When I got our long-term Subaru Forester back from the shop to fix a mysterious source of moisture, I also happened to have a Honda CR-V Hybrid taking up temporary residence in my driveway. After testing out my large son's car seat in each to these two right-sized vehicles, I moved on to the examine their capacity for the second-most-precious cargo they could carry: beverages.
I counted eight cupholders in each of these cars, which amounts to two per outboard passenger. Two front cupholders on the center console, one in each front door, one in each rear door, and two in the center armrest that folds down in each rear row. That's not Subaru Ascent levels of beverage storage (19 cupholders!), but it should be plenty to keep a family hydrated on a short-to-medium drive. Though these two appear to be equal in quantity, let's take a closer look and see if they're equal in quality, too. I brought along a Klean Kanteen bottle that's about the same size as most other brand of metal water bottles folks carry around, a big Corkcicle 24-ounce insulated tumbler, a standard 12-ounce soda can, and a skinny, 7.5-ounce soda can that's the same width as a lot of canned energy drinks. As a bonus, I — the man known to Twitter as "that one dude with the Nalgene bottle" — brought my trusty 32-ounce Nalgene to see if it fits anywhere.
Let's start with the spots we use the most. I like the placement of the CR-V's front cupholders for their easy reach, but beverages block the wireless charging pad (only available on the Touring trim and as Riswick discovered, it has issues). In the Forester they're further back, out of the way of the center stack, but a somewhat awkward angle for retrieval.
Now let's fill 'em up, starting with the Honda. As expected, there's plenty of room for the cans, but perhaps too much room. They both wobble around quite a bit in there. The bottle and cup fit much more securely, but the water bottle rattles around a bit in there. The Corkcicle cup is going nowhere.
In the Forester, the little rubber doodads inside the cupholder do a much better job of holding even the smaller can in place. A perfect fit! As for the reusables, the Corkcicle cup is snug, while the bottle has a little bit of wiggle room, though not quite as much as in the CR-V.
OK, let's try the front door pockets. In the CR-V, the cans are a bit loose, but the purple Klean Kanteen fits as though the pocket were designed for it. The mighty Corkcicle is too big to fit securely. In the Forester, the cans and the bottle all fit in the door, but they've got a lot of freedom of motion. If you're putting something in there, make sure it's sealed and that you don't mind if it gets shaken up a bit. Again, no dice on the big insulated tumbler.
Moving to the back, both cars' rear doors have beverage inserts as well. In the CR-V it's the same story as up front for the cans and the water bottle. Here, though, we were able to fit the big tumbler in the door pocket as well, and it held in place securely. Bonus. Also, in a pinch, I could fit a smaller water bottle in the extra space next to it.
As for the Forester, the space was ample for the cans or the water bottle, but not the Corkcicle tumbler.
Now for the final (official) parking spots for drinks in these vehicles. Both our testers have center armrests that fold down in the back seat. The CR-V's is a big cushion with a pair of cupholders situated fore and aft of one another. The cans fit in there, of course, but with no springy piece of plastic or rubber to hold them in place, they both have room to slide around. As for the bottle and the cup, they both sort of fit. Neither of them actually goes all the way in, leaving them feeling perched precariously in the cupholders. I wouldn't want to take hard corners like that, especially with the more top-heavy Corkcicle cup.
In the Forester, the armrest is slimmer, and cantilevers from its hinge point in the seat. Its two cupholders sit side by side. Unlike the Honda, the Subaru's rear cupholders have little rubber holders inside to help hold drinks in place. They work, too. Everything fits — even the big tumbler sits snugly — and nothing moves around without a helping hand. I'd trust these cupholders with any of these drinks on a curvy mountain road.
If you're like me, you work up a mighty thirst while driving. I like to bring that aforementioned big, 32-ounce Nalgene water bottle with me pretty much wherever I go. I already know just by looking that the front cupholders and rear armrest cupholders won't accommodate it. As a backup plan, in many vehicles, you can find a place in the center console storage bin to hold it. It might not be easy access, and it means you can't store other useful items there, but it works in a pinch, when the alternative is a bottle rolling around on a seat or on the floor. I was able to do just that in both vehicles. The CR-V's wouldn't close over it, though.
Also, if you're sitting in back, the seat pockets often work.
I tried all the official cupholding spots. With some effort, it fit in the front door of the Forester. As tempting as it would be to put it there, I wouldn't recommend it. It deforms the door to fit in there, and keeping it there couldn't be good long-term. Also, if you have any stickers, graphics or your name scribbled in Sharpie on your bottle, they're going to scrape off. I did find one surprise, though. I was able to easily squeeze the Nalgene into the rear door pocket of the CR-V.
So there you have it. The Subaru has the better cupholders front and rear, but the CR-V's rear doors are where the party is.