The Toyota RAV4 is a vehicle that helped start the crossover craze and was one of the first compact crossovers on the market.
New For 2021: Toyota has introduced the Premium XLE trim to the RAV4 Hybrid lineup. It will come with features like the electric moonroof, 8-way adjustable driver’s perch, and 4-way adjustable front passenger seat along with dual-zone climate control, power lift gate and smart keu with push-button start. Prices for the 2021 RAV4 Hybrid XLE Premium start from $33,675 (incl. destination). The RAV4 Prime, a 302 hp plug-in hybrid with 302 hp on tap starts from $39,275 f and is only available in two trims, SE and XSE. Currently, the Prime is only available in select states around the U.S.
A hugely significant model for the Japanese automaker, the RAV4 has been in production since 1994 and is currently in its fifth generation. Although it looks quite different today from the humble first-generation model, its ethos is the same: to provide people with a reliable and easy-to-drive crossover with plenty of room for cargo and passengers.
The first RAV4 was a little three-door crossover with a rear-mounted spare tire, and it was even available with a removable soft top roof at the time. Today, the crossover is much larger, sporting a boxy and quite aggressive look along with optional all-wheel drive and a long list of standard safety features.
The RAV4s sold in North America are built in Canada, in a Cambridge, Ontario, manufacturing plant along with the popular Toyota Corolla.
Pros/ Boxy looks / available hybrid / vastly better driving dynamics
Cons/ Dated infotainment / brakes could be sharper / noisy gas engine
Bottom Line/ The Toyota RAV4 isn't the best crossover in its segment, but it has a lot to offer drivers looking for style and reliability.
Table of contents
- Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Review
- Toyota RAV4 Powertrain
- Toyota RAV4 Features and Pricing
- Toyota RAV4 Recommended Trim
- Toyota RAV4 Fuel Economy
- Toyota RAV4 Safety Rating
- Toyota RAV4 vs Subaru Forester
- Toyota RAV4 Competitors
- 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime First Drive Review: Plug-In Power
- Detailed Specs
- Editor's Verdict
Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Review
By Kyle Patrick
Don’t let the mountain-scaling, river-fording fantasy take hold too quickly now. This isn’t the compact crossover equivalent of the hardcore Tacoma TRD Pro. No, the Off-Road is a milder offering in the Toyota Racing Development portfolio. It butches up the RAV4’s looks, gives it a few choice suspension tweaks, and dusts the interior with a handful of unique features.
That’s all well and good: the entire crossover movement is based on the perceived additional go-anywhere abilities over the sedan segment, after all. In this new trim however, the RAV4 picks up some of the uncouth manners of SUVs of old, sacrificing what makes it a satisfying family car.
Toyota RAV4 Powertrain
The latest RAV4 comes with two underhood choices: a 2.5-liter inline-four, or a different 2.5-liter hooked up to a pair of electric motors. The old-school gas option puts out a healthy 203 hp alongside 184 lb-ft, turning either the front or all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic.
Flipping the script is the hybrid, which actually boasts more power than the gas model. With the 2.5-liter and electric motors working together, the RAV4 Hybrid produces 215 hp. Torque is up too, to 206 lb-ft, with the added bonus of a healthy slug right down low thanks to the battery pack. The hybrid utilizes a CVT gearbox, in either front- or all-wheel drive forms.
Lastly there’s the new RAV4 Prime. This 302 hp plug-in hybrid is an unexpected rocketship: Toyota boasts a 0-60 mph time under six seconds, making this the second-quickest Toyota in the North American lineup, after the Supra. It’s capable of some 30 miles of all-electric range, too.
Toyota RAV4 Features and Pricing
RAV4 LE: Starts at $26,970 (AWD + $1,400, Hybrid + $2,250)
All Toyota RAV4 models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0), the automaker’s suite of safety and driver assistance features that includes road sign recognition, lane tracing assist with full-speed adaptive cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beams.
Pricing kicks off a few bills shy of $27k for the front-drive LE, including the $1,120 in destination. Adding all-wheel drive tacks on $1,400; for an additional $850 over that, buyers can opt for the hybrid drivetrain.
The LE comes with 17-inch steelies (complete with six-spoke hubcaps), full LED lighting, power folding mirrors, intermittent wipers, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a single USB outlet up front. The interior is trimmed in cloth, with a 60/40 split second row. A 7.0-inch touchscreen is standard, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Alexa integration. The hybrid features active grille shutters to maximize mileage.
Opting for AWD models adds the Multi-Terrain Select knob to the center console, with Mud & Snow, Rock & Dirt, Snow and normal driving modes.
When it comes to towing, the heartier Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims top the lineup, with 3500 lb capacities. Hybrid models are next in line with 1750 lb ratings, with all other gas-engined models posting 1500 lb limits.
