The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Has a Nicer Interior Than Its More Expensive Sibling

A comfortable interior that’s also visually appealing is an important consideration in any vehicle. If you spend a lot of time on the road, creature comforts and good technology are vital. Toyota is known for its reliable and attractive vehicles.

But if you’re trying to decide between two crossover SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Highlander, take a look at this helpful comparison.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4

With seven trim levels and a hybrid version, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 is as versatile as they come. According to Toyota, the base model starts at $26,150. Or you can upgrade your RAV4 for serious off-road adventures. You can also select a more upscale model with a fancier interior and tons of bells and whistles. 

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 earned an Editor’s Choice award from Car and Driver for its versatility, practicality, and design. While its styling cues are reminiscent of the 4Runner full-size SUV and Tacoma midsize pickup, the RAV4 compact crossover comes on a car-based platform for a smooth ride.

Regardless of which trim level you choose, the RAV4 packs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2021 model comes with front-wheel drive, but you can get all-wheel drive as an option on all but the Adventure and TRD Off-Road models, which have AWD standard.

No matter which RAV4 trim you choose, the cabin is nice, U.S. News reports. Its reviewers like the “crisp design,” complemented by soft-touch plastics. They believe the interior quality is consistent across all trims.

The RAV4 seats up to five in two spacious rows with comfy seats. The base model has cloth upholstery, but the higher trims come with synthetic leather, distinctive stitching, and a faux-leather-wrapped steering wheel, along with heated and vented front seats. The front passenger seat isn’t power-adjustable, but the driver’s seat offers eight-way power-adjustability.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, a six-speaker sound system, satellite radio, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. A 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen comes standard, but an 8.0-inch screen is optional. Plus, the system has some physical controls for convenience. You can upgrade with an optional 11-speaker JBL stereo, built-in navigation, and wireless device charging. 

The 2021 Toyota Highlander

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The 2021 Toyota Highlander is larger and more expensive than the RAV4. Starting at $34,910 according to Toyota, this three-row crossover SUV is plenty capable. It offers two engine choices. A 3.5-liter V6 provides good power. There’s also a hybrid powertrain with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, two electric motors, and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The hybrid models save on fuel, but the acceleration isn’t great, Car and Driver reports.

On the inside, the Highlander offers three-row seating. The third row is suitable for kids but cramped otherwise. Its infotainment features are virtually identical to the RAV4’s. But the Highlander offers an optional 12.3-inch touchscreen and the Driver Easy Speak Toyota system, which plays the driver’s voice for passengers in the back.

As for interior quality, U.S. News points out the inconsistency through the Highlander lineup. Though the higher trims have nice cabins with genuine leather, faux wood, and soft-touch materials, the lower trims are full of hard plastic, and cloth upholstery comes standard.

The 2021 Toyota Highlander can seat up to eight people with a standard bench seat in the second row. Though the third row isn’t comfortable for adults, the first two rows offer plenty of room. There’s also a power-adjustable driver’s seat. A power-adjustable front passenger seat is optional, as are leather upholstery and heated front- and second-row seats.

Which SUV does it better?

Though the Highlander seats more people and has more features, the Toyota RAV4 is the winner for its nicer interior. 

According to U.S. News, the RAV4 offers more consistency in its cabin quality across its lineup. The Highlander offers upscale interiors only in its upper trims. The lower trims offer a lot of hard plastic, giving the RAV4 the advantage. 

Plus, the RAV4’s two rows offer more space than the Highlander’s three cramped rows. The seats are comfortable in both SUVs, but the RAV4 has more space for passengers to stretch out.

With plenty of space and a nicer interior regardless of trim, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 wins against the pricier Highlander.