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2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Subaru Forester: Which is Better?

  • The 2019 Toyota RAV4 and the Subaru Forester are both all-new.

  • The Toyota RAV4 was the best-selling non-truck in the U.S. in 2018.

  • Both vehicles offer a good array of standard and optional active safety features.

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2019 Toyota RAV4 review, and the 2019 Subaru Forester review.

Two of the leading compact SUVs on the market are the Toyota RAV4 and the Subaru Forester. Both are also all-new for 2019. The Forester and the RAV4 compete in the same segment, but are philosophically different vehicles in a lot of ways. Below we’ll compare the two in a number of categories to help determine which is better.

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Subaru Forester

Basic Specs

The previous-generation RAV4 had been on sale since 2013. In that time it claimed the title of best-selling non-pickup in America. Needless to say, the new model has big shoes to fill. The 2019 RAV4 gets a new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Most trims earn 26 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in combined driving with front-wheel drive. With all-wheel drive, those figures are 27 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined. Fuel economy of the Adventure grade takes a bit of a hit, coming in at 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined with standard AWD.

The new RAV4 Hybrid is scheduled to go on sale this spring. It uses a similar version of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder paired with a hybrid component. Altogether, the RAV4 Hybrid puts out 219 hp and while EPA fuel economy figures have yet to be announced, Toyota has published estimates of 41 mpg city/37 mpg hwy/39 mpg combined.

Non-hybrid RAV4s come standard with an 8-speed automatic transmission while the Hybrid gets a CVT. Three different AWD systems are offered. Run of the mill LE, XLE, and XLE Premium trims come with a simple car-based setup. Standard on the Adventure grade and optional on the Limited model is a more sophisticated system with torque-vectoring and rear driveline disconnect. The third system is found on the hybrid, and uses an electric motor to drive the rear wheels.

The RAV4 is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds in its Adventure trim. Other non-hybrid trims are rated to for up to 1,500 pounds, while the Hybrid can pull up to 1,750 pounds.

The base price of a 2019 Toyota RAV4 is $26,545, while fully loaded hybrid models will approach $40,000. See the 2019 Toyota RAV4 models for sale near you

The previous generation Forester went on sale for the 2014 model year and offered both naturally aspirated and turbocharged powertrains. The turbo is gone for the new generation, leaving just one powertrain option: a 2.5-liter boxer 4-cylinder producing 182 hp and 176 lb-ft of torque. With standard AWD and a standard CVT, the Forester returns 26 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined. The Forester offers a maximum towing capacity of 1,500 pounds. A base model Forester starts at $24,295 while a fully loaded Touring model reaches $35,270. See the 2019 Subaru Forester models for sale near you

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Subaru Forester


Looking at exterior dimensions, and the 2019 Toyota RAV4 measures 180.9 inches long, 73.0 inches wide and 67.0 inches tall. Ground clearance measures either 8.4 or 8.6 inches, depending on trim level. The new RAV4 offers 37.7 inches of front seat headroom and 41.0 inches of front seat legroom. In its second row, the 2019 RAV4 has 39.5 inches of headroom and 37.8 inches of legroom. Aft of the second row, the RAV4 has 37.5 cu ft. of cargo room. Fold the second row and this space grows to 69.8 cu ft.

The new Forester measures 182.1 inches long, 71.5 inches wide and 68.1 inches tall and offers 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Front seat headroom comes in at 41.2 inches while front seat legroom comes in at 43.3. Second row passengers get 39.6 inches of headroom and 39.4 inches of legroom. Cargo volume measures 35.4 cu ft. behind the second row, or 76.1 cu ft. with the second row folded.

Altogether, the new Forester is slightly bigger than the RAV4 in just about every dimension.

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Subaru Forester


Available features on the 2019 Toyota RAV4 include a panoramic sunroof, a 7-in display screen in the gauge cluster, a wireless charging pad located at the base of the dashboard, a JBL audio system, a foot-activated hands-free power lift gate, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats. The RAV4 now comes standard with Normal, Sport and Eco modes, while Multi-Terrain select is now included on AWD models, allowing the driver to switch between traction modes.

Available interior colors consist of black, gray and beige. Adventure models come standard with orange interior trim and either black or "Mocha" brown seats. The RAV4 can also be had with a unique contrast-colored roof.

The 2019 Subaru Forester can be had with a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, paddle shifters, a PIN-code access system, a memory driver’s seat and side view mirrors, a power rear lift gate, a Harmon Kardon premium audio system, steering responsive headlights, different traction modes, heated front and rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. The Forester also offers a dial on the console for selecting "snow and dirt" or "deep snow and mud" settings for the Forester’s AWD system.

Gray or black interior colors are offered. There’s also a Sport model which comes with blacked out trim and orange exterior accents.

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Subaru Forester

Technology & Infotainment

A 7-in infotainment screen comes on RAV4 LE and XLE trims, while XLE Premium, Adventure and Limited models come with a larger 8-in screen. The RAV4 gains Apple CarPlay for 2019, but Android Auto is still unavailable. Five USB ports are offered — one for media connectivity, four for charging. The 2019 RAV4 is available with up to two 12-volt outlets, along with an optional 120v/100w 3-pronged home-style power outlet located in the cargo area.

Base, Premium and Sport trims of the 2019 Forester come with a 6.5-in infotainment screen, while an 8-in screen is offered on Limited and Touring models, and is optional on the Sport trim. Navigation is optional on the Limited and standard on the Touring. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard across the board. 4G LTE with Wi-Fi capability is offered on everything but the base model. The 2019 Forester offers four USB ports

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Subaru Forester


The 2019 Subaru Forester scores very well in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning it a Top Safety Pick designation. Test results for the 2019 RAV4 have yet to be released, but as the outgoing 2018 model scored well enough for a Top Safety Pick designation of its own, we expect the 2019 RAV4 to score equally as well, or better.

Both vehicles come with a litany of active safety features. The 2019 Toyota RAV4 comes standard with pedestrian detection with special features for low light and cyclist detection, automatic high beams, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, road edge detection and sway warning system, full speed range dynamic radar cruise control, road sign assist and lane tracing assist. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection and automated rear braking are all optional.

The 2019 Subaru Forester offers Subaru’s "Eyesight" system as standard on all trim levels. This consists of pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane-keeping assist with sway warning and adaptive cruise control. Also available are automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection, reverse automatic braking, a driver distraction mitigation system and brake assist.

Altogether, both of these vehicles are extremely safe.

2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2019 Subaru Forester


The RAV4 and the Forester should both offer good reliability. Both Toyota and Subaru offer a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, on par with the rest of the industry, although not quite as generous as offerings from Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen.

Autotrader’s Advice

As they are two of the newest compact SUVs on the market, the RAV4 and the Forester are pretty evenly matched. Both offer modern designs, efficient powertrains and excellent safety equipment. Regardless of which one comes in an official "off-road" trim level, both should offer about the same level of off-road prowess. While the Forester is slightly bigger than the RAV4, it lacks many of the RAV4’s clever features, like ventilated front seats, a home power outlet in the cargo area and a foot-activated power lift gate. The Forester is also hindered by its CVT, which can occasionally demonstrate frustrating behavior. The Forester also lacks a hybrid trim level, and unlike on the RAV4 XSE, the Forester’s Sport trim lacks any kind of performance improvement. The RAV4 offers buyers more choice and more available features, and thus earns our recommendation in this comparison. Find a Toyota RAV4 for sale or Find a Subaru Forester for sale

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