RAV4 XLE: $28,265 (AWD + $1,400, Hybrid + $2,250)
The XLE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, integrated fog lights, heated mirrors with blind spot indicators, dual zone auto climate control, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, push-button start and a rear cargo cover. On the tech front the XLE bumps the USB count to a full five, while an available optional package can increase the touchscreen size to 8.0 inches.
RAV4 / RAV4 Hybrid XLE Premium:$30,970 (AWD + $1,400) / $33,675
Previously only available with the gasoline powertrain, the XLE Premium is now also available with the RAV4 Hybrid. It boasts of the same features as the gasoline model except the wheels which are 18 inchers on the Hybrid while the gas version gets 19-inch ones. Apart from that you get a standard power moonroof (optional on the regular XLE). A powered liftgate comes with a height adjuster for peace of mind in low-ceiling parking garages. XLE Premium buyers get an interior trimmed in Toyota’s SofTex faux-leather material; heated front seats are optional. The steering wheel gets real leather, however, and can be optioned with its own heating too.
An upgraded JBL sound system and wireless charging are both found on the options list.
RAV4 Adventure: $34,075
The Adventure is available only with all-wheel drive and the gas engine. Its all-wheel drive system is different from other models (and shared with the TRD Off-Road). It features torque vectoring, and the ability to stop power going to the rear for improved efficiency. It also gains downhill assist control (DAC).
Outside the Adventure gets chunkier styling care of unique 18-inch wheels and snappy two-tone paint options. Like the color orange? Good, because the Adventure gains splashes of the hue throughout the interior.
RAV4 XSE Hybrid: $35,170
The sportier road-going hybrid option of the RAV4 family is the XSE. On top of the XLE spec sheet it adds standard heated front seats, SofTex seating, a digital instrument display, and the premium 8.0-inch touchscreen. The XSE interior uses blue accents instead of the orange of the Adventure. Parking assist with automated braking is an option.
RAV4 Limited: $35,500 (AWD + $1,400, Hybrid + $2,250)
The Limited, in AWD and Hybrid form, represents the top of the lineup. That means nearly every available feature is here as standard. SofTex seating includes heated front seats, powered driver’s seat with memory function, and tasteful brown accents. A digital rearview mirror is also standard, as is the 11-speaker JBL sound system.
A handful of options still exist: wireless charging and a bird’s eye view camera are two of the most popular.
RAV4 TRD Off-Road: $36,300
The Off-Road adds onto the Adventure’s mud-plugging chops, with distinct suspension tuning and Falken all-terrain tires. The moonroof and powered height-adjustable liftgate, both of which are optional on the Adventure, are standard here. The interior gains red accents, with the TRD logo showing up on the headrests, sill plates, and floor mats.
Like the Adventure, the TRD is only available in gas-powered all-wheel drive form.
RAV4 Prime Plug-in: $39,725
Toyota is exceptionally proud of the RAV4 Prime as it should be. It uses the same 2.5-liter atkinson cycle four-pot but comes with a three-motor setup and an 18.1 kW battery pack that enables the Prime to produce 302 hp. In Toyota’s own words, it is the most powerful four-door vehicle Toyota currently has in its lineup. The all electric range stands at 42 miles and as Kyle points out in his review, you can easily outperform it and, thanks to the low-mounted battery pack its handling prowess has increased dramatically.
The cabin remains identical to the rest of the lineup. The infotainment screen measures 8.0 inches in the SE and 9.0 inches in the XSE. And you get some added sporty accents and contrasting stitching. Other than that, you will likely not spot the difference on the inside until you floor it.
Toyota RAV4 Recommended Trim
Given its sales champ status, it should be unsurprising that there’s a RAV4 for nearly any taste. No matter where you fall on the compact crossover spectrum, Toyota’s probably got one you should have on your short list.
Our pick of the litter is the RAV4 XLE. It comes equipped with enough features to avoid feeling spartan, though those that deal with sub-zero temps will want to add the Cold Weather package. The heated steering wheel and front seats pushes the RAV4 slightly over $30k when paired with all-wheel drive.
If you’re planning on having your new RAV4 for a long time, we’d recommend stretching the budget for the Hybrid too. The slight upfront increase can repay itself in as little as three years depending on your mileage. Plus, it’s less noisy than the gas-only options, and more powerful to boot.
Toyota RAV4 Fuel Economy
The current RAV4 operates on regular 87 octane gasoline.
The front-drive model is rated at 27 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 30 mpg combined. The AWD model is rated at 27 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined. Pick the Adventure or TRD Off-Road and the city rating drops to 25 mpg.
Switching over to the hybrid model massively improves the city rating to 41 mpg. Highway fuel sipping is only slightly better at 38 mpg, but that still leads to a combined 40 mpg:
Toyota RAV4 Safety Rating
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2018 Toyota RAV4 as a Top Safety Pick, one level shy of the agency’s Top Safety Pick Plus rating. We expect the 2019 model to win a Top Safety Pick Plus designation because it offers standard equipment like emergency braking assist.
