Reviews | 06 May 2019

Toyota RAV4 vs Skoda Karoq vs Subaru Forester

  • Crossover Combat
    1 / 24 Crossover Combat

    On the Internet, there are countless videos of cars somewhere in the world gamely trying to drive through a heavily flooded street after a storm.

    Not before long, a garang driver piloting a high-riding SUV ploughs triumphantly through the waters and out the other side.

    Scenes like that don’t often play out in sunny Singapore.

    But when the rains come, it’s good to have a high-riding vehicle to ford through the flood waters.

    The three cars here offer that and then some.

    Elevated, roomy and practical are just a few reasons why compact and sporty crossovers have taken consumers by storm, and we’re here to see which of the trio is worthy of your dollars and bottoms.

    Back from a crossfit training session, the new Toyota RAV4 looks resplendent in Cyan Metallic covering muscular sheetmetal.

    Compared with its anodyne-looking predecessor, the new RAV4’s expansive sculpted surfaces and large trapezoidal grille mark it out as the toughest-looking one here and the roomiest, too.

    It’s a different story with the Skoda Karoq, the pert and petite member of our trio.

    But size only tells half the story, as the traditional VW robust build quality, premium design and interior “Czechs” the box for the most premium SUV in the group.

    The Subaru Forester needs no introduction to a driver looking for brawn and brains in a sporty package.

    It’s loaded with tech like the Eyesight driver assist package and has absolutely ginormous door bins, making it very practical too.

    Pack your bags and come along to see which of our three soft-roaders drives the hardest bargain.

    Skoda Karoq review

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  • RAV4 – Engine
    2 / 24 RAV4 – Engine

    Toyota’s naturally-aspirated 2-litre, 4-cylinder engine is the strongest of the trio with 170hp and its torque figure is only second to the Karoq’s.

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  • Karoq – Engine
    3 / 24 Karoq – Engine

    Skoda’s 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder makes 147hp and 250Nm of torque.

    The turbocharged unit feels by far the punchiest despite having the least power, and it also has the least weight to move.

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  • Forester – Engine
    4 / 24 Forester – Engine

    Subaru’s 2-litre flat-4 pumps out 153hp and 196Nm of torque.

    Despite having the least torque, the car surprisingly doesn’t suffer for it as max power and torque arrive earlier in the rev range than the RAV4.

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  • RAV4 – Engine
    5 / 24 RAV4 – Engine

    Coupled with the smooth CVT, the RAV4’s drivetrain is tractable and seamless for daily driving, but needs to be revved to get the most out of it.

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  • Karoq – Gearbox
    6 / 24 Karoq – Gearbox

    Max torque arrives earlier than the other two, and paired with the quick-shifting 7-speed DSG means it feels the most effortless when accelerating away from the lights.

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  • Forester – Gearbox
    7 / 24 Forester – Gearbox

    Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT is responsive, but isn’t as smooth as the Toyota’s.

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  • RAV4 – Ride & Handling
    8 / 24 RAV4 – Ride & Handling

    The RAV4 has the most insulated cabin and responds quickly and progressively to steering inputs, making for a relaxing and soothing drive.

    Acceleration is brisk thanks to the trick Direct Shift CVT.

    However, the Forester has a more polished ride, while the eager Karoq is a sportier drive.

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  • Karoq – Ride & Handling
    9 / 24 Karoq – Ride & Handling

    The best handling SUV in the group.

    Steering is the most linear, direct and well-weighted, giving you confidence to take corners at just that little bit more speed compared with the other two.

    However, the ride is also the least pliant – minor bumps that don’t disturb the RAV4 and Forester can be felt in the Karoq.

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  • Forester – Ride & Handling
    10 / 24 Forester – Ride & Handling

    Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) have been greatly reduced in the Forester due to the new Subaru Global Platform.

    It has the most accomplished ride and is very comfortable, even over speed bumps.

    All-wheel-drive makes this SUV the most surefooted in any condition.

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  • RAV4 – Cockpit
    11 / 24 RAV4 – Cockpit

    The “toughest” cockpit of the trio with chunky and tactile controls, making them easy to operate.

    Infotainment system has the largest touchscreen, but is strangely the only one without a colour screen.

    As expected, the air-con here is the most powerful.

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  • Karoq – Cockpit
    12 / 24 Karoq – Cockpit

    The most elegant cockpit here also has the largest infotainment screen and is the only one with extensive mood lighting, too.

    The doorbins here could be bigger, though.

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  • Forester – Cockpit
    13 / 24 Forester – Cockpit

    The busiest cockpit has the most dials and knobs.

