Twin test: Subaru Forester Hybrid vs Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The much-loved Forester takes on the chart-dominating RAV4, both in electrified form.

Twin test: Subaru Forester Hybrid vs Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Equipment and value

The $39,990 Forester Hybrid L is the cheaper of this pair of hybrid offerings (S is $45,990). Subaru’s EyeSight safety tech is standard and includes items like AEB and radar-based systems (also in the RAV4). The Forester also gets facial recognition, which monitors alertness and can set a seating position. Servicing is every 12 months/12,500km, while it’s covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. The battery pack gains an eight-year warranty. 21/25

At $41,490, the Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid is the more expensive option. However, like the Forester it comes with a full suite of safety systems as well as key tech items like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The main difference is the addition of wireless phone charging. Servicing is every 12 months/15,000km and the warranty mirrors the Subie. However, the 10-year battery warranty is two years longer than the Forester’s. 20/25

Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid interior

Space and comfort

Build quality and high-grade materials mask a rather chaotic design – there are screens and angles aplenty. Sadly, the L has to make do with the smaller 6.5-inch infotainment screen, although it is more intuitive than the RAV’s. The seats are firm, but there’s ample space for heads and legs in both front and rear with air vents and USB charging ports in the back, too. Boot capacity is 509L, but there’s no spare wheel, due to the lithium-ion battery pack. 19/25

Subaru Forester Hybrid L boot

Like the Forester, the RAV4’s exterior and interior design is ... distinctive. Ergonomics and functionality are better resolved in the Toyota, with the big climate controls and 8.0-inch infotainment system easy to use – although the graphics are antiquated. The seats are flatter and less supportive, but overall head- and legroom is generous and there are rear air vents and USB charging ports. The RAV4’s boot is 33L bigger and there is a space-saver spare. 20/25

Ride and handling

The 1730mm tall body (RAV4 1685mm) affords great vision with little roll through corners. Cornering levels are modest but reassuring and the ESC intervenes early. The ride quality is well judged, the steering is light, and NVH levels are low. If you venture off-road (it’s still a Subaru), there is 220mm of ground clearance (30mm more than RAV4) and AWD. However, the brake regeneration makes the pedal feel grabby and disconcerting. 18/25

Sitting on the TNGA platform, the RAV4 feels more substantial on the road (it’s 50mm wider at 1865mm). Body control isn’t as good, with the RAV4 prone to bobbing through significant mid-corner undulations. It doesn’t recover as well as the Forester on rebound, but the overall suspension tune and ride quality is a little more forgiving on most surfaces. The cabin is quieter, too. The left pedal feels much more natural, even with a regenerative-braking system. 19/25

Subaru Forester Hybrid L

Performance and economy

The mild-hybrid application is disappointing. It’s not as refined as the Toyota system, and the 12.3kW electric motor is far too dormant, while the 2.0-litre boxer kicks into life crudely. The CVT also perches revs high under load, with progress slow and vocal. Our Forester had scarce kays on the clock, but the tested 8.6L/100km fuel-consumption figure isn’t night-and-day better than a regular 2.5L petrol Forester. Ultimately, what’s the point? 13/25

Aussie acceptance of Toyota’s hybrid system has come a long way since the Prius landed in 2001. Now, it’s the go-to powertrain. In AWD applications, a nickel-metal hydride battery powers an 88kW electric motor on the front axle with a 40kW unit for the rear, supplementing the Atkinson-cycle 2.5-litre four. The combined system output of 163kW outstrips the Forester’s total, and you feel it on the road. It’s also far more frugal at a tested 6.5L/100km. 22/25


Forester 71/100

RAV4 81/100

Winner: Toyota RAV4 GXL AWD 

The Subaru Forester is a great SUV – it’s a Wheels comparison winner and a COTY finalist for a reason. However, the hybrid application is thoroughly outclassed by the master of the genre, Toyota. And while everyone is going crazy for the Hybrid Cruiser variant, the GXL offers all the fruit you need without the extra spend or wait time. The RAV4 GXL Hybrid is one of those rare occurrences where it surpasses the PR fluff to deliver more than you expect. It’s an SUV that’s easy to live with – and one you’ll find yourself wanting to. A clear win to the established leader. 

Price and specs

Model Subaru Forester Hybrid L Toyota RAV4 GXL AWD
Engine 1995cc flat 4cyl, dohc, 16v + electric motor 2487cc in-line 4cyl, dohc, 16v + electric motors
Max power 110kW @ 6000rpm 163kW (combined)
Max torque 196Nm @ 4000rpm 221Nm @ 3600-5200rpm
Transmission CVT CVT
Weight 1603kg 1730kg
0-100km/h 10.0sec (estimated) 8.0sec (claimed)
Economy 8.6L/100km (tested) 6.5L/100km (tested)
Price $39,990 $41,490
On sale Now Now


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