The RAV4 is a compact crossover that frequents the top of US sales charts. It is a well-rounded SUV that shines in the safety category, yet may disappoint those looking for passing power. Top rated reliability, a sporty look, and modern technology will continue to attract many buyers to the RAV4, and we won’t be surprised if you do too. There’s a lot to like about this little SUV.
The class-leading Safety Sense suite that comes standard in all RAV4s is this SUV’s most valuable proposition. The systems function better than many of those in more expensive luxury SUVs. We commend Toyota for including this standard. Beyond the safety features, the RAV4 offers exceptional utility in the form of class-leading cargo capacity and has a stellar reputation for reliability. If you’re looking for an SUV that offers everything you need in a practical package with exceptional safety characteristics, the RAV4 offers phenomenal value.
The 2.5 Liter inline 4 cylinder engine provides 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel the RAV4 to sixty in 8.6 seconds. It’s not the slow but definitely isn’t as quick as the racy exterior would have you believe. It does provide excellent reliability and fuel economy. The EPA rates it at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, one of the best ratings in the class. At the end of the day, it’s all the power most will ever need.
The suspension and ride are on the sporty side but not firm enough to eliminate body roll. It’s the same setup used in the Lexus NX, so the ride refinement is pretty good for the class. The transmission is eager to downshift, like most, to try to save fuel. It is manually shiftable and some models have paddle shifters, but the transmission will still automatically downshift. It won’t hold its revs, though we know that won’t matter to most drivers. Overall, the RAV4 performs adequately for the class and doesn’t quite live up to its sporty looks.
Like the exterior, the interior isn’t anything to write home about. There is a simulated leather dash with contrast stitching that looks impressive upon entering the cabin. However, sit in the RAV4 a little longer, and you’ll begin to notice a lot of cheap looking and cheap feeling materials. Top trims aren’t exempt either, though there are fewer dummy buttons. The seating position is high and provides great vision. Those with sore backs will be disappointed that the standard seats don’t offer lumbar support. The leather-like seats in the top trims are only marginally better, at least they have lumbar support. The lack of supportive seating is made up by ample leg and headroom.
The back seat can accommodate adults and recline to offer more comfort, though shoulders will rub if you squeeze three in the back row. On the positive side, the Entune infotainment system is easy to use and employs one of the better Bluetooth connections on the market. The standard system uses buttons and is easier to operate, while the large one uses touch controls that aren’t always as intuitive. The standard Safety Sense P suite is easily managed by the digital driver information display, one of this SUV’s greatest strengths. Another is the 73.4 cubic feet of space with the second row folded and 38.4 with them up. Those are numbers that place the RAV4 at the top of the class. The RAV4’s interior will not wow anyone, nor coddle you in comfort, but it’s everything you need. It’s practical. That’s why the RAV4 is consistently a top-selling SUV.
There’s nothing terribly distinguishing about the RAV4’s design. While it has grown up a bit, no more spare tire on the boot, it still tries to appear sporty despite lacking much grunt. The LED lights are a modern touch, though they are quickly becoming par for the course. The rear is busy with curves directed every which way but the tail lights are both functional and attractive. The plastic body trim is ugly in our opinion. We think there are much better looking compact crossovers like the Mazda CX-5 but our tastes aren’t your tastes. If you like the design, please let us know why in the comments!
JD Power offers a 3 out of 5 predicted reliability rating for the Toyota RAV4 without justification. We think the RAV4 should receive a higher rating. All RAV4 models have fewer than 50 Technical Service Bulletins from the National Highway Safety Administration and there’s just one recall for the 2017 model for an underinflated spare tire. This can be remedied by the dealer for free or easily fixed by inflating the tire properly at your nearest gas station. There is a troubling problem with 2013 and earlier RAV4 models’ VVT-i oil line. The line is prone to bursting which causes catastrophic loss of oil and may cause engine failure if driven.
A known issue that affects all models is a problem with the vapor canister, part of the evaporation system. If the check engine light comes on and reads P0441, P0442, or P0446; then the vent valve has failed from a piece of charcoal making its way to vent. The entire vapor canister will need to be replaced and costs an average of $1,500 dollars to replace! Toyota may cover the cost if you’re diligent in your dealings with dealers. Beyond these caveats, there isn’t a whole lot not to like about the RAV4’s reliability. We think Consumer Reports gave a more accurate rating, 5 out of 5. There are several RAV4s on the road with well over 100,000 miles. We trust their reliability, you should too.
