shows up on the windshield, and this seems to be happening on many Subarus this model year. IIHS made the Outback a 2020 Top Safety Pick+, giving it "G" scores on all but the LED projector lights (an "A" for the Base through Onyx Edition trims and "M" for the Limited and Touring trims).

Which Has the Best Value

So, which vehicle has the most value? The CR-V has an EPA estimated 30 mpg combined (with 28 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway), but it is definitely sensitive to your driving style. Many drivers will likely get closer to 28 mpg combined. But, overall, you get a fantastic build quality with lovely trim inserts and panels that fit well together. The leather seats on the higher trims are downright luxurious. And bonus: Roadside assistance is included in the warranty.

On the other hand, you have the Outback, which gets an EPA estimated 29 mpg combined with the base engine equipped, making it better than some rivals - but not the CR-V. Why? In real world tests, the Outback gets more like 20 mpg combined. Yikes. The base engine has this underwhelming performance that requires you to have a lead foot just to keep pace with traffic. It simply is not as efficient as that of the CR-V. The XT variants have the turbo engine that is more comparable, but you have to pay more for those. And the cabin? Its materials really do not stand out. That is why we give the edge to the CR-V here.

Which is Better?

Determining which vehicle to get really depends on two things: how much off-roading you want to do and brand loyalty. If you are not brand loyal and don't plan to do much off-roading, go for the 2020 Honda CR-V. Its engine options are all strong, even the base engine. They are also pretty efficient and hold up in real world tests. Your only gripe will likely end up being the wonky touchscreen controls, but that will probably be a minor complaint.

Used 2020 Subaru Outback: