2019 Ford Escape vs. 2019 Toyota RAV4: Compare Crossovers

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2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

The Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 crossover SUVs appear at more schools and offices than sack lunches.

That’s because the small utility vehicles have wedged into our daily routines from home to work to school and back again: they’re comfortable, versatile, practical, and mostly affordable. Specifically, the Ford and Toyota versions have adapted to our daily routines well and intercept rivals like dodgeball.

The Escape and RAV4 aren’t new to shoppers and both nameplates have been around for decades. The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is fresh from a rethink this year; it’s square-jawed and stylish. The 2019 Ford Escape is the last year ahead of a redesign next year that goes the other direction; softer and anodyne.

Our ratings reflect that apparent difference: the newer 2019 RAV4 earned a 6.2 overall and the 2019 Escape managed just a 5.7.

That kind of disparity might seem wide—and it could get wider once official safety data for the Toyota is in—but each appeal to shoppers in their own ways.

MORE: Read our full reviews of the 2019 Ford Escape and 2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Ford Escape

2019 Ford Escape

2019 Ford Escape

2019 Ford Escape

2019 Ford Escape

2019 Ford Escape

Style and performance

Part of the 2019 RAV4’s appeal will be its new looks. Last year’s softer shapes of a hatchback with its puffed-up chest are gone and replaced this year with a truckier, mini-SUV theme. The RAV4’s trapezoidal grille is borrowed from the Tacoma and 4Runner and its faster roofline is trendier, but it eats into available head room inside for rear passengers. Front-seat riders in the RAV4 get better seats and the dashboard mimics the exterior’s blockier looks. We like that.

Comparatively, the Escape is softer and more shapely even before next year’s new model; Ford has other trucks and SUVs that do butch better. The small Ford skews more hatchback than crossover, but its wedge shape has aged well. Inside, the Escape isn’t as cohesive and its aim for friendlier looks eats into available space.

The race tightens considerably under the hood, where the Escape offers more variety. Ford offers a sleepy 2.5-liter inline-4 as its base engine, which is only appealing for its low price. The optional 1.5-liter turbo-4 is more inspired with 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

The top-shelf engine is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 is the one we’d drive, with 245 hp and more low-end grunt for easier passes. Every engine is teamed to a competent 6-speed automatic.

A 2.5-liter inline-4 is the most common companion in the 2019 RAV4 and it makes 203 hp. Output isn’t its biggest hang-up, refinement is. Toyota’s smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic works to keep the inline-4 low in the rev range, but deep stabs at the throttle get us buzzing—in ways we don’t like.

The RAV4’s hybrid powertrain is more powerful, more efficient, and more refined, but less common due to its $2,000 upcharge. Its total output is 219 hp, although the more important figure is its 40-mpg combined figure from the EPA.

In the RAV4 and Escape, their rides are more car-like and calmer, although the Ford is slightly more engaging to drive. Front-wheel drive is standard on the Ford and Toyota, and all-wheel drive is a popular upgrade for many buyers.

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

Comfort, safety, and features

The Escape nudges ahead of the RAV4 on comfort, but both crossovers sacrifice some space for style.

In the Ford’s case, that comfort comes at a cost for softer lines inside that eat into available space. Some rivals that are smaller offer better interior room than the Ford, although the Escape is comfortable for four adults—five in a pinch. We’re not enamored with any of the seating positions, the Ford’s seats may be too firm for some.

In the RAV4’s case, rear-seat riders will pay for the stylish roofline on the new Toyota. Head room is compromised, and taller riders may need to be confined to the front seats only.

The RAV4 has marginally more room in the rear than the Escape: 37 cubic feet versus 34 cubes. Both make split-folding rear seats standard that nearly double the cargo space to almost 70 cubic feet in both models.

2019 Ford Escape

2019 Ford Escape

Safety data for the RAV4 isn’t yet complete, but the Escape has room for improvement. As a relatively older model, the Ford doesn’t crash particularly well in the IIHS’ tests. The agency gave the Escape a “Poor” rating for front passenger protection in a small-overlap crash, which is a new test on an old vehicle.

Ford also doesn’t offer automatic emergency braking on base models, which is a demerit in our books.

Toyota makes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control standard on every model. We expect that the RAV4’s safety score will raise the overall score once official data is in.

Both crossovers start around $25,000, but we see better values for more money. For about $27,000 without all-wheel drive, the 2019 Ford Escape SE offers the 1.5-liter turbo-4, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, dual-zone climate control, and heated front seats. The RAV4 XLE Premium costs more than $29,000 without all-wheel drive but goes further with a power-adjustable front seat, synthetic leather upholstery, active safety features, 19-inch wheels, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay compatibility.

Similarly equipped, the RAV4 will cost more than the Escape but we think buyers will get more. That’s math at our grade level that even we can understand.

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