Deep Dive

Honda CR-V vs Toyota RAV4 Luggage Test | Cargo space comparison

The new RAV4 is smaller than before. Does that give the CR-V an advantage?

For those waiting oh-so-patiently last Friday for the week's luggage test, I must apologize. It never came. Alas, there was a reason, and it was to take advantage this week of having two competitor crossovers in back-to-back weeks. And they're not just any crossovers. Nope, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are the best- and second-best-selling crossovers/SUVs on the market. They're also two of the most spacious, family-friendly and road-trip-ready compact models, making them absolutely perfect to be subjected to the rigors of a luggage test. 

Frankly, I wasn't expecting the conclusion here to be surprising. Toyota quite consciously sacrificed the previous RAV4 generation's cargo capacity in favor of less dumpy styling -- it was a profound stylistic and philosophical departure, and I don't think I'm alone in saying the result was a net positive. There is now 37.5 cubic feet behind the back seat versus the old model's 38.4. The maximum figure takes a bigger dive to 69.8 cu-ft from 73.4. 

The Honda CR-V, by contrast, got even bigger for its current generation introduced for 2017. It has 39.2 cu-ft behind the back seat and a 75.8 cu-ft maximum, which means it should have an advantage. We'll see about that ...

As you can see here, the CR-V (left) really is just a giant stuff-swallowing vault. The RAV4 (right) looks to be a big, if pretty normal SUV cargo area. The Honda's height and boxiness are pretty clearly where the significant difference in maximum capacity comes from, and why it would likely be a better choice for big, bulky items or hauling a big dog (the low lift-over helps, too). 

Yet, we're talking luggage here, and as always I use two midsize roller suitcases that would need to be checked in at the airport (26 inches long, 16 wide, 11 deep), two roll-aboard suitcases that just barely fit in the overhead (24L x 15W x 10D), and one smaller roll-aboard that fits easily (23L x 15W x 10D). I also include my wife's fancy overnight bag just to spruce things up a bit (21L x 12W x 12D).

Let's start with the RAV4. As usual, I started with the cargo cover in place and there you have it, all of the bags fit. I had to put the fancy bag on its side, but I also could've just thrown it on top.


And here's the CR-V. It doesn't look it in the comparison picture above, but the RAV4 appears to have a slightly longer cargo area than the CR-V (it did grow in length by 2.5 inches last year). Note that its has the BIG blue bag at the end of its cargo area, whereas the CR-V has the smaller version. 

The CR-V's shorter length means I had to put the fancy bag on its side and keep the smaller roller bag in the middle -- there wasn't enough room to push it to the left or right. On the other hand, there was more clearance between the bags and cargo cover in the CR-V, once again demonstrating its superior height.

OK, let's take out the cargo cover.

This is how much space is left in the CR-V with the cargo cover removed and all the standard luggage fitted. What can you fill that with?

Well, you can stuff inside a 38-quart cooler and a Pack 'N Play, but the fancy bag would need to stay at home. As such, let's ditch the Pack 'N Play (you don't have to in the Subaru Outback ... ish).

There. I also added a small duffel bag to fill out the space, and if it isn't obvious, you can still see easily out the back (that would be the "ish" in the Outback note above).

What about the RAV4?

Well, whaddaya know? The exact same quantity of bags/cooler fit inside. However, you'll note the small roller is on its belly rather than its side, once again showing that the RAV4 achieves its space with length whereas the CR-V achieves the same amount with height. Nifty.

In general, the CR-V was bit easier to load and its cargo area's shape and height do indeed give it an advantage for larger items. Nevertheless, color me impressed by the new RAV4. Apparently, its sacrifice for style wasn't so significant as I originally figured. 

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story indicated the CR-V Touring has less cargo capacity than every other trim level. That was based on an apparent typo on Honda's media site. Honda representatives say that all gas-only CR-V models have the same cargo capacity.

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