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Subaru Forester


Toyota RAV4

Summary

Subaru Forester

This is not the Subaru Forester Sport model they get in Japan, and it's therefore not the one most Aussies have been desperate to see launched here.

Nope, the giveaway is the 2.5i part of the name for this 2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model, which has just been added to the brand's range to add a bit more of an eye-catching variant to the line-up.

In Japan, the Sport gets a new turbocharged petrol engine, but this one instead soldiers on with the same powerplant as the rest of the Forester range, but there have been plenty of changes and additions besides.

Is it any good? Should you buy a Forester Sport over one of its many rivals, like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5? Let's try and answer those questions in this review.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.4L/100km
Seating5 seats

Toyota RAV4

An all-new Toyota RAV4 doesn't just happen. Over the life of the model, there have been four generations over 25 years, which suggests that Toyota invests a lot of time and effort in the development of its mid-sized SUVs.

Now there's a fifth-gen version. The Toyota RAV4 2019 model is more advanced, more high-tech, safer, smarter and more spacious than any version that has come before it.

So, what's it like? Presumably pretty good, right? Read on to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Subaru Forester7.8/10

The Subaru Forester Sport is an interesting new addition to the range, despite not really moving it forward in any other way apart from its eye-catching looks. It is a competitive counterpoint to the likes of the CX-5 and CR-V, but still doesn't quite reach the same levels of refinement and driving enjoyment of the RAV4.

There is no doubt the Forester Sport will add a level of appeal that Subaru has been needing in its family SUV range since launch, but we really think the thing that would get more customers excited would be a new turbocharged top-spec model, which would certainly be more deserving of the Sport name.


Toyota RAV48.3/10

This could well be the most complete Toyota model ever made. The brand has nailed the brief with this mid-sized SUV, and in a market where it has traditionally been one of the go-to players, customers now have even more reasons to look at the RAV4 than ever before.

We can't wait to see just how well it stacks up against its rivals in a comparison test. Stay tuned for that.

Design

Subaru Forester8/10

If you've ever trawled the Subaru Japan website like me (high five, car nerds!), you might be thinking: "This Subaru Forester Sport model looks a lot like that Forester X-Break in Japan!". And you'd be right.

It is, essentially, the same car. Just with a considerably nicer looking set of wheels than the Japanese model. They aren't my favourite rims, but then again, I think the Forester's rims on the whole are pretty yuck.

Wheels aside, the flashes of orange around the car will no doubt catch your eye. There are plenty of them: the lower body protection has orange trim from the front bumper to the side skirts/sills and the rear bumper, too; plus there are orange bits as part of the roof rails, too.

The exterior also cops a bit of a blackout treatment, with new dark graphics front and rear, including a black garnish between the tail-lights. And of course, the rims are black, too.

Inside the style a bit more adventurous, with a smattering of orange trim highlights on the vent surrounds, the transmission tunnel, the stitching that runs on the dashboard, doors and seats, and even the eye-catching and intriguing mesh-look water-repellent trim on the seats that goes up to the doors, too. I guess Subaru assumes Forester Sport buyers will be spending a lot of time in the rain?

I really love the orange trim finishes - they really lift the ambience of the cabin and make it feel a bit more exciting than a regular Forester. In fact, it's like the Forester looked a bit further down the Subaru line-up to the XV and said, "Hey, how come you're getting all the attention?".

There are some inherently awesome SUV features that the Forester's interior design brings to the fore - we'll get to that in the next section.


Toyota RAV4

This is perhaps the most masculine RAV4 ever - it's like the brand is trying to appeal to dads this time around, as well as mums.

And while it might look like it has take a step up in size, a lot of that comes down to the exterior design and the platform the brand has built the new model off.

The dimensions are as follows: the new model is 4600mm long in GX, GXL and Cruiser guise - which is 5mm less than the previous model. The Edge version is a touch longer at 4615mm. In terms of width, the new model is 1855mm (GX, GXL, Cruiser) and 1865mm broader in Edge guise - so, 10mm and 20mm wider than the old model. As for height, the new model is 1685mm (GX, GXL, Cruiser) or 1690mm (Edge), which is 30mm/25mm lower than the existing model.

That translates well to interior dimensions, too - there's plenty more space, and the cabin has a lot more design flare than it used to.

