As we all know, the compact SUV segment is loaded with options from all mainstream brands, or nearly. Of them all, the Toyota RAV4 reigns supreme as the best seller in Canada. Part of the RAV4’s success is that Toyota’s created three iterations of the of the SUV. All of them are standouts, from the “regular” model, to the Hybrid and the Trail. The latter is the one we will compare to the Jeep Compass.
This little Jeep is not exactly a Jeep like its Grand Cherokee and Wrangler showroom siblings. That is, unless it sports the all-important Trailhawk trim which not only elevates it above the competition in terms of real off-roading capabilities but raises its profile among its competition.
The Trail trim on the RAV4 is more window-dressing than actual real off-road equipment. The latter is more or less included with the TRD Off-Road option package.
The number of AWD SUV owners that actually take their vehicles off the beaten path is very limited. So here, we’re comparing a capable off-roader that on-roads’ vs. a “soft-roader” that can play in the dirt. Let’s see how they measure up.
Powertrain And Features
With the exception of the RAV4 Hybrid, both of these SUVs are powered exclusively by naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engines. We bring this up as there are fewer and fewer of these on the market today.
The Toyota’s mill is a 2.5-litre good for 203-horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. With comes a standard 8-speed automatic transmission. The Compass relies on a 2.4-litre unit that generates 180-horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. The most basic version includes a 6-speed manual transmission while all others get a 9-speed automatic.
The RAV4 Trail with TRD Off Road package includes LED fog lights, 18-inch off-road wheels, navigation, connected services and an 11-speaker JBL audio system. The only “serious” feature is a dedicated off-road suspension to go with the Trail’s standard Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD with Rear Driveline Disconnect.
The Compass Trailhawk includes a few visual elements including red tow hooks and specific 17-inch wheels, but the important features lie in the Jeep’s Active Drive Low 4×4 system with enhanced Selec-Terrain Traction Management System and off-road suspension.
Equipment-wise, the $38,690 RAV4 Trail is delivered with a 7-inch in-cluster display, an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, a power driver seat, cooled and heated front seats, heated steering wheel, power liftgate and more.
For $34,700, the Jeep Compass Trailhawk gets a 7-inch customizable in-cluster display, Uconnect 4 with accompanying 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For about $4,300 in options, the Compass will get all the Trail’s amenities minus the wireless charger.
Where interior volume is concerned, the Toyota is far more generous. Even up front, the Jeep is snug. Same goes for the second row as well as the boot. The Compass’ trunk is rated at 800 litres or so while the RAV4 can do a cool 1,000 litres. Visually, the Toyota’s cargo area is far larger than the difference suggests, and it’s more user-friendly.
The Off-Road And On-Road Experience
There is no doubt that the Compass Trailhawk is better set up to go off the beaten path. Its extra ground clearance will help but the real indicators are the approach and departure angles. The Compass can seriously crawl up, over and down obstacles. The RAV4 has no such provisions, period.
The main differentiation is the Trailhawk’s 4WD Low mode and a “rock” drive mode for low-speed crawling. You’ll find no such abilities on the RAV4 Trail. On less than even surfaces, both SUVs fare well thanks to their dedicate off-road suspensions. The Jeep allows for more wheel travel to handle deeper ruts with less effort but both are quite at home on any cottage trail or rough road.
On paved surfaces, the RAV4 and Compass are equally well-suited for all activities. The Toyota’s new global platform does convey better driving dynamics with more responsive steering. The RAV4’s greatest flaw is its unforgivably loud engine. Even under mild loads, it buzzes away. The Jeep’s mill is far more subdued, however not as alert. The RAV4 feels far quicker and its 8-speed automatic transmission is quicker to activate at all times.
The Jeep is thirstier too as its average fuel consumption will easily reach above 10.5L100km under normal driving conditions. The RAV4 should manage about 1L/100km less.
Our Thoughts On The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Trail vs. 2020 Jeep Compass Trailhawk
The conclusion is simple: Unless you really need a 4WD Low gear to crawl, the Jeep Compass provides no other real advantages. The Toyota RAV4 continues to be our favourite overall compact SUV in the segment. If the road to the cottage isn’t too difficult, we highly recommend the RAV4 Hybrid as its powertrain is not as loud.