2018 Subaru Forester

Starting Price: $23,710 | Price Yours

Above Average: Standard AWD, 8.7-inch ground clearance, torquey engines

Below Average: Underpowered, raspy-sounding engine

Consensus: Tough, solid work ethic, lots of personality


2018 Toyota RAV4

Starting Price: $25,455 | Price Yours

Above Average: Available hybrid, Toyota reliability and quality, comfortable seats, practical packaging

Below Average: No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, expensive

Consensus: The RAV4 lacks dynamic flash, and its hybrid variant is pricey, but it continues to be a solid Toyota staple


Introduced at the 1995 Tokyo Motor show as the Streega concept, the Forester went into production in 1997 based on the compact Impreza sedan platform. It has since acquired near-cult status in some circles. Over the years its durability and all-around usefulness have made it one of Subaru’s perennial bestsellers. It’s one of the few vehicles in its class to offer a manual transmission, but only with the base engine, and ordering the manual gearbox eliminates the option of Subaru’s excellent EyeSight safety system, as well as a blind spot monitor. Performance is brisk with the optional 250-hp turbocharged flat four, which is mated with a CVT transmission. And lofty ground clearance comes in handy in lumpy unpaved areas. No compact crossover SUV has more history than the RAV4, which rolled onto the scene for the 1994 model year and became the progenitor of the species, as well as a perennial bestseller. That record includes 2017, when the RAV4 outsold every vehicle in America except for full-size pickups. The RAV4’s long suits are typical Toyota -- trouble-free operation, decent cargo capacity, and the option of Toyota’s solidly established hybrid system (MSRP for the basic hybrid LE: $28,180).

Subaru Forester Advantages

Peppy 2.0-liter turbo option, solid durability/reliability record, standard all-wheel drive on all trim levels.

Toyota RAV4 Advantages

Quiet and comfortable at all speeds, quality fit and finish, extensive list of standard driver-assist safety features, available hybrid model.


Foundation of both vehicles dates to front-drive passenger car architecture, both offer all-wheel drive (standard with Forester), both have a solid list of passive safety features.

Final Recommendation

The Forester is tough, versatile, comfortable, more useful than most of its competitors when the pavement ends, and has a certain slightly offbeat cache. Under continuous development for almost a quarter-century, the RAV4’s strong suit is Toyota’s record for quality and reliability. Pertinent footnote: Toyota plans a major RAV4 makeover for model year 2019. The redesigned model is due to go on sale this fall.

  2018 Subaru Forester 2018 Toyota RAV4
Popular Powertrains    
Engine 2.5-liter I4 2.5-liter I4
Horsepower 170 hp @ 5,800 rpm 175 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 174 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm 172 lb-ft@ 4,200 rpm
Transmission Manual 6-spd Automatic 6-spd
Fuel Economy 24 mpg (22 city/28 hwy) 26 mpg (23 city/30 hwy)
Also Available 250-hp 2.0-liter turbo I4; CVT 194-hp gasoline-electric hybrid system
Warranty 3 years or 36,000 miles 3 years or 36,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars 5 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 103.9 inches 104.7 inches
Overall Length 181.5 inches 185.5 inches
Width 70.7 inches 72.6 inches
Height 66.4 inches 65.9 inches
Turning Diameter 34.8 feet 34.8 feet
Headroom, Front 41.4 inches 39.8 inches
Headroom, Rear 39.8 inches 38.9 inches
Legroom, Front 43.0 inches 42.6 inches
Legroom, Rear 38.0 inches 37.2 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 57.0 inches 57.3 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 56.5 inches 55.4 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 108.3 cu. ft. 100.7 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 34.4 cu. ft. 38.4 cu. ft.
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