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.
Toyota changed the RAV4’s proportions with the redesign and borrowed heavily from its truck-based vehicles to craft a more rugged appearance, but that comes at the expense of passenger and cargo room. The engine gained 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 relatively quick at 8.3 seconds from 0-60 mph. However, the engine is noisy and suffers from an irritating drone, and the shifts aren’t the smoothest.
The hybrid version 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 with some stiff impacts. However, its handling and steering response has improved, making the RAV4 a bit more agile.
Toyota’s compact SUV is a bit shorter, wider, and lower than its predecessor, making a notable change in its dimensions. The increased ground clearance and a lower roof make it more difficult to enter, and the revised proportions limit rear headroom.
The driver’s seat works well for people both short and tall, and gives a good view out over the hood. Visibility is likewise good to the sides, but thick rear pillars create significant blind spots to the rear.
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 stereo is Apple CarPlay compatible, but it does not support Android Auto.
The second-generation Toyota Safety Sense 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.