- The 2020 Toyota RAV4 and the Jeep Cherokee are two of the more rugged-looking compact SUVs on sale today.
- The RAV4 offers an efficient hybrid model that returns 40 mpg combined.
- The RAV4 was all new for 2019. The Cherokee was last fully redesigned for the 2014 model year.
If you’re looking for a compact SUV that looks as good on the trail as it does around town, chances are the 2020 Toyota RAV4 and the Jeep Cherokee are both on your radar. Here, we’ll compare the two in a number of categories to identify which is the better buy.
When it debuted, the Cherokee wore controversial front-end styling with a bizarre 2-tiered headlight design, but an update for 2019 brought the Cherokee’s face more in line with the mainstream. The RAV4 was all new for 2019 and wears a more chiseled design than in generations past. While the Cherokee’s styling is pretty similar across all trim levels, the RAV4 gets a more rugged, truck-inspired face in its Adventure and TRD Off-Road trim levels. Both vehicles are about 182 inches long and offer around 8.5 inches of ground clearance. See the 2020 Toyota RAV4 models for sale near you or See the 2020 Jeep Cherokee models for sale near you
On the inside, the RAV4 is nicer and more modern than the Cherokee. It uses a fresher interior design, the highlight of which is a storage shelf that runs the width of the dashboard. Additionally, the RAV4 uses a number of different charming colors and finishes throughout its interior that differ depending on the trim level. The Cherokee, on the other hand, feels dated, and the materials used aren’t as nice. Jeep and parent company Fiat-Chrysler aren’t exactly known for offering the best interiors. Both vehicles use similarly sized infotainment screens, although the RAV4’s sits perched atop its center stack, while the Cherokee’s is built into the dash itself.
In terms of space, the RAV4 is much more efficiently packaged than the Cherokee. The RAV4 offers about 38 cu ft. of cargo volume behind its second row and 70 cu ft. with its second row folded, while the Cherokee offers just 26 and 55 cu ft., respectively.
The nonhybrid RAV4 uses a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Output is respectable at 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is optional. Two different AWD systems are offered. Adventure, TRD Off-Road and Limited models get a more sophisticated system with torque-vectoring capability. With FWD or the more basic of the two AWD systems, the RAV4 is rated at about 29 miles per gallon in combined driving. Models with the torque-vectoring system are rated at 27 mpg combined. The RAV4 Hybrid comes standard with AWD and uses a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder paired with an electric motor that powers the front wheels, while a second electric motor powers the rear wheels. Total system output is an impressive 219 hp, while fuel economy is rated at an even more impressive 40 mpg combined. In our opinion, the RAV4 Hybrid is the one to get.
The Cherokee comes with three different engine options, none of which are hybrids. Base models get a 180 hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, while upper trims come standard with a 3.2-liter V6 that makes 271 hp. A recent addition to the option sheet is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 270 hp. With FWD, the base 4-cylinder returns 25 mpg combined, or 24 with AWD. The turbocharged 4-cylinder is rated at a slightly better 26 mpg combined, while also making 90 more hp. The V6 isn’t as efficient as the new 4-cylinder, giving up about 2 mpg across the board in all configurations.
Features & Technology
Either of these vehicles offers most of the features buyers want out of a compact SUV today, including heated seats, a hands-free power lift gate, a panoramic sunroof and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. In terms of safety tech, both vehicles earn Top Safety Pick ratings for their performance in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the RAV4’s mix of active safety tech is more advanced than the Cherokee’s.
When the pavement ends, both vehicles have just about as much capability as you could expect from a car-based unibody crossover SUV with a fully independent suspension. While neither one will offer the same capability as the 4Runner or Wrangler, in their TRD Off-Road and Trailhawk trim levels, the RAV4 and Cherokee will give you a little more confidence when it comes to tackling an uneven, rutted out forest road on the way to your next campsite while returning significantly better fuel economy than their more rugged body-on-frame brethren. In their off-road trims, both vehicles offer all-terrain tires and different traction modes, but only the Cherokee has simulated low-range 4-wheel drive gearing and a locking rear differential. That said, if low range and a rear locker are requirements for your next vehicle, you’ll probably be happier with a 4Runner or Wrangler.
The price of a 2020 Toyota RAV4 LE with FWD is $27,070, while a fully loaded 2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road comes in at $41,485, factoring in destination fees. Where not standard, AWD is a $1,400 extra. Hybrid models, which come standard with AWD, require a $2,400 price premium.
Including destination fees, the MSRP of a base FWD 2020 Jeep Cherokee is $27,335, while a fully loaded Trailhawk Elite model, which comes standard with AWD, tops out at around $43,000. Take those prices with a grain of salt, though, as Jeep tends to offer its vehicles with sizable financial incentives. Case in point, at the time of this writing, the Jeep website is advertising $2,500 worth of incentives on the Cherokee, plus whatever discounts you can get from your local dealer.
The RAV4 is arguably the most well-rounded new vehicle on sale today, and it has consistently ranked among the top-selling vehicles in the United States for the past several years. For this reason, not to mention its recent redesign, it’s a much better all-around buy than the Cherokee here in 2020. The Cherokee is getting behind the times, last having received a full redesign seven model years ago, and it’s starting to show. The RAV4 is superior to the Cherokee in virtually every way: fuel efficiency, interior space, design, safety technology, resale value. You name it. If you want a vehicle for simply getting around town, or if you want something that’s highly efficient, the RAV4 is the without question the better choice. For those looking for an adventure vehicle, the Cherokee makes up a little ground in its Trailhawk trim thanks a more advanced AWD system, but even then, the RAV4 TRD Off-Road is the better buy thanks to its more modern design and higher-quality cabin. That said, a lot of decisions come down to price, and you’re likely to get more of a discount on a new Cherokee than you will a comparable RAV4. Whether that discount will more than make up for the Cherokee’s shortcomings is up to you. Find a Toyota RAV4 for sale or Find a Jeep Cherokee for sale