Fuel economy comparo: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester

What would you pick?
by Botchi Santos | Feb 11, 2010

Hi, Botchi!

I'm looking at the top-of-the-line 4x4 variants of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester. Which vehicle would you recommend in terms of fuel efficiency?

Thank you for your time and hope you can help me decide which vehicle to choose.


Hi, Sally!

Thanks for taking the time to write to the Top Gear team!

The response I'm giving you is based on actual, real-world driving experience in normal conditions. I cover about 250 to 300 kilometers in any given week. I go to my Ortigas and Makati central business district offices then back to the Ortigas area where I live. I play golf once a week in Antipolo or the south and I'm the type who's always overtaking a lot of cars on the road--never content to just simply cruise. I also generally tend to take the long way home especially if it's a test unit. One-third of my driving is on bumper-to-bumper traffic on C-5, EDSA and Ortigas. The rest are a mix of free-flowing city and highway driving. Here's my take on your choices:

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Honda CR-V 2.4 4x4 AT - I didn't find driving the Honda CR-V very enjoyable aside from the fact that it is very comfortable, with light controls and a tall driving position. It's perfect for women. I remember getting about 6.5km to 7km per liter when I had the Honda CR-V for a couple of days but this was when it was new and unit had less than 5,000 kilometers on the odometer. Typically Honda engines free up after a few more thousand kilometers and get more fuel efficient as well as more powerful. That might explain why the Honda CR-V I drove wasn't as efficient as I would have expected a Honda engine to be. There's a new 2010 model CR-V and Honda claims this one rides even better thanks to changes in the suspension kinematics (i.e. the suspension bushings are made of a different material that can absorb more vibrations from the road without transmitting it to the cabin). Watch out and grab a test-drive of this one.

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Toyota RAV4 2.4 4x4 AT - I haven't driven this SUV in a very long time. I vaguely remember getting about 7.5km per liter but that must have been at least three years ago, possibly even longer already. Sorry about this one.

Subaru Forester 2.5 XT Turbo AWD AT - This SUV can easily hit 8km per liter. The secret is the turbocharger. At part throttle cruise (i.e. whenever you're stepping on the gas pedal between 20- to 60-percent on full throttle) the turbocharger allows for better, more efficient and complete combustion of the fuel entering the engine, giving you extra power at all times. You end up stepping on the gas pedal even lighter, allowing you to cruise at decently fast speeds using less gas in the process. I guess that's the simplest way to explain it. I would think with a far more gentle driving style, you can hit over 9km per liter. Did I mention that this is also the fastest, most fun, most unique and the most fashionable SUV on the market today in its price segment/range?

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I would also have recommended the Outlander 3.0 V6 as it is the second best SUV in this class. Unfortunately, Mitsubishi's not selling it anymore. Hopefully there's a new and improved variant coming out soon.

Again, these are based on my experiences with the respective cars, my weekly routine and my driving style. I also generally pump up the tires to about 33-35psi cold to give me the best grip and response from the tires and generate the least rolling resistance, thereby giving me the most fuel efficiency. Some of the guys at Top Gear drive less than I do and usually have the luxury to avoid driving through rush-hour bumper-to-bumper traffic so they might get more fuel economy/efficiency. But nevertheless, the Subaru Forester is the best SUV in my book, followed closely by the Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 V6.

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

Lost in a sea of cars and not quite sure which one to get? Click here to email your car query so Botchi can help you pick the right vehicle!

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