But the exterior design is the real talking point - the comments on our Facebook walk around video were divided, but I reckon in person it looks really beefy. The standout is the Edge model, which brings a different look - it gets a model-specific front bumper design, grille, skid plate, wheel-arch mouldings, fog-lamp surrounds and rear bumper. It also rides on distinctive 19-inch alloys.

Lower grade models also look pretty slick, and even the low-grade GX with its 17-inch rims looks pretty smart, especially in the bright blue hue.

You'll have to use your imagination to figure out what it would look like with side steps, or a body kit with a more outlandish rear spoiler... though we have no doubt someone will do it. And hey, if you wish there was another soft top version of the RAV4 like we saw way back in the 1990s, you'll be sadly disappointed - it's a hardtop only affair.

Check out the interior photos to see what you make of the fake leather trim... More on the interior below.

Practicality

Subaru Forester9/10

The Forester could be the most practical vehicle in its class. Against the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan, it stacks up pretty well for cabin practicality, space utilisation and accommodation.

It's a nice, bright and airy place to be, with a big glasshouse that makes it feel a bit more outdoorsy than its rivals. The benefits of that are two-fold - it's easy to see out of, whether you're the driver or if you're a kid in the back.

Looking up front first, the Forester's cabin presentation is much more eye-catching in this grade. The other models in the range are, well, a bit bland. The Sport, though, is a bit more - dare I say it - sporty. And I personally hate models called Sport, but that's a story for another day.

The orange stitching everywhere and the orange metallic look finishes on the dash and the centre console - it combines for a more special feeling cabin than any of the other Foresters available.

I really appreciate the media screen Subaru offers - it's easy to use and is bright and colourful, and also the flush finish design - not a floating tablet style screen - does make it just a little easier to use. However there is a secondary screen above it, which shows you a bunch of information about the car that you theoretically will never actually need to know.

That top pod also has a driver monitoring camera system which is looking at you all the time and will warn you if you take your eyes off the road for too long. Intriguingly, it flashes a warning onto another screen - the one on the instruments, which also makes you look away from the road...

It really is a button and screen overload. If you like minimalism, you're not going to like the number of things in front of you as the driver of a Forester. But they all have a purpose (sort of), and for me, it's better than everything being run through touch screens!

The front seats are quite comfortable, with electric adjustment for the driver and passenger. Both are electric adjusted and heated as well, which is nice, and the material used is genuinely really comfortable - it's like a good quality couch.

Even though those are nice elements, I couldn't find myself a perfect driving position – I feel like I sat just a little too high and I couldn't get the steering wheel in quite the right position for my preferences.

Storage is mostly okay up front: the cupholders between the seats are a little bit deep so small takeaway coffees might be hard to get out, and there are bottle holders in the doors, a small cubby in front of the gear selector for a wallet and/or phone, and that's also where you'll find 2USB ports. No wireless phone charging, though.

The overall space for a family of four is perfectly usable. There is no seven seater version of the Forester, nor any seven-set SUV in the brand's range at all in Australia, so it's strictly a smaller family affair, or a good option for grandparents on duty.

There's very good second row seat space, with a high seating position and hip point allowing for adults to easily slot in there (I'm 182cm/6'0" and I can fit behind my driving position with heaps of leg, toe and headroom to spare), but it's also a handy height for child loading, with dual ISOFIX and three top-tether points. Weirdly, though, Subaru has kept with the ceiling-mounted centre seatbelt, and the seat is flat and a bit uncomfortable for adults in terms of cushioning and support. Great for child seats, though.

There are plenty of smart features in the second row, including twin map pockets on the seat backs, one of which is sectioned and divided for smaller items. Plus there are those two USB ports for charging devices (again, perfect for a family of four), and there are rear directional air vents. There is a fold-down armrest with cupholders, plus bottle holders in the doors.

Weirdly there are LED lighting pods for the boot and the tailgate, and up in the front of the cabin there is LED lighting, too - but in the centre, the middle lighting pod is halogen. Weird.

The boot area offers 498 litres of cargo capacity (VDA) with the seats up, but hit the electric release levers (handy!) at the sides of the boot and you liberate a total 1740L of space - enough for a pair of mountain bikes or a few weeks' worth of camping gear for a couple.

Plus there are shopping bag hooks on the outer sides of the boot area and one on the tailgate,, plus four tie down points if you need to attach things and stop it from rolling around. There's a cargo blind, and a 12 V outlet in the boot, too.


