Adventure-Ready SUVs: Toyota RAV4 Vs. Forester

Looking for a compact SUV that can handle anything from daily commutes to weekend getaways? The Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester fit the bill, but which is the better pick?

This article will examine their features and benefits to help you decide. You’ll find out how they stack up in performance, safety, comfort, technology, and value.  Let’s get started.

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Quick Comparison Table

RAV4 2023
Forester 2023
Engine Performance
Above average.
Fuel Economy
High combined mpg.
Significantly lower combined mpg.
Exterior & Interior
Stylish, decent seat quality.
Spacious, excellent seat quality.
Cargo Space
Infotainment & Connectivity
High end infotainment and connectivity features.
Offers features with similar quality.
Safety & Security
Towing Capability
Driving Experience
Great in city areas, decent on off-road. 
Excellent both on city and off-road areas, thanks to stability.

RAV4 Vs. Forester 2023: Features Compared

Adventure-Ready SUVs: Toyota RAV4 Vs Forester

Let’s take a closer look at how they compare.

Size And Passenger Comfort

Winner: Forester.

Thanks to their spacious and comfortable cabins, you can accommodate up to 5 passengers in the Toyota RAV4 and the Subaru Forester. 

However, The RAV4 has a slightly larger interior, providing more headroom and legroom for both front and rear-seat passengers. 

To Forester’s credit, though, it has a higher roofline, which translates to more headroom for taller occupants. It also has a bit more edge over the RAV4 as its Limited trim comes with leather seats, unlike the faux leather you get with the RAV4.

All in all, though, both vehicles have well-cushioned seats that offer adequate support and comfort, even on long drives. 

Cargo Space

Winner: Forester.

The RAV4 and Forester offer generous cargo space for their class, with the RAV4 edging out the Forester in terms of total volume. The RAV4 provides up to 69.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded down, while the Forester offers up to 74.2 cubic feet. 

Not to mention, the Forester also has a wider and more square-shaped cargo area, making it easier to load larger items. 

Both vehicles have split-folding rear seats that can be easily configured to suit your needs.

Engine Power & Performance

Winner: RAV4.

Without a doubt, the winner for this one is RAV4, its higher end trims are the epitome of power when it comes to compact SUVs.

The RAV4 comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 203 horsepower, while the Forester has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers up to 182 horsepower. 

However, with the RAV4, you can also get the Prime trim, which has a hybrid powertrain that combines a four-cylinder engine with an electric motor, offering 302 horsepower. You don’t get such an option with the Forester. 

Fuel Efficiency

Winner: RAV4.

Both vehicles offer good fuel efficiency for their class, with the RAV4 edging out the Forester in terms of combined MPG. 

The RAV4 delivers up to 27 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway, while the Forester provides up to 26 MPG in the city and 33 MPG on the highway. 

The RAV4 hybrid variant offers even better fuel economy, with up to 41 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway.


Winner: Tie.

The RAV4 and Forester offer different drivetrain options to suit different driving conditions and preferences. 

The RAV4 comes with front-wheel drive as standard, with all-wheel drive available as an option.

On the other hand, the Forester comes with all-wheel drive as standard across all trim levels. 

There’s really no clear winner here- you can have peace of mind with either option, as both are very dependable even in adverse weather conditions.

Off-Road Capabilities

Winner: Forester.

If off-road driving is your thing, you might be better off with the Forester.

The Forester’s all-wheel-drive system provides better traction and stability on rough and uneven terrain, while the RAV4 has a higher ground clearance, making it easier to tackle obstacles. 

That doesn’t mean the RAV4 is completely out of the question. It’s slightly higher-end Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims come with additional off-road features, such as hill descent control, all-terrain tires, and enhanced suspension systems.


Winner: RAV4.

Both SUVs have distinct design languages. 

The RAV4 has a bold and rugged exterior that exudes confidence and athleticism, while the Forester has a more subdued and practical design that emphasizes functionality over form. 

Both vehicles have well-designed interiors, as well. The RAV4’s interior is more modern and stylish, with a sleek dashboard and a sporty steering wheel. 

Meanwhile, Forester’s interior is more understated and conservative, focusing on practicality and simplicity. That doesn’t mean its a flat design, though its far from being as striking as the RAV4 interior. 

While it all depends on the user’s preferences, the RAV4 wins this one because of the style points.

Safety Features

Winner: Forester.

