The Toyota RAV4 is undoubtedly one of the most popular vehicles ever made. It can be argued that this vehicle popularized the crossover segment dominating the vehicle market today. Since its debut, many vehicles similar to the RAV4 have entered the market. How do these rivals measure up to the legendary RAV4? What is the closest RAV4 competitor? Stay with us until the end to find out.
Crossovers are one of the best-selling body styles in the modern day, and it is for good reason. The comfort and efficiency of these vehicles paired with their rugged appearance make many buyers choose them over sedans. Nowadays, there is a large variety of crossovers that you can choose from, and almost every major car manufacturer has a foothold in this segment.
However, the Toyota RAV4 still remains one of the best-selling crossovers. What are the reasons for its long-lived popularity? What do the competitors offer over the RAV4? By the end of this article, you’ll have answers to all these questions.
Before shifting our attention towards the best RAV4 competitor, we thought of telling you about the different generations of the Toyota RAV4.
When looking to buy a new vehicle, having a good understanding of its history is always a good idea. The RAV4 has been through five generations since it went on sale during the early 90s. Let’s take a closer look at each of these generations to see what they had to offer.
1. First Generation
As previously mentioned, the Toyota RAV4 entered the market in 1994. However, the development of this crossover can be traced back many years, all the way to 1986. Initially, Toyota offered only a two-door version of the RAV4. This smaller model was designed to appeal to younger buyers.
Both versions had a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine under their hoods. Paired with permanent four-wheel drive and a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission, the performance figures of the RAV4 were enough to give the hot hatches of the time a run for their money.
The capabilities of the RAV4 were not limited to paved roads either. When paired with the optional locking differential, this crossover could traverse paths sedans could never dream of. The capability, compactness, and sportiness of the RAV4 made it an instant sales success all over the world.
The following year saw the appearance of the four-door RAV4. This model was 400mm longer than the two-door, and could comfortably seat five people.
1997 was the first year in which the RAV4 was offered in the United States. This year also saw the introduction of a cheaper two-wheel drive model, as well as the launch of the electric-powered RAV4 EV.
In 1998, this best-selling crossover got a mid-life facelift. Several aspects of the vehicle, including safety, performance, and creature comforts all received updates. The most distinctive visual upgrade was the addition of crystal-style headlights and rear light lenses. This was also the debut year for the short-lived convertible model called the RAV4 Cabrio.
2. Second Generation
2001 saw the introduction of the all-new second-generation Toyota RAV4. Around this time, some of the major competitors of the RAV4 started to emerge as well. These included the likes of the Subaru Forester, the Honda CR-V, and the Land Rover Freelander.
Compared to its competitors, the second-generation RAV4 was both longer and wider. The bigger dimensions meant that there was more room inside the passenger compartment as well. However, due to the use of improved welding and stamping processes, the weight of this RAV4 saw no significant increase when compared with the previous generation.
Under the hood, the RAV4 received the new 2.0 liter AZ series engine. This all-alloy powerplant was outfitted with variable valve timing and produced an impressive 148 horsepower. Additionally, a turbo diesel engine that was more economical than the gasoline one was also offered.
Inside, both the two-door and four-door models now had a foldable rear bench seat. Owners had the ability to remove this seat entirely for additional cargo space. Furthermore, the trademark side-opening tailgate made loading luggage into the RAV4 a breeze. A 2004 facelift saw an increase in power for the gasoline engine. Similar to the first generation, this new RAV4 was a sales success as well.
3. Third Generation
Toyota released the third generation RAV4 for the 2004 model year. The dimensions saw an increase once again, with the SUV being 130mm longer than before. Not only that, but the stiffness of the monocoque bodyshell grew by 76%. This had a massive impact on increasing the overall safety of the vehicle.
Underneath, the RAV4 got a new double-wishbone independent rear suspension system. As a result, the ground clearance of the vehicle increased up to 200mm. Electrically assisted steering was another welcome addition.
