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Head-To-Head Subaru Forester Vs. Honda CR-V - When KBB Can’t Make Up Its Mind

Which is the better compact SUV, the 2023 Subaru Forester or Honda CR-V? Check out the head-to-head competition and see if there is a winner.

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When you pit the 2023 Subaru Forester against the 2023 Honda CR-V, you expect one model to come out on top. But that's not the case with a recent Kelley Blue Book (KBB) comparison.

The two compact SUVs have been rivals for decades, and both are popular with owners. If you are shopping now, which model is the best? That'll depends on what you need in a small SUV. KBB says, "each has real charms."

KBB says, "The CR-V is all-new for 2023, with grown-up looks and hybrid options that bring a new sophistication to one of the genre's classics. The Forester was last redesigned for the 2019 model year, but experience gives it dependability, and Subaru fans love what it brings."

2023 Honda CR-V

Honda CR-V Highlights

KBB says the CR-V offers tailored sophistication. "When discussing a Honda, the traditional approach is to talk about resale value and dependability. But with the new CR-V, you want to stop and look at it from 20 feet away first. Honda designers have brought new polish to the latest design."

CR-V offers an optional hybrid drivetrain. KBB says with this year's CR-V, both higher trim levels bring hybrid power. In addition, the hybrid models are quicker, with 204 horsepower, and more fuel efficient, with up to 40 mpg in combined driving for front-wheel-drive versions.

2023 Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester Highlights

The Forester offers standard all-wheel drive. You can get an all-wheel-drive CR-V, but it will cost you more than the base price. Every car Subaru builds (except the BRZ sports car) comes with all-wheel-drive, and "The added grip doesn't add a dime to the sticker," says KBB.

Forester has a lower price. The CR-V's new upscale pretensions come with a price tag, while the Forester is almost $5,000 lower. "To be realistic, you'd have to compare it to the cost of a CR-V with that added AWD system, driving the premium for the Honda badge even higher, "says KBB.

Forester offers a rugged character. KBB says, "Subaru has many loyalists, partly because of its unique image, as the hiking boots of the suburban parking lot fit neatly into many lifestyles. So if you've always loved Subaru, you'll probably love the Forester."

KBB can't make up its mind

KBB does not pick a winner. They say many buyers would be happy with a stylish Honda CR-V with up-to-the-minute tech and great looks. On the other hand, many buyers would be satisfied with a rugged, proven Subaru Forester with standard all-wheel-drive and a lower price. "There's no wrong answer here, just two very different successful family rides."

Our take

Subaru Forester doesn't offer a hybrid trim, and they could use one. In a recent Forester owner poll, 36 percent said they would be interested in a plug-in hybrid Forester. But if you fall into the 44 percent camp that doesn't want a Forester Hybrid, the standard Forester gets the best fuel mileage in the non-hybrid compact SUV category.

For active customers and those with active lifestyles who want to get further off the grid, the 2023 Forester Wilderness is set far apart from the Honda CR-V. A recent ranking from CarTalk picked the Forester Wilderness as the best SUV for winter driving.

We would pick the 2023 Subaru Forester Sport, which offers the best of both worlds, can be used as a commuter during the week, and offers duel-function X-Mode for weekend adventures.

Which vehicle would you choose if you were buying a compact SUV?

You Might Also Like: A Surprising Number Of Subaru Owners Say No To An All-New Forester Hybrid

Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report, where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru, Honda

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Comments

Techadopted (not verified)    February 17, 2023 - 7:18PM

I'm one of those Forester owners who would love it as a PHEV. I had a CR-V prior to my 2020 Forester, and the long-distance comfort alone of the Forester, after driving both vehicles several times up and down the west coast from NW Washington to So. Cal, is a slam dunk for the Subie. My CR-V was a trouble-free drive for the 7+ years I had it, and the Forester has been completely reliable in all weather conditions for the 2-1/2 years I've had it.

I'd certainly consider the Honda with a PHEV and AWD drivetrain if it's available, but I'd also be leery of both manufacturers' first attempts at PHEVs, considering the somewhat limited experience they have compared to, say, Toyota. But overall, I'd have to agree with KBB's assessment with these two models and companies - you probably won't go wrong with either one. Final decision will probably be made because of other factors: availability, dealer incentives, etc.

Jerry Levy (not verified)    February 18, 2023 - 11:04AM

Both cars have the same problem in my view: lack of power. Both need an affordable 2.0 turbo option.

Steve (not verified)    February 18, 2023 - 11:22AM

I purchased a new 2019 Forester Touring, early on with the redesign. My first Subaru and I did not like it at all. Felt way to light on the highway getting blown all over. The engine start/stop was awful with very rough stop and restart. I’m looking at new vehicles now and love hybrids - the new CRV looks very inviting BUT with no spare tire won’t buy one unless I figure a good way to carry a spare. I was stranded 2x with tire gunk repair kits, with family and dog in a previous vehicle. Never again.