I’m looking only at the base models. I live in northern New England where snow, well below zero cold, hills, and mud season are issues. I like the Subaru’s extra 2.5 inches of ground clearance, overall visibility, large easy-to-see display on top of the dashboard, legroom, price, fog lights, and the fact that Consumer Reports says it handles better in the snow. However, looking at the Consumer Reports reliability ratings from '09 to '15, reading about ongoing oil consumption problems, and looking at the number of complaints from '14 to Aug '16 on the NHTSA web site (in light of the number of Foresters sold in the US), it comes across as a vehicle with some significant problems compared to the RAV and that could cost money in the long run. And it seems as if Subaru Corp refuses to officially acknowledge that there is an oil consumption problem. (Personally, one salesman told me the oil consumption issue was “mostly” on manual transmissions. Another told me he’d heard of it, but only on a different model Subaru and only on about two vehicles.)
The RAV has overall better reliability, but I don’t like the fact that I’d be losing an inch of ground clearance from my 2006 RAV, the visibility out the back is not as good, the display is small and not well placed, and fog lights are impossible. The RAV has a sports mode button that provides some extra torque, but I don’t know how effective it is as I’ve not had that feature before. And I don’t know if I really need to be able to go from automatic to manually switching gears as it is not something I’ve needed to do very often in my current car. I have also not had to lock the rear differential for extra traction very often. So not having these features in the Subaru might not be an issue 99% of the time.
I think it comes down to the Subaru’s visibility, ground clearance, and Consumer Reports rating on handling in the snow, which are important, vs. the RAV’s overall reliability, which is also important. The issues of sports mode for extra torque and the ability to manual change gears I’m uncertain about.