Every 2019 Toyota RAV4 comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0), the automaker’s suite of safety and driver assistance features that includes, road sign recognition, lane tracing assist with full-speed adaptive cruise control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic highbeams. Cross traffic monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert with automatic emergency braking, and blind spot monitoring are available as options.
Toyota RAV4 vs Subaru Forester
The Forester might be overshadowed by its Outback big brother, but it’s Subaru’s most direct RAV4 competitor. It presents a strong case for itself: standard AWD at a starting price some $1,500 below the Toyota’s is a big deal. Power output is down here, with 182 hp losing out to 203 ponies, but the on-the-road difference is virtually nil, thanks to the Subaru’s CVT. It also helps the Forester post a RAV4-matching 33 mpg on the highway.
In fact, not only is the Forester the RAV4’s equal on many fronts, it nudges ahead in some too. We even rated it the better of the two when we pitted them against one another.
Toyota RAV4 Competitors
The Toyota RAV4 competes with other compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Chevrolet Equinox, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Volkswagen Tiguan, Jeep Cherokee/Compass, Mitsubishi Outlander and more.
The RAV4 is quite unique, as it stands out with its boxy looks and is available as a hybrid. Beside the RAV4, just the Nissan Rogue is available as a hybrid, while the Mitsubishi Outlander is available as a plug-in hybrid.
2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime First Drive Review: Plug-In Power
The RAV4 is now the de facto face of Toyota’s hybrid movement—and the Prime is the best electrified vehicle it’s made yet.
Toyota’s compact crossover was its best-selling model in Canada and the USA last year. Not counting pickups, it was also the chart-topper for passenger vehicles on both sides of the border. The hybrid version has overtaken the Prius as the top-selling electrified model in the Japanese automaker’s lineup too, and Toyota is bolstering its success with a new range-topper for 2021, this here RAV4 Prime.
The Prime adds a plug to the hybrid crossover recipe, with the twin benefits of more power and better fuel efficiency. It pushes the price of the compact crossover even further up, but if you can swing the extra cash—and can find one, given its relative rarity—the Prime is the RAV4 to have.
Have your cake and charge it too
So what separates the Prime from the regular hybrid? It uses the familiar 2.5-liter four cylinder gas component as its lesser siblings, though in a Prime-unique state of tune. Toyota then bolsters it with three electric motors—up from two—with the rear item providing on-demand all-wheel drive. Out goes the old nickel-metal hydride battery pack, with a larger 18.1-kWh now taking up residence under the cabin floor.
This revised setup allows for much longer EV-only driving time than the regular hybrid. Toyota quotes 42 miles (68 km), but on my test drive route around scenic Prince Edward County in Ontario, I pulled off just shy of 47 (75 km). That was split roughly 50/50 between highway and country roads. Had I stuck to city streets where I could pick up more regen, or even turned off the (strong) A/C, I’m sure I could’ve eked out more. Nonetheless, I beat Toyota’s estimate without trying, so that’s good.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Toyota Camry TRD Review
The new setup also provides new driving mode buttons to fiddle with. Drivers can force the RAV4 Prime into EV-only mode (which it defaults to on start-up), but can also switch to hybrid power at the press of a button. What’s more, holding that button down for three seconds activates charge mode. Here, just as in the Prius Prime, the gas engine will work to recharge the battery quicker than if left in plain HV mode.
Charging can take as long as half a day on a regular ol’ 120-volt outlet, or 4.5 hours with a 240-volt outlet. There’s an even faster 6.6-kW, 240-volt onboard charger available, which cuts full-charge time to just 2.5 hours. It’s part of the $3,765 XSE Premium Package in the US, though all Primes will come with it as standard in Canada.
Toyota quotes the same 38 mpg (6.0 L/100 km) for the RAV4 Prime as the Hybrid when, well, driven like the hybrid. Factor in the EV-only mode, though, and that jumps to 94 mpg-equivalent (2.5 Le/100km). You’re also looking at a range of over 600 miles (979 km).
Prime means power
Alright, we’ve talked about the parsimony of the Prime; now, let’s tackle power. Toyota is proud of the RAV4 Prime’s 302 horsepower, and that it’s the second-quickest model in the entire family. Only the GR Supra sports car can top the Prime’s 5.7-second dash to 60 mph, though how they go about getting there couldn’t be more different.
The RAV4 certainly feels fleeter than the humble Hybrid, but not necessarily 300-ponies fast. That’s because in its transition to PHEV, the RAV4’s packed on more weight than Ryan Gosling did for The Lovely Bones. At 4,300 pounds in top XSE trim, the Prime is a full 500 lb more than a loaded RAV4 Hybrid Limited. That’s a lot of melted ice cream.
