2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime vs. 2021 Ford Escape PHEV: Battle of the Plug-Ins

The popularity of both hybrids and crossovers alike has grown tremendously over the past decades. Put together, the two categories make up a significant chunk of market sales in the U.S. Now, it’s time to look at two of the most popular offerings in the hybrid crossover segment: the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime and the 2021 Ford Escape PHEV. Both are strong contenders, but only one is the better buy, and it’s time to find out which one takes the crown.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime: fast enough?

A dark blue RAV4 Prime, photographed from the front with buildings in the background
2021 RAV4 Prime | Toyota

In some ways, the RAV4 Prime is faster than the Japanese brand’s own sports car, the Supra. It’s also got more luggage space, better fuel economy, and more mass appeal. The crossover’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder motor offers an astonishing 302 hp mated to two electric motors that help contribute to that number. The RAV also boasts standard all-wheel-drive, making it easily the quickest RAV4 you can buy, according to Toyota.

But it’s not all speed with this one. The Prime is arguably the best-specced version of the RAV4, options can include leatherette seats, Android Auto and Apple Carplay, as well as radar cruise. All that in a package as handsome as the RAV makes it quite the contender. Add to that its impressive 90 mpg-e, and the Ford has its work cut out for it.

2021 Escape Plug-In Hybrid: a real looker

A red Ford Escape on a wet and woody back road
2021 Escape | Ford

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The Escape isn’t off to a great start, however. Power is down on the RAV, with the little blue oval-bearing crossover making 221 hp with the help of its electric motors. Ford’s Escape is sure to feel a little sluggish compared to the RAV in that regard. If all-wheel-drive is a must, the Escape won’t be your choice. All 221 hp goes straight to the front wheels through an automatic transmission.

The Escape does have an interior that is at least on par with the RAV in most regards and boasts some of the same options as its competitor, including smartphone integration. Unfortunately, the Escape doesn’t quite match the RAV4 Prime on MPG either, with a combined 44 MPG. It does however hang with the Japanese crossover in terms of pure-electric range, coming in a mere 9 miles short of the RAV4, according to Ford. Happily, charging won’t be too much of an issue with either model, with EV charging infrastructure improving. At the top end, the Escape will charge up in around 3.5 hours, and beats the Toyota there, as the manufacturer has not released charge times for the RAV4 Prime yet.

Who comes out on top?

A dark blue Toyota RAV4 prime shot at front 3/4 view with buildings in the background.
2021 RAV4 Prime | Toyota

There’s a clear winner here, and it’s the Toyota in just about every measurable metric. While the Escape wins out on price, starting at around $33,000, the RAV offers more for its base price of $38,000. More really is the name of the game here, with the RAV4 offering better economy, space, and options for just a touch more cash. Regardless of price, both are solid picks that should slot well into everyday life, all without breaking the bank. Whether Ford is able to hit back next year remains to be seen, but the American manufacturer has some serious ground to cover against its competitor.