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A red 2022 Ford Escape is shown from the side parked in a driveway during a 2022 Ford Escape vs 2022 Toyota RAV4 comparison.

Does the 2022 Ford Escape Have What it Takes to Beat the 2022 Toyota RAV4?

With the recent introduction of the off-road-ready Bronco Sport in 2021, Ford took the opportunity to reimagine the Escape’s role in the lineup. That’s not to say the Escape is a less-capable vehicle than in years past––it still features all-wheel drive and plenty of cargo space––but the presence of the Bronco Sport means that the Escape can now focus on becoming the best on-road compact SUV in its class, leaving the off-road antics for the well-equipped newcomer. This move also gives the Escape the freedom to toy with new engine options, including both hybrid and plug-in hybrid setups, which go a long way in making the Escape a more practical choice as an everyday vehicle that can go a long time between fill-ups. But how does it stack up against the competition? We’ll take an in-depth look at the 2022 Ford Escape vs 2022 Toyota RAV4 to see how the two compact SUVs compare head-to-head.

2022 Escape Engine Options

Both the 2022 Ford Escape and 2022 Toyota RAV4 include a variety of both traditional and hybrid engine options. This flexibility is one of the best perks of the compact SUV class, where vehicles can opt for smaller engines while still providing ample power. The Escape comes standard with a 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder engine capable of producing 181 horsepower. While these figures might not overwhelm the average driver, the results speak for themselves: even with the base engine, an Escape paired with all-wheel-drive at the SE trim level can still post an impressive 7.7-second zero-to-60 time. It’s also an exceedingly efficient choice for any drivers trying to save some money at the pump, offering up to 30 MPG combined. The 1.5-liter engine, as well as the larger 2.0-liter option, are both paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that provides a smooth ride with few interruptions in power.

Speaking of the larger gas engine, the Escape’s optional 250-horsepower four-cylinder is going to be the ideal fit for many drivers, offering a noticeable step-up in terms of performance while still delivering some impressive fuel efficiency at 26 MPG combined. Of course, drivers looking to make their visits to the gas station as infrequent as possible should check into the Escape’s new hybrid options. Hybrid setups have become increasingly popular in the compact SUV segment, with Toyota getting in on the game with the RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Prime, and the 2022 Escape makes a compelling case for this trend to continue.

The Escape Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid both deliver 220 horsepower by combining a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors (for clarification, a hybrid relies on a gas engine to recharge its battery pack, while a plug-in hybrid can also use external electrical power to charge the battery). The Plug-In Hybrid is the more efficient option between the two, earning an efficiency rating of 150 MPGe when operated in electric-only mode. The Escape Hybrid is no slouch in its own right, with a combined 41 MPG, but as gas prices continue to rise and EV charging stations become more prevalent, it’s hard to make an argument against the plug-in version.

A blue 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE is shown from above driving on an open road.

2022 RAV4 Engine Options

The RAV4 also comes with gas, hybrid, and plug-in options sure to satisfy every type of SUV driver. Like the Escape, these electric options are paired with 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engines, with the RAV4 Hybrid posting an impressive fuel efficiency rating of 40 MPG combined. The RAV4 Prime represents the upper echelon of Toyota’s plug-in hybrid electric vehicle offerings with 302 horsepower and an efficiency rating of 94 MPGe in electric-only mode––not bad, but still trailing behind the Escape when it comes to efficiency.

Gas engine options are another area where the Toyota lags behind Ford’s compact SUV offering. The 2022 RAV4 is only available with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, which, while plenty powerful at 203-horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, doesn’t offer the best fuel efficiency in the game. The RAV4 holds its own at up to 30 MPG in front-wheel drive, but that figure drops considerably when drivers opt for the all-wheel drive version.

Cabin Space and Design

Both the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 deliver the ample interior space drivers have come to expect from the SUV segment despite the vehicles’ “compact” designation, but that doesn’t mean they’re created equal. While both options seat five passengers, the Escape is a more comfortable experience all around. In the end, however, it all comes down to what you’re looking for in a compact SUV. The Escape offers noticeably more passenger space in the interior, but the RAV4 makes up for it on the cargo side of things, where it boasts 69.8 cu.ft. to the Escape’s 65.4 cu.ft. While the extra cargo space might be nice for longer trips or moving day, the increased legroom is a feature you’ll appreciate on every ride in the Escape.

The Escape’s interior varies widely based on which trim package you opt for, which is little surprise given the 10 trim options that Ford has rolled out for the 2022 model year. Even without any upgrades, the base model Escape cuts a handsome jib, with refined styling and an interior that’s spacious while providing a good view of the road ahead. Drivers looking to upgrade the cabin have no shortage of trim options and accessory packages to choose from, with many different materials and finishes on offer.

Toyota offers a narrower lineup and higher starting price for the 2022 RAV4, so it’s no surprise that the entry-level LE trim comes a little better equipped in some areas. The base RAV4 features many of the same interior materials as the Escape but adds a little flair where it counts, like in the upholstery’s refined contrast stitching. The Toyota’s steering wheel could be improved to provide a little more in the way of quality feel, and the single-zone climate control isn’t exactly cutting edge, but a new seating upgrade helps to balance out these drawbacks. New for 2022, Toyota has introduced an optional eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat: a notable feature that goes a long way in improving overall comfort.