The shift towards a part-time AWD system was a major difference from the two previous generations that came with full-time all-wheel drive. As a matter of fact, Toyota offered only a 2-wheel drive model in many markets. But, combined with the improved stability and traction control systems, this new generation was just as capable as the models that preceded it.
You can find out more about the latter in our guide on what is traction control.
The number of engine options also grew to include several new powerplants. In fact, a total of eight different engines were available to choose from. The most powerful one out of them was a 3.5-liter V6. Additionally, several transmission options, comprising both manuals and automatics were also on offer.
2012 saw the introduction of the second-generation RAV4 EV. It was outfitted with a lithium-ion battery pack that had a range of 113 miles in extended charge mode. The third-generation RAV4 received facelifts in both 2008 and 2011 to keep the vehicle up-to-date and competitive with the ever-growing number of RAV4 competitors.
4. Fourth Generation
Gearheads got their first glimpse of the fourth-generation RAV4 at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. The vehicle was released worldwide the following year. In what has become somewhat of a tradition, the dimensions of the RAV4 grew with this generation as well.
The fourth-generation RAV4 was an immediate sales success. This was made evident by the sales figures of this model being ten times higher when compared to that of the first-generation model. With this model, Toyota introduced a new system called Dynamic Torque Control which offered a sport driving mode and cornering control to the drivers.
Several engine options were on offer, including 2.0 and 2.5 gasoline engines as well as 2.0 and 2.2-liter diesel engines. In 2016, an all-new model joined the range as well. It was powered by a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. The result was 197 horsepower, capable of launching the RAV4 to 62 MPH in just 8.3 seconds. Furthermore, this engine put out just 115g/km of CO2 emissions.
5. Fifth Generation
The most recent generation of the RAV4 was released to the public in 2019. This fifth-generation model holds the accolade of being the first SUV to be based on Toyota’s Global Architecture platform. This new modular platform brings several benefits, as it improves the handling, design, and safety of the vehicle.
By pairing a new 2.5-litre Dynamic Force hybrid engine with Toyota’s fourth-generation hybrid technology, the RAV4 archives best-in-class performance in both emissions and fuel economy. The new engine has provided a boost in power and overall responsiveness as well.
The RAV4 range was further diversified in 2020 with the introduction of the first-ever RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid. With 302 horsepower on tap, this is the most powerful RAV4 ever offered by Toyota.
Toyota continues to improve the RAV4 with each model year, increasing the popularity of this SUV among buyers from all walks of life.
Toyota was one of the first car makers to hop on the crossover bandwagon. However, many other manufacturers have entered this segment since then. As a result, the current automotive landscape is filled with hundreds of great crossovers.
But, out of all these models, which ones put up the best fight against the RAV4? If you were looking for the answer to this question, we’re going to give it to you right now. Some of the best RAV4 competitors currently offered for sale are,
- Ford Escape
- Subaru Forester
- Honda CR-V
- Tesla Model Y
- Jeep Wrangler
- Volkswagen Tiguan
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Kia Sportage
- Jeep Compass
- Mitsubishi Outlander
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these SUVs to better understand why they are considered to be some of the best rivals to the almighty Toyota RAV4.
RAV4 Competitor #1 – Ford Escape
If you are on the lookout for a modern SUV with classic styling, the Ford Escape is a vehicle that should be on the top of your list. Ford offers plenty of engine options for you to choose from. The base model comes equipped with a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that makes an adequate 181 horsepower.
But if that’s too slow for you, the Ford Escape has got you covered. The range-topping 2-liter 4-cylinder engine comes packed with an impressive 250 horsepower. Additionally, when equipped with this engine, it only takes 5.7 seconds for the Escape to reach 60 MPH.
When compared to the RAV4, the towing capacity of the Escape is higher as well. In the Titanium trim level, the Escape can tow up to 3500 pounds, compared to the mere 1500-pound tow limit of the base model RAV4.
