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2020 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Ford Escape: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Chris O'Neill November 2019

Two of the most popular vehicles for sale in the US are the Ford Escape and the Toyota RAV4. While the Escape is all-new for 2020, the RAV4 was redesigned just last year, which makes these two of the most modern compact SUVs you can buy new today. Both vehicles come loaded with safety tech and offer hybrid variants and more. Here, we'll take a look at the two side-by-side across a number of categories to see how they compare.

2020 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Ford Escape exterior

Exterior

Ford and Toyota have followed different design philosophies with their respective compact crossovers. The new-for-2019 RAV4 has adopted a somewhat rugged look with a blunt front end, aggressive headlights, sculpted wheel arches and a blocky hindquarters. This is emphasized further on the Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims -- the latter of which is new for 2020. Both of these outdoor-oriented grades offer an even blunter front-end design inspired by the company's body-on-frame trucks and SUVs. Overall, the 2020 RAV4 has a new personality not found in previous generations. See the 2020 Toyota RAV4 models for sale near you

Ford made waves last year when it announced it would be discontinuing all of its passenger cars apart from the Mustang in the coming years, referencing consumers' shift toward SUVs as the reason behind the move. As a result, the redesigned Escape now does double duty and fills the role of vehicles like the Focus and the Fusion. As such, it wears a docile, carlike design. We aren't saying it's unattractive, but rather that it's arguably one of the most car-like SUVs of all-time, at least with regard to appearance. See the 2020 Ford Escape models for sale near you

Unlike the aggro-looking RAV4, the new Escape has no shortage of ovals and rounded corners, and the vehicle makes little effort to appear burly or rugged. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Ford is readying a rugged compact SUV based on the Escape's platform that should bow some time in 2020 as a 2021 model. Known as the Bronco Sport, the new crossover will be positioned alongside the likes of the RAV4 Adventure and the TRD Off-Road, not to mention the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. So if you're looking for a small SUV from Ford with some added off-road capability, you're going to have to wait another year. 

2020 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Ford Escape interior

Interior

Many of the themes followed in the exterior designs of these two vehicles carry over to the interior. The RAV4's interior is both sporty and utilitarian, while the Escape follows a more conservative approach. Again, if you're looking for a rugged compact SUV from the Blue Oval, give it a year, as the new Bronco Sport will probably match, if not surpass, the RAV4's level of adventurous functionality.

Both vehicles feature a center infotainment screen that sits at the top of the center stack. While it's a bit controversial, this design choice allows for a less visually bulky dashboard. The RAV4 offers an available 7-in screen located between the mechanical needles in the gauge cluster, and the Escape can be had with a fully digital gauge cluster that features a massive 12-in screen -- the same design offered in the Mustang and the new Explorer.

2020 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Ford Escape mechanicals

Mechanicals

Under the hood of the non-hybrid RAV4 is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. With front-wheel drive, this powertrain returns 26 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway, and 30 mpg in combined driving. All-wheel drive models get 27 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/30 combined. The additional trim pieces found on the AWD-only Adventure trim mean that it's slightly less aerodynamic, so the Adventure earns 25 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/28 mpg combined.

RAV4 Hybrid models pair a version of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with a hybrid system. Perhaps surprisingly, the RAV4 Hybrid offers better performance than the regular RAV4 and puts out an impressive 219 hp. Even with standard AWD, the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid puts out fuel economy of 41 mpg city/38 mpg hwy/40 mpg combined. Every RAV4 comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

The new Escape will ultimately offer four different powertrains, and the RAV4 will offer just two. Like the RAV4, base and hybrid offerings are available, but the Escape also offers a turbocharged 4-cylinder and a plug-in hybrid variant that will join the lineup in a couple of months. The Escape's base engine is a 1.5-liter 3-cylinder turbo that puts out 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. Step up to the optional performance-oriented gas engine and you're looking at a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes an impressive 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. The Hybrid pairs a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with an electric motor for a total output of 200 hp. Unlike the RAV4 Hybrid, which comes standard with AWD, the Escape Hybrid can be had with either FWD or AWD. The same goes for the base 1.5-liter model, while the turbo four is exclusively AWD. Non-hybrid Escapes use an 8-speed auto, and the Hybrid gets a CVT.