Toyota RAV4

The cabin of the new RAV4 is a big step up in quality, but also in terms of space smarts.

There is good storage available throughout, with a cup holder count of four (two front, two rear in the fold-down armrest), bottle holders in all four doors, and reasonable loose item storage up front near the shifter, between the seats, and even a small Kluger-like shelf in front of the front passenger. Rear seat occupants get a map pocket, and it's not one of those nasty mesh ones.

Human room is really good, too.

Up front there's great seat comfort and pretty good levels of adjustment, though the front passenger seat is quite high in all models, and you can't get electric front passenger adjustment on any model.

The second-row space is exceptional - possibly class leading, in fact. I'm 182cm (six-feet in the old money) and with the driver's seat set to my position I had inches of legroom space, good toe wiggle room, good shoulder room and excellent headroom. If you're a parent with tall teens, this will definitely do the trick - and if you're kids are little, there's easily enough room for a pair of child seats (maybe even three, but we'll have to get CarsGuide Family reviewer Nedahl Stelio to conduct that test on the new RAV4!).

The luggage capacity is a big improvement, too - the boot size is now 580 litres, up 33L on the existing model, with the boot space dimensions extended by 65mm. The boot also features a reversible liner for the dual-level boot floor setup, and there's a cargo cover (or tonneau cover, if you prefer) for the storage space as well. Fleet buyers or dog owners will be able to get a cargo barrier at some point, too. My main complaint for the boot is the electric tailgate system is quite slow.

The GXL, Cruiser and Edge models are fitted with roof rails - helpful for adding a roof rack system.

Price and features

Subaru Forester8/10

The new Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model is a $41,990 proposition - that's the MSRP/RRP, or the price before on-road costs (you might find driveaway deals if you search Autotrader, though).

It slots in between the 2.5i Premium ($39,490) and the 2.5i-S ($42,990), but it stands out compared to both of those versions with a revamped design and a number of inclusions over the models below it, but most of them are visual differentiators which we'll detail in the next section.

Let's consider the standard equipment offered here: black 18-inch alloy wheels with a full size spare, an electric sunroof, water repellent cloth interior trim, electric front seat adjustment (driver's side with memory settings), heated front seats, electric tailgate, electric folding rear seats, smart key hands-free entry and push button start, auto headlights and auto wipers.

There's also a 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, DAB+ digital radio, CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 4xUSB ports (2x front, 2x rear), a 4.2-inch digital driver info display with digital speedo, and a leather-lined steering wheel and shifter.

The safety story is a very strong one - see the section below for all the details.

Things missing from the 2.5i Sport that you might want for include an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a proper surround-view camera, and leather seat trim.

Colours available for this spec comprise: Crystal Black silica, Crystal White pearl (as seen here), Dark Blue pearl (exclusive to Sport), Ice Silver metallic, Magnetite Grey metallic and Sepia Bronze metallic. The green and red options are not available on Sport, but no matter the colour you opt for, it won't cost you any extra.

Obviously though, you might want to choose carefully, as there are some orange highlights inside and out that might not match up with your preferred colour choice. Let's get to that next.


Toyota RAV4

How much is a Toyota RAV4? Well, that depends on which model in the range you choose. Here's a price list - model by model - that should act as a guide to the trim levels. These prices are before on-road cost (also known as RRP), but not drive away prices. You may have to wait a little while for deals.

The line-up kicks off with the GX, the standard features levels are generous.

Standard gear includes auto LED headlights (hoorah - no xenon, projector or HID bulbs!), taillights and daytime running lights as well as LED front fog lamps, heated and folding electric exterior mirrors, auto wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels with temporary spare (optional full-size wheel available), fabric seat trim, a urethane steering wheel, air conditioning with rear vents, an 8.0-inch multimedia touch screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a sound system with six speakers stereo, AM/FM/DAB radio, one USB port, plus a GPS navigation system with SUNA live traffic is standard - yep, sat nav on every model.

There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto - yet. The brand has announced it will be fitting the iPhone iOs / Android mirroring tech to all models from the fourth quarter of this year, and every version sold before then can be retrofitted with the integration. No DVD player, though, and no CD player or CD changer. You'll just have to upgrade to the MP3 age, man.

Hybrid GX models add dual-zone climate control AC and smart key / keyless entry central locking with push button start. All GX models get an electric park brake and rear mudflaps.