Where this RAV4 competitor falls short is in terms of efficiency. Although Ford offers hybrid and PHEV Escape models, they are often far more expensive than its Japanese rival. Furthermore, the interior, steering system, and fuel economy of the Escape leave much to desired as well.
However, this is not to say that the Ford Escape doesn’t have its merits. It can comfortably seat five people and offers more legroom as well. Some may even prefer the simpler exterior appearance of the Escape over the look of the RAV4.
RAV4 Competitor #2 – Subaru Forester
The next RAV4 competitor we are about to discuss comes from Toyota’s native Japan as well. With a starting price of just $25,895, it is clear to see why many buyers flock towards the Forester instead of the RAV4.
For the low starting price, the Forester comes packed full of the latest technological features. Not only that, but the inclusion of Subaru’s famous all-wheel drive system as a standard option will surely be beloved by many off-road enthusiasts.
Speaking of off-roading, we can safely say that the Forester is better equipped to travel through rough terrain than the RAV4. Features like high-beam assistance, lane-centering steering assistance as well the 8.7-inch ground clearance also add to the capabilities of the Forester.
The Forester falls short of the RAV4 in several aspects. First and foremost, passengers found the ride in the Forester to be noisier than the RAV4. The RAV4 beats out the Forester when it comes to acceleration as well.
Additionally, the limited cargo space, weird interior controls as well as a simple interior all contribute to making the Forester worse than the RAV4. But, for people who are looking for a mix of practicality and capability, the Forester is one of the best RAV4 rivals out there.
RAV4 Competitor #3 – Honda CR-V
The Honda CR-V is undoubtedly the most popular RAV4 rival out there. It is loved by many buyers around the world for being one of the most reliable crossovers out there (still, you ought to be careful of the 2007 Toyota RAV4 problems). On top of that, the CR-V starts at $26,800, which is a great price for a vehicle of this nature.
The interior of the CR-V is made of high-quality materials, and it is paired with an equally impressive cargo area. However, the lack of infotainment features is what lets the CR-V down. You see, the base model of this SUV doesn’t even come with basic features like a touchscreen, Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. In contrast, these features are offered as standard on every RAV4.
Another area where the RAV4 shines above the Honda CR-V is in towing. So, if you are hoping to tow frequently with your next SUV, you should probably look elsewhere. The automatic climate controls of the CR-V are another area where the manufacturer should carry out some improvements.
RAV4 Competitor #4 – Tesla Model Y
Electric cars have become all the rage in recent years, and the Tesla Model Y is a RAV4 competitor that comes from this side of the automotive landscape. It is built in America and has a starting price of around $60,000. So, it is not as affordable as the RAV4 by any means.
However, there are a few areas where the Model Y and the RAV4 seem quite similar. Both vehicles are equipped with the latest safety features and have eye-catching exteriors. Additionally, the Tesla Model Y has an edge over the RAV4 in terms of interior space and driving position.
There are a few aspects of the Model Y that have concerned buyers. One of the most frequent complaints is about the poor visibility this SUV offers. On top of that, the simple interior and the lack of a dedicated instrument panel have also come under scrutiny.
But, if money is no object and you want the most technologically advanced RAV4 competitor out there, the Tesla Model Y is the one to get.
RAV4 Competitor #5 – Jeep Wrangler
Let’s shift our attention from one American SUV to another one. For decades, the Jeep Wrangler has been a staple of the off-roading community. There are many things that the Wrangler has in common with the Toyota, making it another RAV4 competitor that deserves your attention.
In terms of similarities, the cargo space, maximum towing weight, and seating capacity of the two SUVs are almost identical. However, when compared to the RAV4, the fuel economy of the Wrangler is a bit poor. On top of that, a Jeep Wrangler can be a bit more expensive than a RAV4 that is similarly specced.