The added poundage does have its perks, though. For starters, the battery now sits lower in the chassis, giving the Prime a better center of gravity. It also rides with a greater sense of calm than the last RAV4 Hybrid I drove, which was the one my colleague Kshitij had earlier in the month. Unrelated to weight, I also found the brake pedal in the Prime preferable to the Hybrid’s, feeling more natural when applying light pressure.
The Prime is punchier when using all its power, and it’s also pretty handy in near-silent EV mode. It will happily run over 83 mph (135 km/h) before requesting dino juice backup. When the gas engine does wake up, it does so with the same dull roar as in other RAV4s. Running in HV Charge mode in particular creates quite a drone, though that’s the price for charging up that battery.
The 19-inch wheels of the XSE model and its more aggressive bodykit makes it clear the Prime is geared to on-tarmac performance. The steering wheel features a decent amount of weight and the nose goes where you tell it with minimal fuss. You won’t confuse it with a sports SUV, but it’s tidy and quicker than anything else in the mainstream segment.
Still the same practical package
Over half a million people bought a RAV4 in Canada and the US last year. So this will be a very familiar interior for a lot of folks. Thankfully, it’s a good place to be, with a well-designed, logical layout. All the high-traffic touch points are soft-touch, and the SofTex seats are both comfortable and highly adjustable. Red stitching provides a much-needed jolt of color to the black interior. This higher-spec tester also includes the larger panoramic sunroof, which bathes the whole cabin in more natural light.
Toyota’s mid-pack infotainment system is present in the Prime. It’s looked dated pretty much since it debuted, but it’s quick to respond and now comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Alexa support. You’ll be able to charge everyone’s devices too, with five USB ports plus a wireless pad. Screen size is now 9.0 inches in the XSE (an 8.0-incher is standard), so at least there’s more real estate to poke and prod. A full-color head-up display is also part of the XSE’s Premium pack, along with ventilated front seats and a trick digital rearview mirror. The JBL sound system, also part of the same pack, earns high marks for its power and clarity.
The reality of housing the plug-in hybrid gubbins means trunk space is slightly down to 33.5 cubic feet (949 liters), from 37.5 (1,059). You can still drop the rear thrones too, nearly doubling the available cubes for when it’s needed. That’s still more than it’s prime (ha!) rival, the Ford Escape PHEV. XSE Tech models get a hands-free tailgate with adjustable height.
Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard across the RAV4 lineup, including automated emergency braking, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, road-sign recognition and rear cross-traffic alert. They all work as expected, though I maintain the cruise control is a little too eager to leave big gaps ahead. Then again, I’d rather that than the opposite.
Verdict: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime First Drive Review
The RAV4 Prime was one of my most anticipated vehicles of 2020. I’ve called the current RAV4 Hybrid the ultimate Venn diagram for most people, and the Prime moves that ever closer to a perfect circle. Especially when government incentives enter the picture.
Prices begin at $39,375 for the SE in the US, and $46,830 in Canada, including destination. Jump up to a loaded XSE Tech and you’re up to $48,360 ($58,830). That’s a thick stack of cash for a mainstream compact crossover, no doubt, but factor in federal tax credits—$7,500 in America, and five grand in Canada—plus any state/province bonuses, and the gap between Hybrid and Prime becomes smaller. In some cases, like in Quebec, the Prime SE will actually end up cheaper.
Add it all up then, and the Prime is an easy favorite in the RAV4 lineup. It’s quick, efficient, and practical. If you can swing that additional cost, don’t even look at the rest of the range: this is the best RAV4 you can buy.
|Price Range (USD) /||$26,970 – $37,750|
|Engine /||2.5L I4 / 2.5L I4 hybrid|
|Horsepower (hp) /||203 / 219|
|Torque (lb-ft) /||184 / 240 (est)|
|Fuel Economy (mpg) /||27/35/30 (FWD) / 27/33/29 (AWD) / 41/38/40 (Hybrid)|
|Drivetrain /||8AT/CVT, FWD/AWD|
|Seating Capacity /||5|
|Cargo Capacity /||37.6 cu-ft / 69.8 cu-ft|
|Towing Capacity /||1,500 lb / 1,750 lb / 3,500 lb|
Our Final Verdict
The Toyota RAV4 is better than ever, offering drivers a practical compact crossover with a unique style and a lot of useful features. We love the inclusion of standard driver assistance technology, the interior is also a highlight, and we appreciate that there is a hybrid option for those seeking better fuel economy. Although we have determined the RAV4 isn’t the best crossover in its segment and isn’t as well-executed as some of its competitors, you can’t go wrong considering the brand’s reputation for bulletproof reliability and great resale value. The Toyota RAV4 is a practical and smart choice.3.7
|Space and Comfort||8.0|