The safety on offer is also solid, with all grades getting auto emergency braking with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, lane keeping assist (manual models with a slightly lower-grade system), adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go for auto models, high-speed only for manuals), auto high beam lights, road sign recognition and alerts, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and driver's knee).

Next up the model range is the GXL, which adds roof rails, window tint at the rear, 18-inch wheels with a 17-inch temporary spare, front and rear mudflaps, "premium embossed fabric seats", a leather steering wheel and shifter, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, Qi wireless phone charging, keyless entry and push-button start.

The camera has active guidance lines on the display, plus you get three front USBs and two rear USBs.

Third up the ranks is the Cruiser grade, which is visually differentiated by a silver grille, chrome door handles, a "moon roof", 19-inch alloy wheels with a temporary 18-inch rims for the petrol versions (18-inch black alloys with a temporary 17-inch spare for hybrid versions).

The Cruiser's interior almost feels like it has been with the "premium package", with leather-accented seats, heated front seats, 10-way electric driver's seat adjustment with memory settings, leather-accent door trims, a 7.0-inch driver info display, ambient lighting, a reversing camera with a 360-degree monitor, a power tailgate and a nine-speaker JBL sound system with subwoofer.

Top of the range in the model comparison is the RAV4 Edge, which almost looks like a sport edition for outdoorsy people. It can be had in "Jungle Khaki" paint - none of the others can - and inside there is "Softex" fake leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, but the driver's seat weirdly loses the memory function. A panoramic sunroof is optional ($1300) in this grade.

No model comes with a heated steering wheel, nor is any equipped with a seat belt extender or Homelink smart garage door opening. But you will find a tool kit and a spare wheel under the boot floor in each instance - no tyre repair kit here.

On the topic of colours (or colors, if that's how you spell it where you're reading this), there is only one no-cost option colour in the range - Glacier White. The other options are Crystal Pearl (white - not available on GX or Edge), Silver Sky (not available on Edge), Graphite (grey), Eclipse Black, Atomic Rush Red, Eclectic Blue and Saturn Blue (dark blue - not available on Edge). There is no proper green hue, to speak of, but the Jungle Khaki paint for the Edge is close enough.

As for accessories, you should be able to get floor mats in every one of these straight off the showroom floor, and you should be able to get a bull bar, nudge bar or snorkel if you shop around.

How many seats in the RAV4? Five is the answer - there is no third row seat setup, so if you need seven seats, you'll have to shop up to a Kluger or Fortuner.

Engine & trans

Subaru Forester7/10

As mentioned in the introduction, we don't see the new 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine here, with its 132kW/300Nm currently not available for our market.

Instead, the 2.5i part of the name indicated a carryover 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine producing 136kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 239Nm of torque (at 4400rpm). No turbo here.

The Forester is available solely with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) Lineartronic automatic gearbox, and as it's a Subie, of course it has the brand's "Symmetrical" all-wheel drive (AWD) system standard, too.

The Sport grade isn't available with the brand's hybrid powertrain, though that's no great loss. Read our review where we compared that version against the excellent RAV4 hybrid to see how it fared

The 2.5i models have seen a towing upgrade for 2021, with the unbraked rating set at 750 kilograms, while the braked towing capacity is now 1800kg (up from a meagre 1500kg in earlier models).


Toyota RAV4

If you love nothing more than deciphering specifications and ratings, you're in for a treat.

The GX, GXL and Cruiser can be had with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which is only available in front-wheel drive layout, but can be had with either a six-speed manual transmissions (GX only) or CVT auto gearbox (GXL and Cruiser). The 2.0-litre motor is good for 127kW of power and 203Nm of torque.

Stepping up in engine size, the GX, GXL and Cruiser models are also available with a 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid, which teams a four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine (with 131kW and 221Nm) to an 88kW/202Nm electric motor. The total combined power output is 160kW for the 2WD. The figure jumps to 163kW for the AWD, which gets an additional on-demand 40kW/121Nm electric motor at the rear axle. As is Toyota's way, there's no combined torque figure. All hybrid models run a CVT automatic transmission as standard, and you can run on EV mode under light loads.

