The original Toyota RAV4 pioneered the small, car-based SUV segment in the mid-1990s, and it has continued to set a high standard for the class with each subsequent generation—until now. Today, the RAV4 is no longer among the best in class in our road tests.
Toyota changed the RAV4's proportions with the redesign, drawing styling cues from its truck-based vehicles to craft a more rugged appearance. The SUV is a bit shorter, wider, and lower than its predecessor, making a notable change in its dimensions. Sadly, these changes come at the expense of passenger and cargo room.
The increased ground clearance and a lower roof make it more difficult to enter, and the revised shape limits rear headroom.
The engine gets more horsepower, and it is now matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The RAV4 proved both quick and frugal in our tests. Our all-wheel-drive RAV4 returned 27 mpg overall. Acceleration is quick for the class at 8.3 seconds from 0-60 mph. However, the engine is noisy and suffers from an irritating drone, and the shifts aren't smooth.
The hybrid version gets an impressive 37 mpg, and it doesn't suffer from the same unpleasant engine noise. The hybrid also feels more energetic, with the electric drive producing more urgent acceleration from a standstill.
The ride takes a step backward compared to earlier generations. Now, it's taut and tends to feel jumpy on certain pavement surfaces. However, handling and steering response has improved, making the RAV4 a bit more agile.
The driver's seat works well for both short and tall people, and it enables a good view out over the hood. Visibility is likewise good to the sides, but thick rear pillars create significant blind spots to the back.
The padded dashboard has tasteful stitching, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel is a nice touch for the segment. But the interior feels bland, bordering on cheap, thanks to a wealth of hard plastic trim, particularly compared to peers such as the Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester.
Most controls are clear and easy to use except for some tiny buttons located around the infotainment screen. Oddly, most controls on the door are not lit at night, making them hard to find in the darkness. The infotainment system is Apple CarPlay compatible, but it does not support Android Auto.
The Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 system of advanced safety and driver assist suite comes standard. It includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and road sign recognition. Blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert are optional.