The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is powerful and efficient.
Toyota is the king of hybrid technology, selling more cars that combine gas and electric energy than all manufacturers combined. Where some competitors invested heavily in now-fading diesel engineering, Toyota chose hybrids and that’s paid off in more efficient and cleaner vehicles. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is one of the latest to offer that option.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is priced from $28,500 to $37,030, plus a $1,175 destination charge. This five-passenger, compact crossover utility vehicle seats five and comes with standard all-wheel drive. Available in five trims, the hybrid costs no more than $1,050 more than the corresponding gas trim version. This particular point is critically important as the hybrid averages 40 mpg to 30 mpg for the gas model. Therefore, you’ll recoup your investment quickly when choosing the hybrid.
An XLE Premium trim rolls out and becomes the middle of five trims.
It was way back in 1994 when Toyota introduced its RAV4. The original model was quite small, almost toy-like, but it immediately received interest from consumers looking for better storage capacity than their typical Corolla sedan. Fast forward to today and the now fifth-generation RAV4 is far more sophisticated and larger than the original model.
The current-generation RAV4 blends sporty features with an upscale look to form a much more refined utility vehicle. Simple changes such as making the wheel wells square give it a more rugged look. From bumper to bumper the current model projects strength. It seems closer to the 4Runner off-road SUV than it does to the Highlander, the next larger crossover model in Toyota’s product range.
Inside, the cabin features a blend of soft-touch materials and hard plastics, the latter situated mostly below eye level. Move up through the trim range and the material quality improves with imitation leather and double-stitched edges for comfort and pizzazz. If you’re of average size, the front seats are comfortable, but for tall people, the amount of thigh support may not be enough.
Ample Cargo Space
The cargo space is excellent, measuring nearly 70 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. That should be enough room to help ease your young adult’s return to college. If it’s not enough, you can tow a small trailer thanks to this model’s 1,750-pound towing capacity.
Every possible driver-assist safety feature is standard equipment, except for blind-spot monitoring. Even so, it’s optional on the base trim and included everywhere else.
Most trims come with a 7-inch touchscreen display, a 6-speaker audio package, five USB ports, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility. An 11-speaker JBL audio system is available as is a wireless charging pad to keep your smartphone’s battery fully juiced without wires.
RAV4 Hybrid Performance
How does hybrid technology work? In the case of the RAV4 Hybrid, it comes with a gas engine making 176 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque as well as a pair of electric motors. The first electric motor works with the continuously variable transmission to send power to the front wheels. The second electric motor sends power to the rear wheels when the crossover’s computer detects slippage. Drivers may activate all-wheel drive at any time by pressing a switch, otherwise, it should remain on automatic to maximize fuel economy.
A lithium-ion battery pack stores electricity to help power the RAV4. Through braking and from the gas engine, electricity is created and dispensed at various times in the drive cycle. Indeed, this vehicle can run on electricity-only under certain conditions, including while you circle a parking lot at the airport or the mall when looking for a space to park.
The RAV4 Hybrid starts silently. One push of the ignition button and the only hint you’ll have that the vehicle has started is from the now lit dashboard. Move the transmission shifter into drive and a low hum may be the only sound you’ll hear. But that doesn’t last long: the moment you need more power, the gas engine kicks in. When both the gas engine and electric motors are working simultaneously, this crossover delivers a combined 219 horsepower; that’s more power than the gas version. Yet, the fuel efficiency edge stays with the hybrid.
We found the RAV4 Hybrid is easy to drive and supplies decent steering feedback, good handling, and firm braking. A dial adjacent to the transmission shifter controls the drive modes, which range from eco to normal to sport. Selecting the sport mode is ideal for maximizing power such as when entering a highway and when needing to get up to speed quickly. With a long trip ahead of you, move the dial to eco, then activate cruise control. The instrument panel responds by turning green for efficiency. Revisit the panel from time to time to watch your fuel efficiency soar. Yes, it’s possible to better the 40 mpg average this model delivers.
We think the RAV4 Hybrid in any one of its five trims is worth considering. That said, the middle XLE Premium model delivers many of the comfort upgrades we like, including better headlights, handsome alloy wheels, a power liftgate, and very comfortable imitation leather seats. For about $34,000, this trim may present the best value of the five.
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