The top-spec Edge variant is the only model not available with a hybrid powertrain. Instead, it cops a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine with 152kW of power and 243Nm of torque. It has an eight-speed automatic transmission, and comes with all-wheel drive - the AWD system can split torque between 100 per cent front bias down to a 50:50 ratio front/rear, and rear-axle dynamic torque vectoring. It's not a proper 4x4 system, but Edge models also get a terrain select system with mud & sand, rock & dirt, and snow modes.

Now if you're wondering about the diesel vs petrol argument, forget it - there's no turbodiesel available. Nor is there an LPG model, and there's no plug in hybrid either. No turbo petrol, either.

Towing capacity varies depending on the model - but it's safe to say that if you plan on fitting a tow bar and pulling a large load, you ought to get a version with AWD as the load capacity is bigger and better.

The GX/GXL/Cruiser 2WD (or 4x2) petrol models can deal with 800kg braked towing, while the 2.5L AWD Edge model has a maximum braked towing capacity of 1500kg.

The GX/GXL/Cruiser front wheel drive hybrid models offer a measly 480kg maximum towing, while the AWD hybrid models match the Edge, with 1500kg braked towing.

No gross vehicle weight is specified, but the RAV4 range spans from 1515kg (kerb weight) for the entry-level petrol up to 1745kg for the AWD hybrid.

If you're concerned about manual transmission issues, clutch and gearbox complaints, automatic transmission problems, or battery concerns, check out our Toyota RAV4 problems page.

Fuel consumption

Subaru Forester7/10

The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the Forester 2.5i Sport is identical to the rest of the range: 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, with emissions claimed at 168g/km CO2.

On test, we saw an at the pump fuel economy of 9.5L/100km across a mix of urban, highway, country and open road driving (plus a very short unsealed off-highway stint).

Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres. It can run on the more affordable 91RON regular unleaded.


Toyota RAV4

The 2.0-litre petrol model claims official combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres for the manual, and 6.5L/100km for the auto. We've leave you to figure out the km/l numbers!

Fuel economy for the 2WD hybrid is 4.7L/100km, while the AWD uses a claimed 4.8L/100km -two new petrol benchmarks for the segment. It's like an eternal eco mode!

Fuel use for the Edge's AWD 2.5L engine is 7.3L/100km - this engine is only in the Edge model, yet it still undercuts most of its rivals with similarly-sized engines and AWD.

The fuel tank capacity is 55 litres in size across all models, but it's fair to say your mileage will vary based on the drivetrain.

On test, I was extremely impressed by the dash-displayed average in the AWD hybrid models I drove - 5.5L/100km in the car that we drove through the city and outskirts of Adelaide to the hills; and 5.8L/100km for the version that did a longer freeway stint.

The Edge model saw a return of 10.5L/100km displayed, while the GX 2.0L manual indicated 8.3L/100km, and the GX 2.0L CVT was showing 9.2L/100km.

Driving

Subaru Forester7/10

The Subaru Forester is a smooth and decent family SUV, one that doesn't necessarily do anything exceptionally well, but nor is it terrible at anything when it comes to on-road driving.

In fact, my biggest complaint is the noise intrusion - there's quite a bit of tyre roar through even normal road surfaces, and coarse chip roads are louder again. There's also wind noise up around the windscreen and mirrors, and the engine is noisy under acceleration because of the CVT automatic transmission, and it doesn't sound overly delightful, either.

That said, the 2.5-litre engine's response is pretty good, offering decent and linear power delivery. It's not fast, not overly fun, and the CVT auto does rob it some of the excitement you might want. However, it jumps away from a standstill pretty nicely, and if you can hit the sweet spot when you're accelerating you might be surprised by its brisk response.

There are paddle shifters to take matters into your own hands - though even if you use the SI drive mode selector (Sport or Intelligent drive modes), it's less thrusty than turbocharged competitors (Ford Escape) or even hybrid-powered rivals (Toyota RAV4).

The ride comfort is quite good, there's a nice supple attitude to the suspension and the way it controls itself over bumps, but it is quite soft and that means that there is some noticeable body roll in corners.

Thankfully the seats are really quite nice and offer good support, and while the steering is decently weighted and accurate enough it's hardly the last word in excitement for thrills. I'm also not much of a fan of the lane keeping system and how it affects the steering, as it interrupts the smoothness of your steering a little too much. There's a button you can hit to turn it off, but you have to do it every time.

And that driver-monitoring camera system really does make you realise how much you're not looking at the road ahead. I'm a constant glancer, looking at whatever is driving past or whatever I see parked in people's driveways, and the system really made me realise that.

