2020 Volkswagen Tiguan vs. 2020 Toyota RAV4: Compare Crossover SUVs

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – Best Car To Buy 2020 In the Thunderdome of compact

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – Best Car To Buy 2020

In the Thunderdome of compact crossovers, the 2020 Toyota RAV4 would be the one man to leave. The 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan? Not so much. But the Bartertown of car shopping is about more than sales numbers and TCC Ratings (RAV4 is a 6.5 to the Tiguan’s 6.0). 

Beyond Thunderdome are the nuances and charms of each of these winning choices. While the 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan expects an update for 2021, the conservative styling and spacious interior have aged well. Redesigned for 2019, the bestselling RAV4 specializes in choice, ranging from the rugged TRD Off-Road model to a thrifty hybrid.

So which one would Mad Max choose? Doesn’t matter. What matters is what’s important to you, the real-life car shopper. 

MORE: Read our 2020 Toyota RAV4 and 2020 Volkswagen Tiguan full reviews

The 2020 RAV4 looks fresher than the 2020 Tiguan because it is. Toyota channeled its truck line in the design of the RAV4 to hark back to when SUVs were based on trucks. Chunky fenders and a stout, broad face pretend to be truck-like, but the Adventure and TRD Off-Road models add even more cosmetically rugged features.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – Best Car To Buy 2020

The 2020 Tiguan is nowhere near as daring or pretentious, and we don’t mean that in a bad way to either vehicle. Volkswagen makes its crossovers big, and the Tiguan is one of the largest among its class with up to 73.5 cubic feet of cargo space. Its boxy proportions reflect the 4 inches of added length it has beyond the RAV4. With doors that open wide for easier access for kids, adults, and car seats alike, the roomy seating area in the Tiguan complements plenty of cargo space. That space is trimmed in front-wheel-drive models because of the third row wedged in back. It’ll only fit grade-schoolers, and for a short time at that, but for some caregivers it could be a perfect solution. The third row is a $595 option on all-wheel-drive Tiguans, which makes sense if you prefer hauling gear more than grade-schoolers. 

The Tiguan’s versatility might give it an edge over the RAV4, which seats five. With the rear seats folded its cargo volume is 69.8 cubic feet, which is above average for the class. Head room is compromised by 2 inches, but there’s a bit more leg room in the cabin of the RAV4 than the Tiguan. Six-footers likely will find the Tiguan to be a roomier, comfier driving experience.  

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

The larger, heavier Tiguan is softer on the road, even though both use a four-wheel independent suspension to soak up road imperfections and keep the cabin an oasis of calm. The Tiguan’s 184-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 with an 8-speed automatic transmission can be buzzy and the 8-speed can hesitate, especially when passing on the highway. The Tiguan’s 221 pound-feet of torque gives it some decent pep if you play with the manual setting of the gear selector. 

The RAV4 also uses an 8-speed automatic with a 2.5-liter inline-4 to make 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Both crossovers are available with all-wheel drive meant for safety more than off-road capability; Toyota charges $1,400, Volkswagen $1,300.

Fuel economy is where the RAV4 excels. The EPA rates the front-wheel-drive models at 26 mpg city, 35 highway, 30 combined; all-wheel drive lowers it to 25/33/28 mpg. The Tiguan is rated at 22/29/25 mpg for front-drive models, and 20/27/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. That’s a big difference and a big knock on the bigger Tiguan, even before considering the 41/38/40 mpg mark of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid with all-wheel drive. 

Fortunately, the Tiguan undercuts the RAV4 on price while still offering a pretty good value. The base Tiguan S starts at $25,965 (including $1,020 destination) and comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, three USB ports, and advanced safety features including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts.

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

2020 Volkswagen Tiguan

Toyota takes safety a step further by equipping RAV4s with that equipment as well as active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. That standard gear, and excellent crash-test ratings from the NHTSA and the IIHS, earned it a Top Safety Pick award. Only the top Tiguan in SEL Premium earned that important safety distinction.

Toyota’s sterling safety rating can justify the RAV4’s higher starting price of $27,070 (including $1,120 destination). Our recommended pick is the $30,515 Hybrid XLE, which comes with a power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless ignition, and more available options. The $36,900 asking price for the top Limited trim in AWD decks it out in Toyota’s finest, but at a price that brings us to Lexus territory. 

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - Best Car To Buy 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – Best Car To Buy 2020

The Tiguan is not afraid of that territory, capping out at nearly $40,000 in top SEL trim. The value play is the SE in AWD for just under $30,000 for synthetic leather seats, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, and some other niceties. 

If you play it by the numbers, the 2020 Toyota RAV4 will be the one leaving the Thunderdome of your garage every day. But the spacious Tiguan has its charms, and VW is offering interest-free loans and zero-down leases, as well as a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty that includes two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance. 

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