2019 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Subaru Outback: Compare Crossovers

August 5, 2019

Subaru Outback and Toyota RAV4 owners have more in common beyond their Patagonia outwear. 

The two mega-selling crossovers sell more than an outdoorsy lifestyle ideal. 

They’re both spacious and comfortable, newly redesigned for buyers who take a hard left off the road. 

We give the 2020 Outback a 6.4 and the 2019 RAV4 a 6.5 on our overall scale. That’s a small win on paper for the Toyota, but there’s a catch: the Subaru hasn’t yet been crash-tested. We expect the Outback’s score to rise once that data is in.

MORE: Read our 2019 Toyota RAV4 and 2020 Subaru Outback full reviews

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

Style and performance

Although both of these cars are new, only one of them looks the part. The 2019 RAV4 is a big departure from the outgoing version. The new crossover looks like it hit the gym: it’s butcher, sharper, and toned compared to the soft-roaders in the past. 

Inside, the RAV4 protests a little much for our tastes: chunky controls, wild colors, we get it. 

The Outback, by comparison, is very subtle in its new-ness. Fans of the brand might not spot the differences, but they’re more apparent along the bottom. The cladding underneath is a little chunkier. Yep, that’s it. 

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

Inside, the Outback’s 11.6-inch tablet-style touchscreen is subtle like an airhorn. Equipped on most versions, the big touchscreen is impressive—there’s no avoiding it, actually. 

Under the hoods, the RAV4 and Outback sing familiar tunes. Base Outbacks are powered by a 2.5-liter flat-4 that makes 182 horsepower. It’s a new engine, but it has a familiar feeling. It’s eager off the line, but runs out of ideas quickly. An optional 260-hp turbo-4 replaces last year’s 3.6-liter flat-6 with better fuel economy, better power, and a better demeanor. 

The RAV4 gets a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 203 hp. It’s similarly perky, but not very refined. The optional engine is a hybrid powerplant that pairs hybrid batteries with an inline-4 for 219 hp. It’s not much more powerful, but it is more refined. 

The RAV4 succeeds in ease of use, but the Outback nails drivability and capability. The Subaru surpasses many SUVs in off-road abilities, and it’s our pick for when the going gets muddy. 

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2020 Subaru Outback

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

Comfort, safety, and features

The Outback comfortably carries up to five adults (although four is a better idea) with more than 30 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. We like the Outback’s seats, particularly the thigh support in front where our long legs could lazily flop after a hike. 

The RAV4’s confines are also accommodating, but only in the front seats. The new roofline cuts into the available head room in the back seats, and three abreast in the back could be a challenge. The RAV4 has more than 35 cubic feet of cargo room in the back, which is bigger than the Outback’s although not all of that space is easily usable. 

The RAV4 is the only crossover that’s been tested by safety officials. The IIHS gave it a Top Safety Pick+ award (which applies to RAV4 Hybrid models equipped with LED headlights) and federal testers gave it a five-star overall rating. 

The Outback hasn’t yet been tested by federal or independent authorities, although Subaru officials expect top scores. 

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

For $26,670, a 2019 RAV4 LE is equipped with front-wheel drive, active safety gear, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay (but no Android Auto, yet), Bluetooth, a single USB port, power features, cloth upholstery, and a 4.2-inch TFT screen between its gauges for trim computer functions. All-wheel drive bumps that price up to $28,070. 

The Outback starts at about $27,500, including all-wheel drive and offers twin 7.0-inch touchscreens for infotainment and vehicle functions, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility,  power features, cloth upholstery, two USB charge ports, 17-inch wheels, a split-folding rear seat, and LED headlights.

The RAV4 XLE is the one we’d pick for about $30,000 with all-wheel drive. It includes a power moonroof, blind-spot monitors, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, and four additional USB ports. 

The Outback Premium is our sweet spot for less than $30,000 and includes an 11.6-inch tablet-style touchscreen for infotainment, two more USB charge ports for rear-seat riders, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and sound-insulating front windows for a quieter cabin. 

There’s not a bad pick between the two, so the only question left is: Where’s the next adventure? 

Summary

6.5
Expert Rating
With a dollop of refinement, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 would be a solid home run.
6.4
Expert Rating
The 2020 Subaru Outback is more refined than ever and features the same, remarkable off-road capability.

Styling

8.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 stands out with its off-roady looks.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
Same goes for the 2020 Subaru Outback.
Read More

Performance

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 has a confident feel but could benefit from more sound deadening.
Read More
6.0
Expert Rating
The base 2020 Outback doesn’t have scads of power, but it doesn’t really need it.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Toyota RAV4’s styling compromises its interior space.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
Hauling people and cargo is where the 2020 Outback shines.
Read More

Safety

8.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Toyota RAV4’s high level of active safety tech and good crash-test scores are reassuring.
Read More
No crash-test data yet exists for the 2020 Outback.
Read More

Features

7.0
Expert Rating
From quasi-off-roader to city slicker, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 has a trim level for nearly everyone.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
The 11.6-inch touchscreen may draw stares, but the Outback’s value should draw smiles.
Read More

Fuel Economy

5.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is among the thriftiest crossover SUVs; better yet is the miserly RAV4 Hybrid.
Read More
5.0
Expert Rating
Most versions of the Outback will manage close to 29 mpg combined, according to the EPA.
Read More

MSRP

from $25,650
from N/A

Invoice

from $23,983
from N/A

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

30

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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