At 31 mpg in our tests, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has the best overall fuel economy of any SUV that doesn’t plug in. It returned 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway—better than most midsized sedans.

This marks a significant advantage over the previous mileage champs, the Lexus NX 300h and Lexus RX 450h with their 29 mpg overall. (Learn how Consumer Reports tests cars.)

In an era of two-buck gas (for however long that lasts), you may feel cavalier about those statistics, but don’t ignore the fact that gas prices are prone to fluctuations. Also, the entire RAV4 lineup’s mid-cycle update for the 2016 model year boasts an improved ride, a quieter cabin, and slightly updated styling.

We bought and tested two all-wheel-drive models in XLE trim—a standard version and a hybrid. Notably, the hybrid cost only about $700 more than the XLE: $29,753 vs $29,014. Regardless of which version you pick, the 2016 RAV4 provides a strong blend of fuel efficiency, ride comfort, roominess, and reliability.  

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid display

The standard engine is a 176-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that drives through a six-speed automatic transmission. This combination provides responsive-enough power delivery, with a 0-60 mph time of about nine seconds and a respectable 24 mpg—performances that are on par for the class. The hybrid version feels even punchier at low speeds, thanks to the combination of the electric drive system and the gas engine, which produces a total output of 194 hp. You can even drive it in electric mode typically at low speeds up to 40 mph.

Toyota changed the RAV4’s overly firm ride into something more cushy, although at a slight sacrifice of handling precision. Toyota also quieted the din of wind, road, and engine noise that seeps into the cabin.

Front and rear seating is spacious—but inferior seat cushion support meant we emerged from the RAV4 needing to perform some “good morning” stretches. Also, a power driver’s seat comes only on expensive SE and Limited trims.

Despite some odd price and equipment matchings, the RAV4 is one of the most reliable small SUVs you can buy. These upgrades keep it among the top-ranked models in its class. For those looking for maximum efficiency in an all-wheel-drive SUV, the RAV4 Hybrid shows that there isn’t a need to downgrade to a tiny, subcompact model, such as the Honda HR-V or Mazda CX-3, nor stretch the budgeted into luxury territory for the Lexus NX 300h or RX 450h.

Read the complete Toyota RAV4 and RAV4 Hybrid road test.

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