Fuel economy for the base Escape with FWD comes in at 27 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined, and AWD comes with a penalty of two mph. With standard AWD, the 2.0-liter Escape returns 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined. Figures for the Escape Hybrid have yet to be released, but you can expect numbers on par with the RAV4 Hybrid for AWD models and a little better than the RAV4 Hybrid FWD.

A plug-in hybrid Escape will join the lineup in early 2020 and offer over 30 miles of electric-only range. The Escape PHEV will be exclusively FWD.

2020 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Ford Escape technology

Technology

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 offers three different AWD systems, the most sophisticated of which is a torque-vectoring unit found on the Adventure, Limited and TRD Off-Road models that offers Multi-Terrain Select and hill-descent control features. Additionally, the RAV4 offers an available power inverter in the cargo area, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a 360-degree camera system, wireless charging, a hands-free power liftgate and more.

The 2020 Escape offers similar feature content to the RAV4. Items available on the Escape but not the RAV4 include real leather seats and the aforementioned fully digital gauge cluster.

2020 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Ford Escape safety

Safety

In testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the current-generation Toyota RAV4 performed admirably across the board, earning one of the Institute's coveted Top Safety Pick+ designations. Since it's so new, the 2020 Ford Escape has yet to be tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but we expect it will also earn top marks.

Every 2020 RAV4 comes with the second generation of Toyota's suite of active safety features, which the company brands as "Toyota Safety Sense 2.0." Standard on the 2020 RAV4 are automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and road sign recognition, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and lane-centering assist and automatic high beams. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and front-and-rear parking sensors are optional.

The new 2020 Ford Escape comes standard with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian protection, lane-keeping assist, post-collision braking, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic monitoring (usually an optional extra at this price point). Ford CoPilot360 Assist joins on the Escape SE and higher trims, adding full-speed adaptive cruise control and evasive steering assist. Top-of-the-line Titanium models see the addition of Ford CoPilot360 Assist+, which brings lane centering to the adaptive cruise control as well as front and rear parking sensors. The Titanium trim also comes with Active Park Assist 2.0, which can parallel park the vehicle at the touch of a button without any additional driver input.

2020 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Ford Escape reliability

Reliability

Based on studies evaluating overall quality and dependability, Toyota buyers should see above-average reliability, while Ford buyers should see reliability more on par with the industry average. Both companies offer 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties that are in line with most competitors.

Pricing

A base RAV4 costs $26,970, while a base Escape S with FWD and the basic 1.5-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder engine carries an MSRP of $26,725. The Escape tops out at $40,715 in a fully loaded Titanium trim with AWD and the optional turbocharged 4-cylinder. A loaded 2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road comes in at a little over $41,000.

The least-expensive 2020 Escape Hybrid starts at just over $30,000, while a base 2020 RAV4 Hybrid carries an MSRP closer to $29,000.

Autotrader's Advice

These two vehicles will likely be segment-leaders for years to come, and for the 2020 model year, they have different strengths. While both offer excellent efficiency and safety features, the RAV4 has a more aggressive-looking overall design along with two rugged trim levels in the Adventure and TRD Off-Road grades.

The new Escape on the other hand is arguably the most carlike of any compact crossover on sale today, largely due to Ford's plan to introduce a rugged compact SUV under the Bronco sub-brand some time in the next year. In addition to its more carlike aesthetics, the Escape comes with more powertrain options than the RAV4 thanks to its offering of plug-in hybrid and performance versions. Since these vehicles are both extremely competitive in the compact SUV segment, it will come down to the individual buyer to determine which one is right for their needs.Find a Toyota RAV4 for sale or Find a Ford Escape for sale

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New 2020 Toyota RAV4 AWD Limited
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2020 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Ford Escape: Which Is Better? - Autotrader
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