2020 Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 usher in new era of hybrid crossovers

June 15, 2020

For 2020, the best-selling cars in America come with hybrid options. The redesigned 2020 Ford Escape and refreshed 2020 Honda CR-V aim for the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, the best-selling non-truck in America that will also come as a plug-in hybrid for 2021. 

The cutthroat compact crossover segment, which accounts for nearly one quarter of all new passenger vehicles sold, will have three hybrids for 2020. The redesigned 2021 Nissan Rogue does not come as a hybrid. 

These five-seat family haulers are more similar than different, as evidenced by our rankings. But the redesigned 2020 Ford Escape gets the edge with a 7.0; the 2020 RAV4 and 2020 CR-V  get a 6.5 ranking. (Read more about how we rate cars.) 

Here’s how the hybrid powertrains measure up in these perennial bestsellers. 

The basics:

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid 

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 comes 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. 

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid

The Escape was the first hybrid crossover when it launched for 2005, but was dropped for 2013 in favor of the C-Max wagony thing. 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.  

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

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 2020 CR-V's 8.2 inches in all-wheel drive.

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Powertrain:

2020 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. The 2021 RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid tops the lineup with a 302-hp system that hits 60 mph in less than six seconds, making it the quickest, most powerful, and most efficient RAV4. With standard all-wheel drive, it has a 39-mile electric range. 

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. Like the RAV4, the 2020 Escape comes with a plug-in hybrid option with 37 miles of electric range. Unlike the RAV4 Prime, the Escape PHEV has a 209-hp system that power the front wheels only. 

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. 

Fuel economy:

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid with all-wheel drive gets 41 mpg city, 38 highway, 40 combined, according to the EPA. 

The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid tops the RAV4, depending on how you drive. It rates at 43/37/40 mpg in all-wheel drive. But if front-wheel drive is all you need, the Escape Hybrid is the clear winner with EPA ratings of 44/37/41. The Escape PHEV is more efficient than the RAV4 Prime, as well, even though it gets 37 miles of electric range to the Prime's 39 miles. Based on an imperfect calculation the EPA uses known as miles per gallon equivalent, or MPGe, the Escape PHEV gets 100 MPGe to the RAV4 Prime's 90 MPGe. Keep in mind, the RAV4 Prime is all-wheel drive.

The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid with all-wheel drive gets 40/35/38 mpg. 

Cargo:

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

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

Trim

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid with all-wheel drive 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. 

The 2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid with all-wheel drive comes in four trim levels starting with the LX for $28,870, including $1,120 destination fee. The LX is pretty basic, which is why we'd recommend stepping up to the EX for $31,380 to get blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and more. The $33,870 EX-L adds creature comforts like leather seats, heated steering wheel, and a power liftgate, while the top Touring trim adds larger 19-inch wheels, wireless charging, and a beefed up sound system with nine speakers for $37,070. 


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