Because it's a Forester with all-wheel drive, I took it for a brief light off road review expedition, where it lived up to the brand's adventure-focused persona.

The most impressive element was a combination of nice high ground clearance (220mm), plus the way that soft suspension rolled over rocks and bumps allows decent travel to the suspension, and good control to the driver's hands, too.

The drive mode selection system allows you to choose "snow/dirt" or "deep snow/mud", meaning soggy camping trips or drives to the snow should be pretty well catered for. Like most soft-roading vehicles and crossovers, though, the tyres will be your biggest letdown but also your easiest upgrade. 

The hill descent control system worked really well, and while I wasn't pushing any boundaries of what to expect a SUV like this to do, it was pretty well sorted of the whole.


Toyota RAV4

The all-new RAV4 lives up to our expectations.

The brand has some form when it comes to vehicles that have been built off the "Toyota New Generation Architecture", or TNGA, which underpins the new Corolla, Camry, C-HR and Prius. So we expected the RAV4 to be good to drive, more fun than the last one and more confident and refined, too. And it is.

The drivetrains are perhaps the most impressive piece of the puzzle - and yes, the hybrid is the standout. The way the petrol engine, CVT transmission and electric motors work together to ensure the best propulsion in any given circumstance is, quite frankly, excellent.

There is easily enough performance for the vast majority of families, too - sure, you won't be bragging about a scorching "0 100 acceleration" time, but the hybrid RAV4 gathers speed with less effort than you might think, as the battery can give you a boost when you plant your right foot.

And it doesn't sound bad, either, aside from a little bit of whirring from the drivetrain at lower revs. There's a little bit of road noise to contend with - the bigger the wheels, the thinner the tyres, the more noise you'll notice - but it's never deafening, even in the back seat.

The braking confidence of the hybrid model is good too - there's very little of that 'wooden' feel that some hybrid brake pedals exhibit, and it pulls up strongly.

I thought the 2.0-litre base petrol engine might feel undercooked - but it isn't. It's really quite vibrant. I sampled it with the six-speed manual (which was an absolutely charmer - admittedly one that will only account for about two per cent of sales) and the CVT auto, which is going to be vastly more popular.

It isn't a 'regular' CVT - like the Corolla it has the brand's 'Launch Gear' system, a conventional mechanical first gear that then steps across to a variable ratio when it reaches 'second' gear. It worked an absolute treat, and I was impressed by the amount of power available, and likewise the refinement of the engine. It's better than you think it might be.

The 2.5-litre non-hybrid in the Edge model has a bit more of a raucous nature to it. The eight-speed automatic does a real good job, and some people will prefer that to a CVT auto for obvious reasons. It was gusty and eager, and on the rainy test loop we drove it, the mechanical all-wheel drive system did a great job at stopping it from spinning up the front tyres, pushing power to the rear axle with a pleasant (yet very minor) drivetrain thunk.

But with the drivetrain tech being so finessed in the hybrid, it's hard to see why you would choose the top-spec Edge over one of the more affordable petrol-electric versions... aside from the look, of course.

As for ride comfort, things are mostly pretty good. There's a bit of jitter at higher speeds over less-than-perfect surfaces, but it was comfortable enough on the highway, and even better around town - an important stipulation, given most people will spend a lot of time running around in their RAV4.

The electric power steering is very nice - predictable and accurate, with some feel to proceedings that other SUVs in the segment simply can't match. It's engaging to drive, and a huge improvement over its predecessor in that regard.

And if you're interested in how the tech performed, the blind spot monitor came in handy because there's quite a blind-spot over your shoulder when you driving, and while the lane departure warning is a little eager, the lane assist system that keeps you centred on highways is quite handy.

If you're wondering about off road specs, here are the details: approach angle - 17.5 degrees; departure angle - 20.0 degrees; break-over / ramp-over angle - not listed; ground clearance mm - 195mm for petrol models, 190mm for hybrids.

How does that translate to off road capability? Luckily, for this launch review, we had a chance to sample the RAV4 in the rough stuff at JAKEM farm outside Adelaide - and look, the tracks that were chosen were probably doable in a Corolla, for the most part, but there was a section of moguls where we managed to get a feel for the hybrid version's active torque split and torque vectoring system (for the rear axle) and it was pretty capable, even on big wheels. The off road drive modes help in that regard, allowing the VSC (stability control system) more leeway, and the Edge model has a centre diff lock, too.

