2022 Volkswagen Golf R vs. 2021 Toyota RAV4: Do You Need an SUV?

Vehicle Comparison Highlights:

  • The 2022 Golf R is a super hatch with SUV usability
  • A Toyota RAV4 is the answer to expensive SUVs
  • Which platform is right for you?

We’re taking sides in a car nut discussion that’s raged since the introduction of SUVs to the US market decades ago. Do you really need that big ol’ Sports Utility Vehicle? Especially when practical (stupid fast) hatchbacks like the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R exist? Or is the 2021 Toyota RAV4 the better choice? Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but only one is right for you.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R2021 Toyota RAV4
Price Range$44,640$27,565-$42,890
Engine Options2.0L turbo 4-cyl.2.5L 4-cyl.
2.5L Hybrid 4-cyl.
Horsepower315 hp203 hp
302 hp (Hybrid)
Torque310 lb-ft184 lb-ft
288 lb-ft (Hybrid)
Transmissionsix-speed manual
dual-clutch automatic
8-speed automatic
CVT automatic (Hybrid)
MPG Rating (City/HWY/Comb) 26/23/3025/32/28
36/40/38 (Hybrid)
IIHS Safety RatingN/ATop Safety Pick+
NHTSA Safety RatingN/A5 Stars

2022 Volkswagen Golf R

  • Pros: Stick shift, AWD, super hatch
  • Cons: Infuriating touch controls, big money for a small car

RELATED: 2022 Volkswagen GTI Pricing and Options: What’s the Best GTI?

First, we’ll examine the use case for consumers with both models, starting with the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R. In 99% of scenarios, the R will be more expensive than the Toyota RAV4. As such, the Golf R needs to do more for the money. In terms of performance, it’s a given the Golf R will outperform the Toyota SUV. It’s got less weight, more power, and a good ol’ six-speed that’ll take all that performance and make it useless. It’ll be slower with the stick, but the snappy 8-speed dual-clutch just isn’t as fun.

As for the use case, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R offers 34.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity. That’s more about five 55″ flat-screen TVs in the back with the seats down. There’s also AWD for the snowy months, though we recommend snow tires no matter what. Really, the R is the horse to back if you like to go fast. Plus, you can use it in 99% of the same places you can put a 2021 Toyota RAV4.

2021 Toyota RAV4

A white 2021 Toyota RAV4 SUV shot from the front 3/4 on a city street
The new RAV4 offers more | Toyota
  • Pros: All the SUV you’ll ever need, cheap and reliable
  • Cons: It’s no Golf R, “meh” interior material choice

However, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 does SUV things better than a hatchback. Shocking, we know, but the RAV will handle some light off-roading, especially with the outdoorsy RAV4 TRD pack. As for use cases, well, this is for those of you that prefer camping to the race track. That 1% of places you can go in a RAV aren’t accessible to a Golf R. You’ll also need a hair more space for those SUV-oriented activities, and the RAV4 provides. At a maximum of 69.7 cubic feet with the seats down, you can certainly move more with a 2021 Toyota RAV4.

Obviously, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R will move you and your things much faster where the RAV will move them further. For Golf R money, you can completely option out a Toyota RAV4, ending up with a top-tier RAV4 Prime. Funnily enough, like the Golf, this top line model is one of the fastest cars each brand makes.

Do you really need a big SUV?

A blue 2022 Volkswagen Golf R shot from the 3/4 angle
The new Golf R | Volkswagen

So, do you need the SUV? Frankly, it’s all down to that use case. Can you take a Golf R camping? Yes, albiet carefully. Can you take a RAV4 to the track? We dare you. The thing about this whole debate between the SUV and the car is, the answer varies depending on the person. As for us, we’d take the Golf R, even if the touch controls will eventually drive us into the waiting arms of a Toyota GR86.

RELATED: 2022 Volkswagen GTI vs. Volkswagen Golf R: Which Hot Hatch Is Best?