    The only one with two electric front seats but only the driver’s side has memory.

    Doesn’t come with Qi wireless charging for your phone, which the other two have.

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  • RAV4 – Meters
    14 / 24 RAV4 – Meters

    Has the largest panel that displays the most information, but can’t beat the Karoq’s for simplicity and clarity.

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  • Karoq – Meters
    15 / 24 Karoq – Meters

    Analogue dials are the classiest-looking and easiest to read.

    Secondary display is the smallest, but it’s surprisingly able to show a lot of pertinent info.

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  • Forester – Meters
    16 / 24 Forester – Meters

    Doesn’t quite beat the Karoq’s for at-a-glance simplicity, due to some texturing on the meter face that catches the light and occasionally makes it difficult to read.

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  • RAV4 – Backseat
    17 / 24 RAV4 – Backseat

    Has the roomiest rear bench and largest windows of the trio, thanks to the squared-off rear.

    The seats here are also the cushiest and most supportive of the three.

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  • Karoq – Backseat
    18 / 24 Karoq – Backseat

    Most versatile rear of the group, thanks to the removable VarioFlex seats and aircraft-style tables.

    However, it is the least practical as the space is the tightest and there’s only one 12-volt socket compared with the twin USB ports in the other two.

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  • Forester – Backseat
    19 / 24 Forester – Backseat

    Forester’s rear bench is just edged out by the RAV4’s for space, but it feels the airiest, and has the easiest ingress and egress as the doors open the widest.

    The largest doorbins make this space the most useful, too.

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  • RAV4 – Boot
    20 / 24 RAV4 – Boot

    RAV4’s 547-litre boot has the widest opening means it’s the easiest to load and unload bulky items such as boxes.

    However, it offers only basic amenities: just two tethering points and a small elastic net.

    That said, it’s the only one with a full-size spare tyre.

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  • Karoq – Boot
    21 / 24 Karoq – Boot

    Karoq’s boot is the most versatile, with sliding VarioFlex rear seats that create between 479 to 588 litres of space.

    Useful touches like a 12-volt socket, Velcro dividers, the lowest loading point and a detachable boot light further boost its appeal.

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  • Forester – Boot
    22 / 24 Forester – Boot

    Forester’s 498-litre boot is pipped by the Toyota’s cavernous rear, but it’s the most well-equipped boot with a whopping 10 tie-down points and a 12-volt socket.

    It’s also the only backrest release levers, though you still have to go around to the side to push them down.

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  • Skoda Karoq, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester – Keys
    23 / 24 Skoda Karoq, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester – Keys

    Karoq’s key (left) is the standard VW switchblade affair but never fails to amuse you if you need to fidget; RAV4’s key (top) has the smallest buttons but the only one with raised dots to mark the lock button; Forester’s (right) is the classiest key and the only one with a dash of colour anywhere.

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  • Last Word
    24 / 24 Last Word

    All three SUVs are competent haulers that should keep drivers and their passengers more than happy, even if comparing costs.

    Still, we must render a verdict to see who takes the championship belt in this crossover contest.

    A fine compact SUV all-around, the Skoda Karoq’s firm ride and tight dimensions means it falls short in this group, where the opposite of those traits is more desirable to drivers shopping in this category.

    But its trademark Skoda versatility is unmatched, and keen pilots will appreciate its sporty and lively driving dynamics.

    If you prefer European style and handling, look no further than the Karoq.

    The all-new Toyota RAV4 is what the old one should have been, as it never really caught on with Singapore drivers.

    The new RAV4, however, impresses with commanding road presence, a refined ride and the watchful Toyota Safety Sense assistance package as standard.

    We can’t ignore the strange quirks inside though.

    The heated seats and steering wheel probably won’t be used much in our scorching heat unless you prefer a warm bum, and the shifter is placed a bit far from the driver.

    Ultimately, these are minor grouses, and if you can live with them, the RAV4 won’t disappoint.

    The Subaru Forester might not be the most stylish or elegant, but it’s practical, comfortable and incredibly easy to drive – their large numbers on Singapore roads are a testament to these attributes.

    The amount of tech that comes standard with the Forester is also staggering.

    Things like Subaru’s Intelligent Drive, a secondary multifunction display and the brilliant Eyesight driver assistance package all feature even the base L model.

    In cars like this, convenience and comfort are key attributes.

    The Subaru has both in spades, which is why you shouldn’t miss the Forester for the trees, and choose this champion.

    Subaru Forester e-Boxer hybrid showcased in Singapore


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