That could be the biggest downfall of the RAV off-road - the rim sizes are big. You might want to fit some 17 inch alloy wheels or steelies with off road tyres, instead of the 18s and 19s that are on higher-grade versions. Sure, they mightn't look quite as tough under the Edge's wheel arch extensions, but the grip improvements could be worth it if you're serious about adventure.

We didn't get to test the wading depth of the RAV4 - and the brand doesn't state a figure, as such. But the 11.0-metre turning radius meant it was easy to pivot through tighter corners off road. The front suspension was a marginally more resolved than the rear over choppy surfaces, but honestly, I wouldn't be thinking of this as a successor to the FJ Cruiser - even if it does have funky design on its side.

One omission is a downhill brake assist system, or hill descent control. You can get that on some rivals in this segment.

Safety

Subaru Forester9/10

The Subaru Forester range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test safety rating in 2019. The criteria has gotten tougher since then, but no mid-size SUV has been put against it to date.

That said, the Forester has an extensive safety technology specification list, starting with auto emergency braking (AEB) that works both in city and inter-urban settings up to 80km/h, and it features pedestrian and cyclist detection, too.

There's also lane departure warning with an active lane keeping assistance system that works from 60km/h to 145km/h, and there's adaptive cruise control that works through the brand's stereo camera EyeSight system. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard, as is a rear AEB system to stop you bumping into cars or walls at low speeds, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera that is complemented by a front and front kerbside camera (not quite surround view, but close).

The Forester has seven airbags (driver's knee, dual front, front side, full-length curtain), and there are dual ISOFIX outboard child-seat anchors and three top-tether points.


Toyota RAV4

At the time of writing, the hasn't yet been an ANCAP safety rating awarded to the new RAV4 - but the company has stated it anticipates a five-star score under the strict 2019 criteria.

A lot of that comes down to the features available in the new model - and there's plenty of safety tech fitted across the entire range.

All grades are fitted with auto emergency braking (AEB) with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, lane keeping assist (manual models with a slightly lower-grade system), adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go for auto models, high-speed only for manuals), auto high beam lights, road sign recognition and alerts, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

That spec list is strong, but it doesn't have rear AEB which you get on every CX-5, and there's no head-up display, either. That, combined with an unknown safety score, mean the model range can't quite get a top score here.

All models have a reverse camera along with front and rear parking sensors, but there's no semi-autonomous park assist like you'll find in a Tiguan.

Every RAV4 has seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and driver's knee), and there are dual ISOFIX baby car seat attachments, and three top-tether hooks, too.

Where is the Toyota RAV4 built? Australian-delivered models are sourced from Japan.

Ownership

Subaru Forester7/10

Subaru Australia backs its cars with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is on par with its main rivals but behind the likes of Mitsubishi (10 years if you service with them) and Kia (seven years).

The brand offers just 12 months of roadside assistance when you buy a new car, where some others offer seven years or more.

The company also has unusual service intervals of 12 months/12,500km, with a capped price servicing plan that spans five years/62,500km. The average cost per service over that period is high, at $476.50 per annum - and it'll be even higher if you do a lot of kilometres.

There are also three-year and five-year service plans available. If you sign up for those, you get three years roadside assist plus a loan car when you get your car serviced. The costs for those are $1281.81 (three years/37,500km), or $2382.52 (five years/62,500km).


Toyota RAV4

Toyota recently introduced its new customer promise - a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, which can be extended to seven years extended warranty provided your car has "logbook servicing" - and that doesn't necessarily have to have been carried out by Toyota's own dealer workshops, either.

The brand also has a capped price servicing plan for the RAV4, and no matter the model, the service cost is the same - $210 per maintenance visit, and these are due every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first. That's incredibly good value.

If you're concerned about potential problems or common faults - possibly around battery defects or or issues - Toyota will do a "battery health check" at the five-year point, and will monitor the battery health every year thereafter, with the warranty for that part of the hybrid model drivetrain spanning 10 years.

Our Toyota RAV4 problems page is the best destination if you want to understand reliability ratings find out common complaints, and it should even give you an idea about resale value, too. Oh, and while you might find the info online, it also pays to check the owners manual for info on oil type, capacity and consumption.