This SUV includes some of the most advanced safety technologies on the market standard. They are bundled together in a package Toyota refers to as Safety Sense P. A front facing camera is combined with sonar technology to offer cutting edge features like auto high beams, lane departure warning with steering assist, and pedestrian detection with automatic braking under 25 mph. The high beams will automatically turn off if you’re traveling at high speeds and the camera senses oncoming traffic. Once it has passed, the high beams will automatically turn back on. No more probable cause for forgetting to turn off your high beams!
The lane departure system uses the camera to determine your position within the lane by picking up on markings. If you begin to drift out of your lane, warning beeps will sound. Also, the steering in the direction of the sway will become firm and difficult and easy in the opposite direction. The system will likewise notice if you “sway” in your lane over an extended period of time and will ask you if you need to take a break. The pedestrian detection system will warn you if it sees a potential hazard and automatically applies the brakes if someone walks into your path, provided you’re driving less than 25 mph. If you aren’t, it will help you brake harder but you must depress the pedal. Safety Sense P further adds adaptive cruise control that adjusts your speed automatically to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.
This video does an excellent job of demonstrating Safety Sense performance.The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the pre-collision systems in the Toyota as “Superior,” and awards the RAV4 the “Top Safety Pick+” designation, the highest available. These factors combine to position the RAV4 at the top of its segment in safety, we’re confident this SUV will help keep you and your family safe.
The Honda CR-V is, without a doubt, the closest competitor to the RAV4. The Honda compact crossover offers advanced safety technology that rivals the Toyota while offering more robust performance. The CR-V is over a second quicker to sixty while receiving even better fuel economy. The fit and finish of the interior are superior in the Honda, as is the infotainment system. The seating in base models are comparable, but higher trimmed Hondas receive real leather seating with vastly better support. Cargo capacity is dead even in both crossovers.
We prefer the driving experience in the Honda, but the firmer suspension sacrifices ride quality. The cabin is also a little quieter in the Toyota, though neither is exceptional in that respect. If you’re looking for a cush cabin, consider the Ford Escape as a potent alternative. For those who appreciate convenience, the standard Apple Carplay and Android Auto in the Honda make life easier. We think the CR-V is a better choice overall but the safety-concerned might appreciate Toyota’s Safety Sense more, as it includes more features standard than Honda Sense.
The LE trim starts at $24,410 and includes Toyota Safety Sense P driver assistance features standard, integrated backup camera, Entune audio with USB port, eight airbags, remote keyless entry, soft touch interior, and 17in wheels. Roof rails are available for $190. Entune audio upgrade with navigation costs $865 and includes roof rails. All-wheel-drive costs $1,400. For $25,500, the XLE trim adds a moonroof, dual zone climate control, Entune audio with navigation, and a 4.2in TFT multi information display.
A “Power Premium” Package adds a height-adjustable power liftgate, smart key system, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and an upgraded audio system for $1,830. The SE trim has an MSRP of $28,790 and provides 18in sport wheels, SofTex trimmed seats, paddle shifters, and LED projector-beam headlights with daytime running lights. The Entune Premium JBL Audio Package costs $2,210 and includes the height-adjustable power liftgate, smart key system, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, 11 JBL GreenEdge speakers with subwoofer, Siri Eyes Free, and cargo area tonneau cover.
The $30,905 Limited trim includes a smart key system, push button start, power liftgate, power driver’s seat with memory function, SofTex trimmed seats, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and Entune premium audio with navigation. Front and rear parking sonar is available for $500. A JBL Audio package is available for $875 and with parking sonar for $1,375. An Advanced Technology Package adds a bird’s eye view camera, JBL audio, parking sonar, and cargo area tonneau cover. The Platinum trim starts at $34,750 and equips front and rear parking sonar, platinum floor mats, full-body color, bird’s eye view with perimeter scan, smart key system with all doors, hands-free power liftgate, heated steering wheel, and Entune JBL audio system. All-wheel-drive is available for $1,400.