2020 Toyota RAV4 vs. 2020 Ford Escape: Compare Crossover SUVs

November 22, 2019
2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 and 2020 Ford Escape have evolved over time—once blocky ‘utes with brick-in-wind shapes that gave way to smoother shapes with more mass-appeal than a Taylor Swift concert. 

The RAV4 and Escape now occupy nearly different ends of the crossover compact segment. The Escape steered decidedly car-like in its latest iteration, which was new for 2020. Whether it’s a soft-roading crossover or tall hatchback is up to you, but the Toyota RAV4 is less ambiguous about its intentions. After years of fitting in instead of standing out, the redesigned 2019 RAV4 adopted the blockish SUV style of the 4Runner, right down to the chunky dials inside.

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

Our TCC Rating of 6.6 for the 2020 Escape leads by a nose against the 2020 RAV4’s TCC Rating of 6.5. It’s the slimmest margin for victory our scale allows—and we reserve the right to check the replay once official safety scores are in. For now, it’s a win for Ford, but it’s close. 

The RAV4 and Escape both find the good graces of our style-o-meter, but through very different means. 

The 2020 Toyota RAV4’s newfound machoness entertains us compared to the last generation’s automotive-grade Ambien. The blocky look, inside and out, is a new life and one of the best-looking in its class. We appreciate the interest designers took in the little things: knobs, flares, and in the accents. There are some sacrifices for the look, however. The RAV4’s roofline extracts a toll on tall bodies in the front seat and five adults won’t be comfortable in the RAV4 for long periods. 

The new Escape steers in a different direction, if not into a separate hemisphere. The rounded corners and smooth face is a far cry from the early 2010s Escapes that were just as tough as the RAV4 looks now. The new Escape even draws inspiration from the Tesla Model 3, according to us—we’re mixed on if that’s good or bad. 

Under the hood, the RAV4 is powered by a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 203 horsepower and drives the front or all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. The base engine is gruff and a little unrefined, but adequate. A hybrid RAV4 is available and offers scant more power, but magnitudes better fuel economy—up to 40 mpg combined, according to the EPA. 

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Toyota RAV4

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

Ford offers three different Escape powertrains, each with their own personality. The base 181-hp turbo-3 is the least expensive, but still offers plenty of tug. The optional 250-hp turbo-4 is the most fun to drive, and snaps off sprints from 0-60 mph in about seven seconds. Two hybrid Escapes are available, with one plug-in version on the way, and they’re the most frugal with a gallon of gasoline. The inline-4 and the electric motor on Sport SE and Titanium hybrid powertrains net 200 hp and about 40 mpg combined, according to the EPA. (Toyota will sell a plug-in hybrid RAV4 next year as well.)

The Escape edges the RAV4 on performance not because of its engine, but on its ride. The thumps and bumps of the last generation are gone; the new Escape is quiet and calm on almost any tire and wheel combo. 

We give the edge to the Escape on comfort, too. Toyota’s roofline takes a toll on front-seat accommodations, the Escape doesn’t dare. 

The rear seat in the RAV4 isn’t much better either; the seat bottoms are thin and there’s about 37 inches of rear seat leg room. 

The Escape’s back seat is better, although wider bodies may struggle for comfort. 

The cargo tale of the tape in both is a heavyweight affair despite their middleweight sizes: the RAV4 swallows up to 37.6 cubes of cargo, the Escape handles 37.5 in its max cargo configuration (the rear seats slide fore and aft for better cargo room or leg room). 

The RAV4 gets a moral victory in interior materials and finish compared to the Ford—the Escape can feel cheap in some trims and some places. 

The RAV4 gets a five-star overall score from the feds for crashworthiness and a Top Safety Pick+ nod from the IIHS in some trims. The Escape? We’ll have to wait a little longer for those scores.

2020 Ford Escape

2020 Ford Escape

Both the RAV4 and Escape make automatic emergency braking and active lane control standard on all cars. Toyota goes further with active lane control but we wished they’d go further with blind-spot monitors; outward vision in the RAV4 just isn’t very good. 

The 2020 RAV4 starts at about $27,000, which is about $1,000 more than the base Escape, but the Toyota offers more. The base RAV4 gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility—virtually an IMAX screen compared to the base Escape 4.2-inch display for audio. 

At $28,290, the 2020 Escape SE comes with standard heated front seats, a 10-way power driver seat, keyless ignition, automatic climate control, heated mirrors, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with standard smartphone compatibility. A Sport SE hybrid adds $1,160 to that cost and adds a more efficient powertrain, a power tailgate, a panoramic roof, navigation, adaptive cruise control, 19-inch wheels, the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and black trim. 

We’d buy the RAV4 XLE for $28,265 for a gas-powered model or $30,515 for a hybrid model with all-wheel drive. The XLE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless ignition, five USB chargers, and more available options including heated seats and safety add-ons.

The RAV4 and Escape square up and trade blows on our rating scale on nearly everything except safety. For now, it’s Ford’s win but that may change once official scores are in. 

Summary

6.6
Expert Rating
The 2020 Ford Escape takes a more refined tack, and brings its hybrid edition back into vogue.
6.5
Expert Rating
The 2020 Toyota RAV4 covers more bases this year with smartphone compatibility and tough-looking off-road trims.

Styling

7.0
Expert Rating
Bubbly and svelte on the outside, the 2020 Escape hits a somber note inside.
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8.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 RAV4 swings for the fences and hits a stylish home run among compact crossovers.
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Performance

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Escape asks you to choose your warrior: turbo-3, turbo-4, or hybrid.
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5.0
Expert Rating
Performance isn’t the 2020 RAV4’s forte, but it keeps pace.
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Comfort & Quality

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Escape has plenty of room; its seats leave room for improvement.
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6.0
Expert Rating
Average bodies will fit fine, but the 2020 RAV4 struggles with more than four bigger adults.
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Safety

No crash-test data exists yet for the 2020 Escape.
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8.0
Expert Rating
Good active safety features complement good crash-test scores in the 2020 Toyota RAV4.
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Features

7.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Ford Escape runs the gamut from cloth seats to automatic parallel parking.
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7.0
Expert Rating
A new 2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road adds more trail-riding goodies, but every RAV4 gets good stuff.
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Fuel Economy

6.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 Escape hasn’t been rated by the EPA yet, Ford's gas-mileage estimates look good.
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5.0
Expert Rating
The 2020 RAV4 keeps pace with the crowd, the RAV4 Hybrid does better.
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MSRP

from $24,885
from N/A

Invoice

from $24,139
from N/A

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

- TBD -

Engine

Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-4, 1.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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