Toyota RAV4 v VW Tiguan comparison test

Toyota and Volkswagen SUVs parked opposite each other in front of palm trees

Tim Nicholson

Posted June 22, 2020

We compare two mid-size SUVs that sit above the pack: Toyota RAV4 and VW Tiguan.

Since its launch in May 2019, the fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 has become the most popular SUV in the country, winning over buyers and gaining critical acclaim through a swag of awards, including Australia’s Best Cars’ best medium SUV under $55,000. It marks a dramatic transformation from a model that started life as a tiny two-door off-roader back in 1994. 

Similarly, the Volkswagen Tiguan – once a small SUV that grew significantly in stature with the arrival of the second-generation version in 2016 – is one of the most highly regarded players in the heavily populated medium SUV segment.

Toyota RAV4

Thumbs up:Value, efficiency and excellent ride.

Thumbs down: Outdated infotainment system.

Volkswagen Tiguan

Thumbs up: Great to drive, high-quality interior.

Thumbs down: Lacking features for the price.


Toyota and Volkswagen SUVs in front of Luna Park St Kilda

Photo: Shannon Morris

We tested the VW Tiguan 132TSI AWD in limited-edition R-Line guise (pictured), priced from $46,990 before on-road costs. The R-Line was recently discontinued, but was based on the $43,490 132TSI Comfortline AWD which we have focused on in this article. It goes up here against the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Cruiser 2WD which costs $41,990 and sits under the flagship petrol-only Edge. If our test RAV4 was optioned with the $3000 all-wheel-drive system, it would exceed the Tiguan’s pricetag by $1500.

The Japanese and German rivals are well matched for standard specification, but the VW lacks the Toyota’s heated front seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat, wireless phone charging and digital radio. 

Both SUVs come with an impressive level of standard safety equipment. The RAV4 Cruiser is fitted with the Toyota Safety Sense suite, while the Tiguan has the option of a $1600 Driver Assistance Package. Both models have many more safety features and five-star ANCAP safety ratings.

The pair share boxy SUV exterior styling but the RAV4 looks bigger than the VW in the metal. Dimensionally, it’s 114 millimetres longer, 16 millimetres wider, 27 millimetres taller and has a nine-millimetre-longer wheelbase than the VW. This gives the RAV4 an advantage when it comes to interior space, but it’s beaten by the Tiguan for boot space. The VW can swallow 615 litres with all seats in place, increasing to 1655 litres with the second row stowed, while the RAV4’s figures are 580 litres and 1690 litres respectively. Both cars have a space-saver rather than full-size spare. 

The new RAV4 marked a giant step up in interior quality over its predecessor, and while it’s modern and appealing, the dash layout is a little busy. The cabin materials don’t feel premium, but there is a robustness to the cabin that the VW can’t quite match. The RAV4’s supportive and well-bolstered seats offer superior comfort. There’s good storage up front, but large bottles might not fit in the door bins.

Toyota’s infotainment screen looks a bit tacked-on at the top of the centre stack. Navigating the menu is relatively simple but the buttons on the screen, and the system itself, feel a generation old. In contrast, Volkswagen’s system is a winner. The haptic touchscreen is intuitive and modern, and the menu structure is slick. 


Toyota and Volkswagen SUVs parked next to each other reflected in a pool of water

Photo: Shannon Morris

The VW’s supportive seats, sleek design and high-quality materials elevate it above the RAV4, although manual seat adjustment and lack of heated seats seem odd at this price point. Storage in the roofliner and on top of the dash is a clever touch. Both cabins are well insulated from noise, but the Tiguan is a little quieter.

The RAV4’s second row is more spacious than the previous version, with lots of head, leg and knee room. It has rear air vents and chargers and the seats are adjustable. The Tiguan’s rear pew is flat but comfortable and there’s a surprising amount of leg and head room. It also has chargers and rear vents and more storage nooks, as well as cool plane-style trays on the seat backs. If five seats aren’t enough, the Tiguan is available in seven-seat ‘Allspace’ guise. The RAV4 is offered only as a five-seater. 

Toyota’s willing 2.5-litre petrol-electric powertrain is quick off the mark and the transition from electric to petrol power is subtle, but it gets rowdy under hard acceleration. The steering has a heavy feel but it’s still direct and the continuously variable transmission is among the best we’ve experienced. The RAV4 has an exceptionally comfortable ride even on poor-quality road surfaces and it just feels like a solidly built car. 

The VW’s responsive 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine is a cracker, delivering brisk acceleration despite a little lag from the turbo and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission combo. The Tiguan is grippy and light on its feet, outperforming the slightly heavier RAV4 on twisty roads. It turns in brilliantly, but its ride is firmer than the RAV4’s.  

After a 700-kilometre round trip to Albury and back, with some urban driving, we recorded fuel consumption of six litres per 100 kilometres for the hybrid RAV4, more than the official figure of  
4.7 litres/100 kilometres, while the VW drank 7.6 litres, just 0.1 litres off its claim. 


The verdict

Either of these SUVs would make an excellent choice, but they’ll likely appeal to different buyers. For European flair and driver engagement, the VW is the standout. But the RAV4’s efficiency, practicality and value for money give it the win.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Cruiser 2WD

Volkswagen Tiguan 132TSI Comfortline AWD


List price: $41,990 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $41,990 before on-road costs.

Model range: $30,990 to $47,490 before on-road costs.

List price: $43,490 before on-road costs. 

Price as tested: $45,090 before on-road costs. 

Model range: $34,490 to $50,990 before on-road costs.  


Motor: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with hybrid system, continuously variable transmission, front-wheel drive.

Power: 131kW@5700rpm, 163kW combined petrol-electric hybrid.

Torque: 221Nm@3600rpm.

Wheels: 225/60 R18.

Motor: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive. 

Power: 132kW@6000rpm. 

Torque: 320Nm@1500-3940rpm. 

Wheels: 235/55 R18.


91 RON petrol, 55-litre tank.

Consumption: 4.7L/100km (government test), 6.0L/100km (RACV test). 

Emissions: 107g/km CO2.

95 RON petrol, 60-litre tank.

Consumption: 7.5L/100km (government test), 7.6L/100km (RACV test).

Emissions: 173g/km CO2.  

Standard safety

Lane-departure warning, lane-keeping aid, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist daylight detection, road-sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, panoramic view monitor, front and rear parking sensors, five-star ANCAP rating

Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane assist, tyre-pressure monitor, driver-fatigue detection, rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, five-star ANCAP safety rating

Standard features

Eight-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, digital radio, nine-speaker JBL audio, seven-inch information display, keyless entry and start, heated front seats, 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning.

Eight-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, keyless entry and start, eight-speaker audio system, automatic tailgate, tri-zone climate-control air-conditioning, park assist, rain-sensing wipers. 


Five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, capped-price servicing, servicing intervals of 15,000 kilometres or 12 months.

Five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, three or five-year scheduled servicing plan, servicing intervals of 15,000 kilometres or 12 months.