2020 Ford Escape vs. 2019 Toyota RAV4: Compare Cars

September 17, 2019
2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

Compact crossover SUVs are today’s do-it-all family cars. They’re tasked with everything from daily commutes to weekend adventures—and they have to do it all with space for people and cargo in mind.

In the case of the 2020 Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, they also have to do it with a reasonable price tag and good gas mileage, too.

We’ve driven both the 2020 Ford Escape and 2019 Toyota RAV4 now, and in head to head comparison, it’s clear why these vehicles have taken over for those we used to tag as family cars. It’s also clear that each has some strong virtues and some interesting flaws that distinguish them more than their TCC Ratings might suggest.

For now, the 2020 Escape gets the nod, with a 6.6 rating out of 10, just a tenth better than the RAV4—and before it has any crash-test data to polish off its score. With such a close call, it’s worth going through the ratings to see which might actually be better for your driveway. 

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

Styling: Toyota RAV4

Both of these crossovers has made tremendous progress in their latest versions. We’re particularly fond of the mold-breaking Toyota. The latest RAV4 goes in a 4Runner and FJ direction, with gun-slit windows, chunky fender flares, and a trapezoidal roofline that injects a rugged note into its compact body. The interior continues the angular look, with a tablet-style screen at its center to break up the big expanse of dash.

The Escape bubbles up a new look that’s more sophisticated than the hot-hatchback style it adopted at the other end of the decade. It’s remarkable how much more sophisticated it’s grown, and how much Mazda’s influence lingers over Ford’s small-car family. The Escape wears a mesh grille and gently sculpted rear quarters in a timeless way; we’d say the same for the spare shapes inside the cabin, but we’d also point out the swaths of hard plastic and dark trim that makes the Escape cockpit look a bit somber.

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

Performance: Ford Escape

Ford sells a trio of Escapes (until the plug-in comes along). The clear performance winner is the 250-hp turbo-4 that’s available in the Escape SEL and Titanium. Coupled to an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, the turbo-4 pulls strongly, flexes capably through the gears via paddle shift controls, and combines with a refined suspension to snub off the most challenging road surfaces. It’s less dart-like and more soothing than the last Escape. We’ve only driven the basic turbo-3 briefly, but its moderate power and adequate acceleration don’t leave many memorable impressions, positive or negative. Our favorite? The returned Escape Hybrid, which pairs a motor and lithium-ion battery for 200 hp net, and fuel economy that could best the RAV4 Hybrid when the EPA confirms Ford's estimated fuel economy ratings. The Hybrid feels more natural than ever, and we've observed excellent fuel economy—all without losing much interior space or refinement, all for a base price below $30,000.

Basic RAV4s have an unadventurous 203-horsepower of their own, and the only relief is the hybrid powertrain’s electric motor and nickel metal hydride batteries. The gas-only engine’s a growler, but has less enthusiasm than it has engine noise. The hybrid’s the pick of the pair, with its stronger low-end pull offset by an electronic CVT that tends to surge as it delivers its power. The RAV4 has better road manners than before, if not as sweetly damped as the Ford. What it does have over the Escape is moderate off-road ability, thanks to 8.6 inches of ground clearance and a special traction mode for off-pavement driving, though there’s no true low range.

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Fuel economy: TBD

Ford estimates the base turbo-3 Escape will reach a 30-mpg combined EPA rating with front-wheel drive. That’s 1 mpg better than the best RAV4 that’s not a hybrid. Hybrid RAV4s are rated at 40 mpg combined and Ford says it should top that with the Escape hybrid, but the EPA hasn’t confirmed that. Ford also plans a plug-in Escape hybrid with up to 30 miles of electric-only range; it’s due in the spring of 2020.

2019 Ford Escape

2019 Ford Escape

Comfort and utility: Ford Escape

Numbers don’t quite tell the store of the Escape and RAV4. On the spec sheet they’re quite similar, with good interior room, and with about 37 cubic feet of cargo space each. For the Escape, the critical issue comes with its seats. In either leather or cloth, the front buckets have short bottom cushions and narrow bolsters that cut comfort for larger drivers. The sliding second-row Escape bench is better than the front seats, a rarity. And the Escape’s interior has lots of lower-spec plastic that we’d expect when its price rises to nearly $40,000. As for the RAV4, the compromises are more unusual. The rakish design cuts into head room for all passengers, and its rear doors don’t open very wide, which makes it difficult to load car seats or tall people. Drivers can get a power-adjustable seat, but the high-mounted front passenger seat can’t be adjusted down at all, and the RAV4’s rear bench has a low cushion that’s not very comfortable on long rides.

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

Safety: Toyota RAV4, so far

The latest RAV4 has been crash-tested by the NHTSA, which gives it five stars overall, and by the IIHS, which calls it a Top Safety Pick+. It comes with automatic emergency braking, and offers blind-spot monitors on most models. The Escape hasn’t been crash-tested yet, but it too has standard automatic emergency braking, as well as available blind-spot monitors, even a head-up display.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

Features: A draw

The 2019 RAV4 and 2020 Escape both exact a small premium when compared to base Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V crossovers, but they’re both well-equipped in terms of features. Each has the requisite power features, cruise control, climate control, and Bluetooth. Ford cheaps out on base models with a 4.2-inch LCD screen for audio; we think the SE and particularly, the SE Sport hybrid offer the best value, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a power driver seat included for under $30,000. 

The RAV4 has a better standard touchscreen, but lacks Android Auto compatibility. It’s best in XLE Premium trim, where it has synthetic leather upholstery, an 8-way power driver seat, a power tailgate, and 19-inch wheels, all for about $30,000 in front-drive form. Every RAV4 also includes two years of scheduled maintenance, though neither the Escape nor the RAV4 comes with a particularly lavish warranty.

Summary

6.5
Expert Rating
With a dollop of refinement, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 would be a solid home run.
6.6
Expert Rating
The 2020 Ford Escape takes a more refined tack, and brings its hybrid edition back into vogue.

Styling

8.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 stands out with its off-roady looks.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
Bubbly and svelte on the outside, the 2020 Escape hits a somber note inside.
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 2020 Escape asks you to choose your warrior: turbo-3, turbo-4, or hybrid.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2019 Toyota RAV4’s styling compromises its interior space.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Escape has plenty of room; its seats leave room for improvement.
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 exists yet for the 2020 Escape.
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
7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Ford Escape runs the gamut from cloth seats to automatic parallel parking.
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
6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Escape hasn’t been rated by the EPA yet, Ford's gas-mileage estimates look good.
Read More

MSRP

from $25,650
from $24,885

Invoice

from $23,983
from $24,139

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

30
- TBD -

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-4, 2.5 L
Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-4, 1.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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