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Which would you buy? subaru outback or honda CRV?

We are trying to decide between these two and can’t seem to make a decision. There is a 2000 cash back on subaru right now, which isn’t a lot, but it’s something. We are looking at the outback SE or the CRV LX version. Can anyone tell me their impressions/thoughts? We are trading in a VW Golf which i am very sad to see go because it has been a great reliable car…but we need something bigger for the baby. Reliability is very important for us! Thanks in advance!!!

Both of the vehicles you are considering are highly rated for reliability. To me it would come down to how much you want or need AWD.

The Subaru AWD system is much more sophisticated than the CRV’s, and if you drive in winter conditions that may matter. If this is not a consideration then choose the vehicle you like best or the one you’re more comfortable in.

Have you seen the Jetta Sport Wagon? If you’re a VW fan this might be another good option. It certainly is a beautiful car. Between the Honda and the Subaru I think you’ll find the Subaru feels more VW-like on the road.

thanks for your response. The AWD is definitely something we wanted this time around. we live in new england and I am terrified to drive when the roads are bad…but we really don’t need it most of the time. I have heard that gas mileage suffers with awd. When you say the subarus AWD is more sophisticated, in what way? I love VW but we have heard that some people have had trouble with them, so I don’t know if we just ended up really lucky with ours or not. Not sure I want to risk it. Overall I think VW has fun cars to drive and the reliability is good, but not sure it measures up to subaru… and honda is probably even more reliable than the subaru.

If you are terrified driving on New England roads in the winter, AWD will not solve your problem; it will likely make you over-confident and get you into trouble, like the many AWD vehicles we see in the ditch during a snow storm.

I would buy a reliable, roomy vehcle with front wheel drive and equip it with top quality winter tires, such as Michelin X-ICE.

There is considerable choice, but a Toyota Matrix would be ideal since it is a hatchback and all the baby stuff can go in the back. You can also get an Elantra Hatchback for considerably less than either of the cars you have in mind. The Elantra is classified as a mid size car although it sells for less than a compact Honda.

The Matrix or Hyundai Elantra will be even more reliable than the Volkswagen, and less expensive to maintain.

The key to winter driving, we found, was to get very good winter tires and take a course in winter driving. My wife is retired, but is not fased by any weather when heading for the ski slopes.

I own a Subaru Legacy wagon and a Honda Accord. I’ve owned VWs in the past but not recently.

The CR-V is basically a front drive vehicle. When the front wheels start to spin the rear wheel drive is activated, but it’s not full time AWD.

The Subaru is always operating in AWD, and it can provide climbing and pulling traction when the part-time systems cannot.

You can find interesting comparison videos of different AWD vehicles if you search around on You Tube.

I have a 4WD Ford Ranger, too. The Subaru is better on a snow-covered road than the 4WD truck. The only advantage the truck has is more ground clearance for off road use, but if the snow’s that deep you shouldn’t be driving anyway.

For the driving conditions you describe I think Subaru is the best choice. The trick is not to get over-confident. AWD will get you moving, but it does nothing to help you stop or steer. You still have to drive slowly and carefully, and you still need winter tires.

There is a fuel mileage penalty with AWD, but it’s mostly because of the extra weight. There is also more maintenance with an AWD vehicle, and all four tires have to match, especially with the Subaru.

Things to keep in mind.

“I am terrified to drive when the roads are bad”

It’s good to have some fear and respect for Mother Nature nad Father Physics. Too often people get 4/AWD and lose that respect. Then you see them in ditches on snowy days. AWD will keep you going but it won’t help you stop.

Besides the extra weight and complexity of AWD if one of your tires needs early replacement it probably means purchasing 4 new tires.

A FWD car with stability/traction control might fill your needs and be a better value. Especially if you get a set of winter tires.

Docnick makes a good point. Although I love my Subaru in the snow I don’t think I’ll buy any more AWD vehicles in the future. The extra maintenance and lower fuel mileage really add up over time. Winter tires are the key to winter driving, and a FWD car with four winter tires will probably go just about anywhere an AWD vehicle will go.

Heck, in the old days we all drove REAR wheel drive vehicles in the winter. I don’t remember any problems.

We have experience with both the Subaru and the CRV in our family. As stated, the the Subaru drive system is superior if you encounter snow all of the time. It also helps the car handle better in the dry than comparable FWD cars; as well as being better for towing and high power applications. BTW, the engine braking on awd offers superior control in slippery conditions to fwd/rwd cars. So it does help braking in that respect.

The CRV tends to handle like FWD, which isn’t bad, until the wheels slip than you get additional traction of awd. IMO, the CRV is superior over the very good reliability of the Subaru, is march larger inside and offers very similar mileage to the FWD only models. If you feel the VW was reliable for you, either will be an improvement still. AWD offers a margin of safety in snow that FWD can’t approach when equipped the same. You have to decide if the added expense is worth it and how much you’ll actually need it.

The difference in mileage between a FWD CRV, RAV4 and an AWD model of each, is very little. The mileage difference occurs when you throw a FWD compact instead of an SUV into the mix. It’s the size, weight and gearing…

Larger interior dimensions is a reason to consider a CRV or new RAV4 over an Outback as well.

I agree. IMO, RWD cars when properly prepared are BETTER winter performers than FWD.
Heck, for the same reason that a RWD lawn mower is better than a FWD on hills and wet slippery grass…and some people that praise fwd over rwd don’t get it.

Winter tires are the key to winter driving, and a FWD car with four winter tires will probably go just about anywhere an AWD vehicle will go.

You’ve got to be kidding on this point !!! Not an AWD with 4 winter tires it won’t. We keep conflating the issues.

I would go with the Outback, probably the turbocharged XT model or the 30R model with the flat 6. There isn’t much up front cost between the two and the fuel mileage is almost identical. IMHO. The normally aspirated flat four is overmatched for the size and weight of the car and fuel mileage between the XT and SE model is about 2 MPG. But for that lost 2 MPG you get 60-70 more HP. The turbo 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder engines don’t suffer from the head gasket problems that some Subaru owners report. But Subaru may have corrected this problem in their newer models. That’s just me though.

If you are planning to keep this car a long time, like 10 years, I’d go with the CRV. Subaru’s need more expensive repairs as they age, years from 5 to 10 will be cheaper with the CRV.

The CRV with 4 wheel drive is fine in snow. The AWD in the Subaru doesn’t improve traction very much over the CRV and the Subaru system is more trouble prone.

A cheaper alternative to the Matrix is the Pontiac Vibe

Rav4 the only way to go!

My advice is to try them both out. Both are good cars, but one may better fit your personal needs than the other.

I can’t give you any advice on either car, but you mentioned, “a 2000 cash back on subaru”. Check out’s Incentives: Rebates & Financing Offers page at, and Edmunds’ Car Tips and Advice page at for more ways to save money.