Versatile is the perfect way to describe the crossover styles of the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester. With capabilities to drive smoothly under adverse weather conditions and the fuel efficiency for your daily commute, these vehicles can do it all. Originally released in Japan in 1994, the RAV4 made its way to North American drivers in 1996.
The Toyota RAV4 got its start as the RAV4 concept at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show. Toyota wanted to create a car that could handle light off-roading like an SUV but sport the plush comfort of an on-road passenger car. In fact, the name "RAV4" stands for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4WD.
The Subaru Forester entered the market a little later for the 1998 model year. Despite the late entry into the crossover market, the Forester differentiated itself by offering a performance trim called the XT. In the years since their debuts, both vehicles have shown themselves to be notable performers.
There are many features on the 2020 RAV4 that drivers may enjoy, one of which is the powerful performance of its gas and hybrid engines. The 2020 RAV4 gas trim has 203 horsepower while the hybrid trim has 219 net horsepower. The 2020 Forester has 182 horsepower.
But that’s not where the differences end for these compact crossovers. In this head-to-head comparison, we’ll see how the 2020 RAV4 and the 2020 Forester match up in categories like safety, performance, and interior.
Publish Date: 06/26/2020
Both vehicles come standard with their own suite of active safety features. The RAV4 has Toyota Safety Sense® 2.0 (TSS 2.0) while the Forester has EyeSight® Driver Assist Technology.
Many drivers want more active safety features in their vehicles.
Toyota Safety Sense® 2.0 (TSS 2.0) includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA), Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), Automatic High Beams (AHB), Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Road Sign Assist (RSA). The 2020 RAV4 has Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) as an option for the base trim. It comes standard starting on the XLE trim.
Subaru Eyesight® has Adaptive Cruise Control, a Pre-collision Braking System, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, and Lane Keep Assist. Blind-Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is not available for the 2020 Forester base trim. It’s available at an extra cost on the Forester Premium trim but comes standard on the Forester Limited or higher.
All leases or purchases of new Toyota vehicles also come with ToyotaCare. This factory-scheduled maintenance plan lasts for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. It also includes 24-hour roadside assistance for two years and unlimited miles. Subaru Forester comes with three years/36,000 miles of Subaru Roadside Assistance. A maintenance plan for Forester is not standard and costs vary.
In this RAV4 vs. Forester head-to-head on horsepower, the RAV4 zooms ahead. The RAV4 gas trim has a net combined horsepower of 203. The hybrid trim has a net combined horsepower of 219. The Forester only has a net combined horsepower of 182.
The performance benefits over the Forester don’t stop with horsepower.
When it comes to fuel economy, the RAV4 has a slight edge. The RAV4 LE AWD has an EPA-estimated 27 city and 34 highway MPG rating. The RAV4 XLE AWD has an EPA-estimated 27 city and 33 highway MPG. The Forester has an EPA-estimated 26 city and 33 highway MPG.
The 2020 RAV4 also offers hybrid trims (LE, XLE, XSE, Limited) with an EPA-estimated 41 city and 38 highway MPG. Subaru doesn’t offer a hybrid Forester trim.
While both the 2020 RAV4 and the 2020 Forester offer AWD trims, the RAV4 steps it up a notch with Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD (TV-AWD). Standard on the Adventure and TRD Off-Road grades, TV-AWD gives RAV4 the ability to take on your next adventure.
Also offered on all AWD trim levels, Multi-Terrain Select helps keep your RAV4 going in adverse conditions like mud, rain, and snow.
However, Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD (TV-AWD) and Multi-Terrain Select are just the tip of the iceberg for extra features that keep you steady no matter where your drive takes you.
While both cars come standard with Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™️ compatibility, audiophiles may notice a significant difference in speakers.
The base trim Forester only has four speakers while the base trim RAV4 has six speakers. To get six speakers in a Forester, you'd have to choose the Forester Premium or higher.
RAV4 comes with some extra comfort and convenience features of note, as well. The 2020 RAV4 has dual-zone automatic climate control on the LE Hybrid and higher, whereas Forester Premium has only single-zone automatic climate control. To get the dual-zone climate control, you need to get the Forester Limited or higher.
The base trim RAV4 has a 7-in. touch-screen while the Forester’s touch-screen is only 6.5 in. For an added cost, you can get an 8-in. touch-screen with the Forester Sport trim or get it as a standard feature in the Forester Limited trim.
As the #1 selling SUV in America, the 2020 RAV4 delivers a lot of bang for your buck in its eleven total available gas-powered and hybrid trims.
The Forester does not offer a hybrid trim, but the crossover still puts up decent competition against the RAV4. However, the RAV4 pulls ahead in every category from safety to performance to interior features.
All leases and purchases of new Toyota vehicles receive 24-hour Roadside Assistance for two years/unlimited miles, plus factory-scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. The Subaru Forester comes with 3 years/36,000 miles of Subaru Roadside Assistance but a maintenance plan costs extra.
The 2020 RAV4 has more horsepower and a better EPA-estimated MPG rating than the Forester. The RAV4 mileage advantage is even better when you go for the hybrid option which the Forester lacks. The 2020 RAV4 also offers the Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims for road trips, inclimate weather, and more.
Both cars have Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™️ compatibility. The RAV4 has six speakers while the base trim Forester has only four, maximizing the play potential.
For those who want an off-road capable crossover with great MPG and safety features, drivers may prefer the RAV4 vs. Forester.