RAV4 Competitor #6 – Volkswagen Tiguan
If what you seek is an upmarket, European SUV, the Volkswagen Tiguan is a RAV4 rival that comes to mind. With a starting price of $27,785, it is competitively priced to the RAV4 as well.
Powering the Tiguan is a turbocharged four-cylinder that puts out 184 horsepower. The availability of the third row of seats allows the Tiguan to carry more passengers than the RAV4 as well. But, the sluggish acceleration of this vehicle might be an issue for some buyers.
RAV4 Competitor #7 – Chevrolet Equinox
One of the most comfortable yet least expensive RAV4 competitors comes our way from Chevrolet. The Equinox starts at just $25,000. For that, this SUV offers plenty of standard equipment like a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic headlights, and a forward collision warning system.
A 170-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder is what powers the Equinox. Although this engine provides adequate power, the lack of a hybrid option may tempt some buyers into getting the RAV4 instead. Furthermore, the cargo space of the Chevrolet Equinox is a bit cramped as well.
RAV4 Competitor #8 – Kia Sportage
Although the Kia Sportage had a reputation for being unreliable in its early years, the SUV has come a long way and now poses a huge challenge to the Toyota RAV4. The Sportage offers responsive handling, a spacious interior, and features like a panoramic moonroof for the affordable price of $24,090.
Although the new Sportage is miles better than what it once was, there are a few cons still associated with this SUV. First and foremost, it is not as efficient as the RAV4. Although the 240-horsepower turbocharged engine offers plenty of power, you’d have to frequently visit the gas pump if you buy this SUV. The lack of off-road capability and the somewhat bland exterior can also be listed as cons of the Sportage.
RAV4 Competitor #9 – Jeep Compass
The Jeep Compass is another American RAV4 competitor that pays special attention to passenger safety. Some of these features include blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assistance, pedestrian detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic braking.
Jeep offers several trim levels for the Compass. If you want 4WD capability, you’ll have to go for either the Latitude Lux, Limited, or Trailhawk models. However, the trim level might have an effect on the price, as top of the range Compasse’s retail for around $35,000.
RAV4 Competitor #10 – Mitsubishi Outlander
The Mitsubishi Outlander once reigned at the top as one of the best-selling plug-in-hybrid SUVs. However, with the recent introduction of the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid, the market share of the Mitsubishi Outlander has dropped by 2 percent compared to 2019.
The most recent RAV4 model year brings some changes to the range with it. The addition of the Woodland Edition is one such change. This new special edition comes equipped with all-terrain tires, a TRD suspension kit, a roof rack, mud flaps, bronze-painted wheels, and blacked-out exterior badges.
Inside, Toyota has updated all RAV4 models with their next-generation infotainment system. Standard features include over-the-air update capabilities as well as wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Although there are many RAV4 competitors out on the market, none can match the overall versatility of Toyota’s mighty crossover.
Despite the fact that 28 years have passed since its introduction, the RAV4 still remains one of the world’s best-selling vehicles, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
FAQs On RAV4 Competitor
What Does RAV4 Stand For
RAV4 is an acronym for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive. Toyota named it as such to highlight its practicality and capability.
How Much Is Toyota RAV4
A base model RAV4 can be yours for around $25,000. However, if you want the range-topping TRD off-road model, be prepared to spend over $35,000.
Which Is Better RAV4 Or CRV
The Honda CR-V is one of the best rivals of the RAV4 to come from Japan. Both SUVs are priced similarly and offer guaranteed reliability that is synonymous with their legendary manufacturers. The model that fits you the most entirely depends on how you plan to use your SUV.
What Size SUV Is A RAV4
The Toyota RAV4 is a mid-size crossover SUV. This makes it the ideal SUV for small suburban families.
Is A RAV4 A Crossover
The RAV4 is considered by most gearheads to be the vehicle that introduced the concept of a crossover to the world. Although it is styled like an SUV, the RAV4 is based on a sedan platform. This makes it equally suited to city streets and off-road trails.