Compact crossover SUVs serve so many buyers so well, thanks to their flexibility, economy, and affordable sticker prices.
One of the bestselling vehicles of its kind, the 2022 Toyota RAV4 comes in a wide range of models, all of them winners. Redesigned last in 2019, the RAV4 specializes in choice, ranging from the rugged TRD Off-Road model to a thrifty hybrid.
The 2023 Volkswagen Tiguan is a relatively new arrival, and plays some great cards, including safety, technology, and interior room in its challenge to the RAV4.
Both compete with excellent vehicles, including the latest Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, and Nissan Rogue. If the choice comes down to these two, which one gets our nod?
2023 Volkswagen Tiguan
Tiguan vs. RAV4 prices and features
Base Tiguan costs about $28,000
So does the base RAV4
Best picks: RAV4 XLE Hybrid, Tiguan SE
How much is a Toyota RAV4?
With as many as 16 versions to choose from, the RAV4 carries a solid base price of about $28,000. That RAV4 LE comes with cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Spend a little more to get the RAV4 XLE. For more than $30,000 as an all-wheel-drive hybrid, it comes with a power driver seat and keyless start, and leaves the door open for options like heated front seats and a bigger touchscreen.
Spend about $40,000 and you can have the plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime. Very difficult to find on lots, it’s worth the chase thanks to its superb fuel economy and its standard sport suspension, not to mention its all-electric drive mode. All RAV4s carry a basic 3-year/36,000-mile warranty.
How much is a VW Tiguan?
The base Tiguan S also costs about $28,000, which brings with it cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. All VWs come with a strong 4-year/50,000-mile warranty with two free years of scheduled maintenance.
For about $33,000 the Tiguan SE adds synthetic leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, wireless smartphone connectivity, and adaptive cruise control.
You’ll pay just about $40,000 for the Tiguan SEL R-Line and its sunroof, upgraded sound system, and 10.3-inch digital gauges.
Advantage: Toyota RAV4, though you’ll spend more for top models.
2022 Toyota RAV4
Tiguan vs. RAV4 performance
RAV4 Prime has sportscar power
Tiguan has smooth turbo-4
Both offer all-weather AWD traction
Acceleration is middling with the Tiguan’s 184-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4, but it’s smooth and couples well with the standard 8-speed automatic. What’s more impressive is its comfortable ride. Tuned for a compliant ride, the Tiguan feels best when it runs on 17- and 18-inch wheels in the S and SE models. The R-Line has 19- or 20-inch wheels that can roughen the ride in an attempt to feel more sporty.
All versions of the 2023 Tiguan offer all-wheel drive, though front-wheel drive is the standard setup. Most versions of the RAV4 come with front-wheel drive as standard equipment, but all 2022 RAV4s can be equipped with all-wheel drive.
Base RAV4 crossovers make decent power from a 203-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 paired with an 8-speed automatic. The engine gets noisy when it’s pressed hard, but it’s acceptably strong. It’s the hybrids that get our vote: the 219-hp Hybrid pairs the engine with batteries and a rear-wheel electric motor for standard all-wheel drive and excellent fuel economy. Even better—and way more rare—is the RAV4 Prime, which gets a big 18.1-kwh battery pack and a big output of 302 hp. It can shoot to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and handles well, thanks to a tautly tuned sport suspension—all while it delivers up to 42 miles of electric driving range.
Advantage: The RAV4, with a nod to the Hybrid and Prime.
2023 Volkswagen Tiguan
Tiguan vs. RAV4 size, seating capacity, and cargo space
How big is the Volkswagen Tiguan?
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.
The Tiguan seats up to seven people in front-drive models, and five in all-wheel-drive editions. We prefer the five-seat versions: they’re more comfortable for four large passengers, thanks to supportive seats. The small third-row seat holds two small people, at best. The Tiguan has up to 73.4 cubic feet of cargo space in AWD models with the rear seats folded; front-drive seven-seat versions have a little less cargo space.
How big is the Toyota RAV4?
The Tiguan’s versatility might give it an edge over the RAV4, which seats five. With the rear seats folded the RAV4’s cargo volume is 69.8 cubic feet, which is above average for the class. Its seats feel thinner, though, and head room is lower than the Tiguan 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.
Advantage: The Tiguan’s interior has more usable space and better seats.
2022 Toyota RAV4
Tiguan vs. RAV4 fuel economy
Tiguan’s frugal with fuel
It’s no match for the RAV4 Hybrid and Prime, though
Most RAV4s aren’t hybrids or plug-ins, and with EPA fuel economy of 30 mpg combined in front-wheel-drive versions, that’s just fine. All-wheel drive doesn’t cost much more in fuel. The 40-mpg RAV4 Hybrid earns the nod as the most cost-effective and efficient model, but the Prime’s 42 miles of electric driving set it apart even from this strong lineup.
It’s average, with front-drive models earning EPA ratings of 26 mpg combined. Heaver AWD versions check in at 25 mpg combined. No hybrid versions are offered.
Advantage: Toyota RAV4, even in its base versions.
2023 Volkswagen Tiguan
Tiguan vs. RAV4 styling
RAV4 has adventurous looks
The Tiguan’s more sedate
Both SUVs get sharp touchscreens
The RAV4 looks fresher than the Tiguan. 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. Inside, the cabin works with a simple horizontal design lightened up by metallic trim, synthetic leather, and on some versions, a big 9.0-inch touchscreen.
The Tiguan is nowhere near as daring or pretentious, and we don’t mean that in a bad way to either vehicle. Conservative from its LED headlights to LED taillights, it has a clean shape without a lot of fussy detail-a theme that it follows inside with a low dash fitted with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and on some versions, a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster.
Advantage: The RAV4’s more engaging, from the outside in.
2022 Toyota RAV4
Tiguan vs. RAV4 safety
Excellent crash-test scores for both
Both have automatic emergency braking
VW offers a surround-view camera system
How safe is the Toyota RAV4?
It’s earned a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS, and the NHTSA gives it five stars overall. The RAV4 also has standard automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams; blind-spot monitors are an option.
How safe is the Volkswagen Tiguan?
The NHTSA hasn’t crash-tested it, but the IIHS gives it a Top Safety Pick+ rating. The Tiguan has standard automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors, and offers optional adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and a surround-view camera system.
Advantage: Both get top crash-tests scores.
2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Which is better: Tiguan or RAV4?
By the numbers, the Toyota RAV4 walks away with the win here. It earns a TCC Rating of 6.7 out of 10; Primes would rate even higher thanks to their gutsy performance and efficiency. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
But the spacious 2023 Tiguan has its charms, and VW gives each one a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty that includes two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance. With a TCC Rating of 6.3 out of 10, it isn’t far behind the RAV4. Hybrid and plug-in options would make it more competitive, but VW already offers one excellent alternative: the all-electric VW ID.4 crossover EV.