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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, choosing a compact SUV these days is tough. There are so many good options; it can make it hard to find great options. The 2021 Toyota Rav4 is a good SUV by all standards. According to Consumer Reports testing, the 2021 Kia Sportage is a great SUV. It may be harsh but consider avoiding the 2021 Toyota Rav4 and choosing the better alternative, the 2021 Kia Sportage. 

A red 2021 Kia Sportage parked overlooking a city.
2021 Kia Sportage | Kia

Is the 2021 Toyota Rav4 a good car? 

Consumer Reports gave the Toyota Rav4 a middle-of-the-pack score of 69/100. This score is plenty good, but like many SUVs in this category, it is almost painfully average. There is nothing wrong with the 2021 Toyota Rav4.

It comes with a 2.5-liter inline-four making 203 horsepower. It has some snap with the base powertrain, but the hybrid version ramps up to 219 horsepower. Neither powertrain is supplied with tons of power, and the low end is a bit chunky. All of the power resides at the raspy top-end of the rev range. The 2021 Rav4 offers both an eight-speed automatic or a CVT. 

A gray and white 2021 Toyota RAV4 Adventure compact SUV traveling on a two-lane road overlooking a large body of water on a foggy day
2021 Toyota RAV4 Adventure in Lunar Rock with an Ice Edge Roof | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Consumer Reports says that it got decent fuel economy, seats were fairly comfortable, and the price is reasonable, starting at $26,250. The small dips came in with lower than average reliability and low customer satisfaction. 

Customer satisfaction and predicted reliability were both rated at 3 / 5. This isn’t terrible, but it’s not what CR wants to see. The 2021 Rav4 struggled in a few key areas that led to this lower reliability score. Customers reported issues with the fuel system for the past two years’ models. Other issues included body integrity and electronic issues. For a new car to suffer from things like this so quickly is what leads to lower customer satisfaction. 

The 2021 Kia Sportage is a strong SUV

Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Kia Sportage a strong 81/100. It’s not that the Kia Sportage is a perfect SUV that is so clearly better than the 2021 Toyota Rav4. In fact, the two SUVs are pretty similar, but in a handful of areas where the solid Rav4 slipped, the Kia Sportage didn’t. 

A dark-blue metallic 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid compact SUV parked outside a glass building
2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime SE | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Two different options power the 2021 Kia Sportage; the base-model 2.4-liter making 181 hp and the turbocharged version of the same engine making 240 hp.

Both engine options come with the same simple and smooth six-speed automatic transmission. Although there is nothing fancy or overly exciting about this 2.4-liter, it is smooth and reliable. 

The driving aspects are nothing brilliant, but the handling is solid and trustworthy. Consumer Reports even went as far as calling the 2021 Kia Sportage “secure and forgiving” when they tested it on track. Unfortunately, though, the steering feedback is said to be slightly muted and dull. 

Consumer Reports wasn’t thrilled about the Toyota Rav4 interior

Both the 2021 Toyota Rav4 and the 2021 Kia Sportage struggle with the fit and finish of the interior. To be fair, these are both in the borderline economy car side of things, but both are said to feel a bit stark, however, the Toyota Rav4’s interior borders on cheap. 

The interior of the 2021 Kia Sportage
2021 Kia Sportage | Kia

The 2021 Kia Sportage is not fancy, but CR says it purposeful and even businesslike. There aren’t all that many design cues or creative touches inside the Sportage, but the quality is fine. The 2021 Rav4, on the other hand, is referred to as plasticky and cheap. Although the controls have a solid and quality feel to them. 

The choice is tough, but the 2021 Kia Sportage is the clear winner

The differences between the 2021 Kia Sportage and the 2021 Toyota Rav4 are relatively small except for one. Sure the difference in interior, powerplants, and handling are trivial, but the reliability issues are anything but.

closeup of a Sportage badge
Kia Sportage | Getty Images

Struggling with reliability issues and failures on a new vehicle can kill any of the joys you expect from buying a new car. The 2021 Kia Sportage isn’t a fancy car, but it’s tough and has a history of reliability and quality that makes it the better choice.