Both the RAV4 and Forester boast excellent safety ratings and a wide range of advanced safety features as standard, earning high scores in crash tests conducted by the NHTSA and IIHS.

Standard safety features in both vehicles include lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. 

The RAV4 has the additional adaptive cruise control feature, while the Forester offers an optional DriverFocus distraction mitigation system.

Overall, it’s a close call, but the Forester takes the win in this factor with slightly higher scores.

Infotainment And Technology

Winner: Tie.

The RAV4 and Forester offer excellent technology features, including standard touchscreen displays supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

The RAV4’s infotainment system offers a larger screen and responsive controls, providing a user-friendly and intuitive experience. 

In comparison, the Forester’s infotainment system has basic controls and a smaller screen, but it remains easy to navigate.

They’re a tie in terms of how much value they provide with their tech. 

Both vehicles even offer optional features, including a premium sound system, wireless charging, and a panoramic sunroof, to elevate your driving experience and make your ride more enjoyable.

Towing Capacity

Winner: RAV4

The RAV4’s towing capacity is slightly higher than the Forester’s, allowing it to tow up to 3,500 pounds. This makes it a great option for those who need to tow small boats, jet skis, or other recreational vehicles. 

The Forester’s towing capacity is still respectable, at 1,500 pounds, making it suitable for lighter loads.

Both the RAV4 and Forester have standard trailer sway control, transmission coolers, and towing hitches, making towing  even safer and more convenient.


Winner: Forester.

The Forester and RAV4 are known for their excellent reliability, with J.D. Power rating the Forester at 84 out of 100 and the RAV4 at 82 out of 100. They’ve got above-average reliability, with few reported issues or defects.

Furthermore, the Forester has been ranked as the third most reliable compact SUV, while the RAV4 follows closely behind, ranking fifth. 

These rankings are based on owner feedback and data on reported problems and repairs. 

Trim Levels and Price

Winner: Tie. Depends.

Both SUVs have trim levels that are similar in quality. 

The RAV4 has six trim levels, starting from the base LE and going up to the luxurious Limited trim. The Forester also has six trim levels, starting from the base Forester and going up to the top-of-the-line Touring trim. 

Both vehicles offer similar standard features, such as a rearview camera, automatic climate control, and keyless entry. 

However, the RAV4 has a lower starting price than the Forester, so you might want to go for it if you’re budget conscious.

Key Takeaways

Now, here’s a recollection of all the points to wrap everything up.

  • Both the RAV4 and Forester come with spacious and comfortable cabins.
  • The RAV4 edges out the Forester in engine power and fuel efficiency
  • While both vehicles are good off-roaders, the Forester is better between them.
  • The RAV4 has a striking and trendy, while the Forester’s look is more practical and conservative.

Downsides of a Subaru Forester Compared to RAV4

You’ve read about why you should get either SUV, but what are the biggest reasons you should not get them? Let’s quickly go over that. 

  • The Forester has a less powerful engine.
  • Its infotainment system is less user-friendly than that of the RAV4.
  • In terms of design, the Forester is significantly less appealing.

Downsides of a RAV4 Compared to Subaru Forester

  • The RAV4 has a slightly higher starting price than the Forester.
  • The RAV4’s all-wheel-drive system is an optional feature, while it comes standard on the Forester.
  • For some drivers, the RAV4’s cabin may be less quiet than the Forester’s.


Does Toyota RAV4 or Subaru Forester hold their value better?

Both the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester hold their value well, but the RAV4 tends to retain its value slightly better over time.

Is Toyota RAV4 or Subaru Forester cheaper to maintain?

Each SUV has similar maintenance costs, but the Subaru Forester has a slightly lower average ownership cost than the Toyota RAV4.

RAV4 vs Forester: Which one performs better in snow? 

Both perform well in snow due to their all-wheel drive systems. However, the Forester has a slight edge with its better off-road capability.

Is Subaru Forester equivalent to RAV4?

No. Subaru Forester is not equivalent to the RAV4, but they are both popular choices in the compact SUV segment.

Final Thoughts: Which Is A Better Car, RAV4 Or Forester? 

So, which one comes out on top?  It all depends on what you’re looking for. 

If you want more power and fuel efficiency, go for the RAV4. But if the standard all-wheel drive and off-road capabilities are your top priorities, the Forester is your go-to. 

Both have similar features and price points, so test drive to determine which suits your lifestyle and preferences.

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Psst: Do You Know The RAV4 Hidden Menu?