Technology Features

Naturally, any discussion of a vehicle’s interior has to touch on the great arm’s race in today’s automotive world: the infotainment and technology features. Once reserved for upper-tier luxury vehicles, these features have now become common across the board and can easily be the make-or-break factor in any car-buying process. The Escape is here to compete with an 8-inch touchscreen on the SE trim level and above, which, when paired with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system, provides all the digital functionality drivers have come to expect from their vehicles. This system includes some unique features like a smartphone app that allows drivers to remotely access vehicle telematics, as well as remote start as a standard feature. Those looking to truly max-out the Escape’s interior tech should look into the upper-tier Titanium model, which includes a massive 12.3-inch digital gauge display, heads-up display, and 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.

The RAV4 holds its own in the interior tech department, with a 7-inch touchscreen on the base model that expands to 8 inches on the XLE trim and up. Toyota has also folded in some of the better recent interior innovations like a 4G LTE mobile hotspot, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Optional features like navigation, a wireless charging pad, and a premium audio system give drivers the opportunity to build out the interior to their own liking. Don’t want to spring for the optional navigation system? All RAV4 models are sold with Scout GPS Link, giving you the opportunity to stream turn-by-turn directions directly from your smartphone to the vehicle’s dashboard display.

The Best Safety Tech Around

As today’s go-to family vehicles, safety has never been an afterthought when it comes to SUVs. That’s even more true when it comes to many of today’s vehicles, which add safety-enhancing driver-assist features that make for a less dangerous and less stressful driving experience. Both Ford and Toyota offer a raft of safety and driver-assist features on the 2022 versions of their popular compact crossover SUVs, so how do they compare?

It seems like all major auto brands have rushed to coin their own proprietary safety and driver assistance systems in recent years, and Toyota and Ford are no exception. Ford’s Co-Pilot360 ranks among the industry’s best, with Consumer Reports giving it third billing behind only Cadillac’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot. In contrast, Toyota’s own offering, Toyota Safety Sense, ranks near the bottom of Consumer Report’s list at number 13, besting only the systems on offer from Mazda, Land Rover, Chevrolet, and Buick.

A red 2022 Ford Escape is shown from the side driving on an open road.

Co-Pilot360 Features

So what makes Co-Pilot 360 such a stand-out? The system includes many of the automated safety features that have slowly made their way into the industry in recent years, including pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, a rear-view camera, auto high-beam headlights, and Ford’s own Blind Spot Information (BLIS) system with cross-traffic alert. BLIS is a particularly intriguing feature that goes a long way in reducing those frantic moments where a driver goes to change lanes only to have another passing vehicle appear out of nowhere. BLIS alerts drivers when there is a vehicle in their blind spots, while cross-traffic alert will help you spot any vehicles or pedestrians that might cross behind the vehicle when you’re attempting to back out of a driveway or parking spot. Those who opt for the enhanced Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ will see the addition of adaptive cruise control with stop & go lane centering, evasive steering assist, and post-collision braking.

These safety and driver assistance systems, along with the Escape’s outstanding construction, have not gone unnoticed, earning the 2022 model a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This rating includes full marks in frontal crash and side crash ratings with 4-out-of-5 stars in the rollover category. The RAV 4 didn’t fare quite as well. Despite also earning a 5-star rating overall, the Toyota earned only 4 stars in the frontal crash and rollover categories.

Toyota Safety Sense

Toyota’s Safety Sense (TSS) system doesn’t include some of the features that come standard with Ford’s Co-Pilot 360, such as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, which hurts the RAV4 in a head-to-head comparison. TSS does include many standard features like automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights, but the system just doesn’t seem quite as refined as some other offerings on the market. These driver-assist and safety features are great if they work well, but as soon as you find yourself fiddling with controls or waiting for the system to make corrections that you’ve already noticed, they begin to lose some of their luster. We’re not complaining: both Co-Pilot360 and TSS are welcomed additions to this sector of the market, but between the two, Ford’s system has a few clear advantages.

The Ford Escape Stands Out From the Pack

While the RAV4 gives the Escape a good run for its money, Ford’s compact crossover edges out the Toyota thanks to a couple key advantages. The Escape offers more engine options than the RAV4 and, in many cases, superior fuel efficiency. We also appreciate the fact that both automakers are making an effort to go electric with the hybrid and plug-in hybrid drivetrains, but it certainly still comes at a premium, especially when talking about the RAV4 Prime. The Escape’s roomy interior makes it an especially good fit as a family vehicle, and although it doesn’t have quite as much cargo room as the RAV4, that’s not really something we’d expect from the compact segment in the first place.

Of course, when it comes to a family vehicle, safety is king. Once again, the Escape has the edge, not only posting a superior safety rating from the NHTSA, but also featuring one of the industry’s stand-out safety and driver assistance systems in Co-Pilot360. No matter which route you decide to go, you could always do a whole lot worse than these two compact crossovers from Ford and Toyota, but it’s clear that the Escape is a strong contender for the best SUV of 2022.