Mid-size SUVs are popular. And for good reason too. They balance space, utility, and price in a neat and capable bundle. The Subaru Forester and the Toyota RAV4 are rivals in almost every sense, both making a strong case for being the top Australian crossover car.
In 2020, a year known for lending itself to the ad hoc family road trip, the Subaru Forester comes out with a clear win. This is a story of how practicality and attention to the basics win.
Space is everything
The Forester happens to be super practical. A remote release button to flatten the back seats saves the heated kerfuffle of doing this manually. But it’s the balance of space from front to rear that makes the Forester more comfortable. With space in the boot almost too close to call, both cars show off superior room in their league.
Is the Toyota RAV4 AWD?
If you’re after consistency and peace of mind eyeing off that steep dirt track, the Forester comes out with flying colours with every variant uncompromising on AWD capability. Sadly, the Toyota RAV4 range isn’t so generous, leaving potential buyers with little wiggle room when it comes to AWD. For example, if you wanted a petrol engine and AWD, Toyota will ask for an extra $11,500 for the RAV4 Edge. That’s a nauseating figure for a critical SUV feature. Subaru’s trusted AWD system will make any Forester worth its weight – the extra balance and grip are important features on any SUV. Oh yes, and it’s quicker off the mark.
Forester: the king of the road less travelled
When things get competitive, it can come down to the things that really matter. Venturing off the beaten track is where the Forester comes into its own. Off-road worthiness is what makes this car one of the most popular crossovers in Australia. Bring on X-Mode and your car is now ready for almost anything. A standard across all trims, X-mode will change the way you drive. Having confidence driving over rough surfaces is a plus when you’re exploring uncharted territory, and Subaru makes this available across the board. Your roadmap will look different too: access to exclusive beaches and outback landscapes will expand your horizon.
Price-tag: what’s it all worth?
The Forester comes out with yet another win here. Priced better, and with more to show for what you spend, Subaru has packed in the best features so every model is a strong contender across all trims. A cheaper price-tag on the Forester leaves room for making the car yours by accessorising and picking out inclusions that will suit your lifestyle – bike racks, a roof box, perhaps both.
Tech: who does it better?
The Toyota RAV4 doesn’t hold back in bringing the latest tech to your fingertips. It boasts multiple USB ports and a great sound system. The Forester answers with an equally spectacular range of quality inclusions that range from a highly responsive 6.5 or 8 inch LCD touchscreen and 6 speakers. And that’s just the hardware. Siri compatibility across all trims makes communication with friends and family simple and safer with hands-free mode.
Towing capacity: may the strongest win
Again, the Subaru Forester is the more practical choice with a flat 1,500kg towing capacity (with trailer brakes) regardless of price tag or model. This is a major sticking point for those who want to tow their camper down south, the RAV4 two-wheel-drive variants just won’t tug any weight above 800kg. That’s a deal-breaker for the camper trailer tribe and puts the Forester in a strong lead.
Safety: Forester vs RAV4
Both cars flaunt some cutting edge safety features and have copped a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, it doesn’t get much better than that. However, there are a few simple things that will drive these rivals even further apart when considering safety. First up, the Forester is more boxy and with a lower window line allows for better vision through the rear windows, the RAV4’s interior is more contrived, making it difficult to see behind. Visibility is important when driving in rainy weather and does play a role in accident prevention.
Subaru’s EyeSight driver assist technology package is the equivalent to Toyota’s Safety Sense or TSS. Both systems aim to keep you awake, in your lane, and avoid collisions using technology that monitor other cars and moving objects for potential accidents. Overall, both cars do a sound job, but greater visibility and superior AWD balance see the Subaru edge further ahead.