With the redesigned 2020 Ford Escape and refreshed 2020 Honda CR-V, two of the best-selling crossovers in America get new hybrid models to compete with the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
The cutthroat compact crossover segment, which accounts for nearly one quarter of all new passenger vehicles sold, will have three hybrids for 2020. There might have been four, but Nissan will not offer a Rogue Hybrid for 2020.
These five-seat family haulers are more similar than different, as evidenced by our rankings of the 2020 Escape and 2019 RAV4. The Escape narrowly edged out the RAV4 6.6 to 6.5, and the 2019 Honda CR-V got a 6.2 ranking. (Read more about how we rate cars.) The 2020 Honda CR-V was just announced, so we don’t have any drive impressions, but we’re expecting it to be neck and neck with the Escape and RAV4.
Here’s what we do know about the hybrid powertrains being offered in these perennial best sellers.
Honda’s best-selling model in the U.S. shares its two-motor hybrid system with the Honda Accord mid-size sedan. It’s also used in the Insight and Clarity plug-in hybrid. The difference is that the CR-V Hybrid will come in all-wheel drive. The refresh brings restyled front and rear bumpers but the CR-V looks the most like every other compact crossover on the road.
The Escape was the first hybrid crossover when it launched for 2005, but was dropped for 2013 in favor of the C-Max. Bad call. The Escape is a tad smaller than the others, but the Hybrid models offer the best combination of value and style, looking more timeless than the others.
The RAV4 has the widest trim selection and benefits from Toyota’s long and wide-ranging history of developing hybrids in most of its volume models. It is the most rugged looking of the bunch, with broad fender flares, a more truck-like roofline, and an 8.6-inch ground clearance—higher than the Escape's 8.0 inches and the 2019 CR-V's 7.8 inches (which we expect to stay the same for 2020).
2020 Ford Escape
2020 Honda CR-V
2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The RAV4 Hybrid makes 219 hp from its three-motor system, including a 2.5-liter inline-4 with eCVT. Two of those motors are part of the front hybrid system, and the other motor is connected to the rear axle, providing AWD; so when it isn’t needed the RAV4 can act like a FWD vehicle. The other motor assists the engine and recaptures energy.
2020 Ford Escape Hybrid
The Escape Hybrid has a 200-hp two-motor system with a 2.5-liter inline-4 and eCVT, in FWD or AWD. The placement of the smaller battery pack in the floor behind the front passenger seat enables room for a driveshaft for AWD.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid
The new CR-V Hybrid has a 212-hp two-motor system with a 2.0-liter inline-4, with available FWD or AWD versions, and has a propulsion motor and a generator motor to recapture energy. In the mechanically similar Accord Hybrid, the engine isn’t used as the main source of propulsion. Instead, it powers the generator to work with the propulsion motor or, at higher speeds, it clutches in to power the front wheels as a kind of single-gear transmission. Most of the time, in city driving, the engine serves its master by powering the generator, which then powers the electric motor.
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid gets 41 mpg city, 38 highway, 40 combined, according to the EPA. Until EPA testing is confirmed, the RAV4 Hybrid is still the most efficient crossover without a plug.
The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid is projected to get about 45 mpg city and more than 40 combined. The front-wheel-drive Accord with the same powertrain is rated at 48 mpg combined.
The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid could top the RAV4. If it doesn’t, then the Escape plug-in hybrid with an expected 30-mile all-electric range will do the job, for an upcharge. Details of the Escape PHEV are not available.
The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid batteries fit under the floor of the trunk, but will still come with 60/40 folding rear seats. The gas-powered CR-V is the most spacious in the class with 39.2 cubic feet with the rear seats up. So even though the battery pack might raise the floor and trim a few cubic feet of overall cargo space, it should still be one of the largest in the hybrid compact crossover class.
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 has 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up. So does the RAV4 Hybrid. Even though Toyota and Honda started on this Hybrid course together about 20 years ago, Toyota has done it in a lot more models and has gained some packaging insights. Toyota placed the nickel-metal hydride battery under the rear seats, so cargo volume remains the same.
The 2020 Ford Escape also has 37.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up, but drops to 34.4 cubic feet in the Hybrid, despite the briefcase-sized battery pack below the floor, which essentially raises the floor and crimps rear passenger leg room a bit.
2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid
2019 Toyota RAV4
2020 Ford Escape
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid can be had in four trims, starting with the $28,970 LE Hybrid and reaching to the $36,970 Limited Hybrid. The LE comes well-equipped with active safety features, so the main difference is aesthetics. The Limited has larger 18-inch wheels, synthetic leather insides, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts. The XLE also has those active safety features, so if that level of safety is important, we’d recommend shelling out an additional $1,800 for the XLE Hybrid. Otherwise. The LE Hybrid is the best value of not just the RAV4, but also the CR-V and Escape.
The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid can be had in exclusive SE Sport trim for $29,450, or in Titanium for $34,595. All-wheel drive adds another $1,500. It’s only $1,150 more than the similarly equipped SE trim, but comes with the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Ford’s pricing makes the SE Sport Hybrid the best buy across the Escape lineup.
Trim levels and pricing have not been announced on the 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid. The 2020 Accord Hybrid is $1,550 more than the gas model, and is available on all trims except the base LX and Sport trims. The CR-V does not have a Sport trim, and the base LX starts at $25,545. Add $1,400 for AWD and the hybrid upcharge on the Accord gets us to an estimate for the 2020 CR-V Hybrid at $28,500. It could undercut the RAV4.