For years, the Toyota RAV4 has been among the better small SUVs—consistently competitive in Consumer Reports’ tests. To maintain its position, the freshened 2016 Toyota RAV4 gets several changes, including retouched interior and exterior styling, a pseudo-sporty SE model, and a hybrid version. Toyota also tweaked the suspension and added more sound insulation.

We bought two all-wheel-drive XLE trim level models for our test program—a standard version and a hybrid. But the kicker here is that the hybrid only cost about $700 more. Adding a few basic options such as floor mats and the like brought the total $29,014 for the regular model and $29,753 for the hybrid.

Standard equipment for the XLE grade includes dual-zone automatic climate control, moonroof and—new for 2016—a height-adjustable power liftgate. We would rather take a power seat instead of the power liftgate, but for that you have to opt for the top-of-the-line Limited.

One of the calling cards of many small SUVs has always been good fuel economy. In our tests, the top performers have been the Hyundai Tucson Sport and Subaru Forester (both returning 26 mpg overall) and the Mazda CX-5 (25 mpg). Toyota doesn’t claim any fuel economy improvement for the regular RAV, but the hybrid is a different story. Given that the hybrid’s running gear is identical to the Lexus NX 300h, which got 29 mpg overall in our tests, it bodes well.

The interior of the 2016 Toyota RAV4 shows improvement over the previous model.

The standard engine in the 2016 Toyota RAV4 is a 176-hp, 2.5-liter four cylinder running through a six-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid version uses the same mechanicals as the Lexus NX 300h hybrid, including the 2.5-liter with the electric drive system, producing a total output of 194, coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

So far we’ve been seeing about 23 mpg with the standard model and around 29 mpg with the hybrid, according to each car’s onboard computer.

Both powertrains produce adequate acceleration, although the hybrid has many logbook complaints about the CVT, which flares loudly during high power demands. At least there’s a smooth transition from electric-driving mode to gas operation.

Other initial impressions confirm that Toyota managed to improve the ride and quiet the interior—both weak spots of the last generation. Also, the RAV4’s handling doesn’t seem as sharp as before. Steering gives some feedback, even if it’s faint. Ultimately, the CX-5 remains more fun to drive, thanks to its agile handling.

What we also immediately noticed was that these 2016 versions have nicer interiors than the last RAV4 we tested; you’ll find more soft-touch materials inside along with the usually good Toyota quality fit and finish.

The same appealing upright driving position remains, as well as pretty good visibility and easy access.

The seats feel firm and are a bit short on thigh support. Sadly, just like the last model, the XLE trim doesn’t get you any lumbar adjustment.

Other annoyances from the previous RAV4 also remain, including daytime-running-lights that are too easy to turn off. We were also miffed that the car’s $29,000 price doesn’t include heated seats, auto headlights, or keyless ignition. And other models, such as the aforementioned Tucson Sport, give you blind-spot monitoring and heated seats for the same money.

Overall, we’re somewhat pleased with the evolution of the RAV4. And pairing what is likely to be impressive fuel economy with excellent predicted reliability makes the hybrid version especially appealing. Conversely, this model’s asking price during a time when we’re experiencing near-historical low fuel costs might also make the hybrid a tough sell.

So far, it seems as if the 2016 Toyota RAV4 can be summed up with this logbook comment: “[It’s] kind of like the Camry of small SUVs: competent and inoffensive but rather bland.”

Check back soon for our complete road test evaluation.