2017 Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid review: Fundamentally flawless, on paper

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Not only is it a compact crossover, but this particular RAV4 is a hybrid compact crossover. For a lot of our staff, that’s two strikes before you even get to the spec sheet, but the skeptics will be silenced: This little ‘ute is fundamentally flawless at its mission of frugal, comfortable family transportation.

Sure, you can carp about subjective features like styling, but the RAV4 Hybrid is so good at the kind of around-town errand-running transportation most of us need, it’s a wonder Toyota doesn’t sell more than the bazillion they already move each year. Ride and handling are smooth without getting floaty, there’s ample power if you need it and there’s quiet, EV-only cruising when you don’t. The interior is made of high-grade materials with logical controls, and it’s roomy, open and airy. I was surprised to not find seat heaters at this price/trim level, but I’m sure there’s an option package that can be checked.

The RAV4 is yet another instance where the hybrid version is so good (or conversely, absent any drawbacks) there’s no reason not to get it. Toyota knows its stuff when it comes to gas/electric tuning, and engineers made smart choices between power/smoothness and absolute maximum fuel economy in this ‘ute, considering its mission in life. In other words, you’re not going to get Prius mileage, but you’re not going to get Prius slowness either.

It’s a brilliant execution; the RAV4 Hybrid shows why Toyota is the undisputed master at bread-and-butter transportation today.

–Andrew Stoy, digital editor



OTHER VOICES:

The in-dash mpg meter says I got 28 mpg driving to work this morning, all city. So that’s cool.

I reread our online RAV 4 Hybrid drive from 2016 and I don’t necessarily agree with all the carping about the way the little SUV looks. For the most part I find it inoffensive. It does feel a little cheap and plasticky inside but I suppose there’s some attempted weight saving involved…The layout is fine and props to Toyota for the nice big knobs for radio and heat/ac.

It drives, well, like a hybrid. Thus pushing the gas pedal from a stop means the engine gets louder and the little SUV leisurely cruises away as the too-complicated-for-me-to-understand powertrain does its whirring, coupling, charging and de charging and whatever else is happening underneath. I felt like I was sensing the extra weight, nearly 500 pounds more than a regular RAV. It’s not a complete dog, but didn’t beg me to drive faster or harder.

And that’s all okay, I didn’t expect any of that. Like I said it drives like a hybrid and Toyota makes among the best. It seems to me Toyota has worked out its hybrid brake issues (at least I thought it was an issue): these brakes felt fine and far more linear. Not like the on/off switch I remember.

Besides, not everything needs to be a hot rod. There’s tons of room in the auto world for cars to get you from point A to point B super efficiently. If that’s your thing the RAV 4 Hybrid does that well.

–Wes Raynal, editor


2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited review with photos, specs and review

By Autoweek Staff


On Sale: Now

Base Price: $29,970

As Tested Price: $31,965

Drivetrain: 2.5-liter DOHC I4, AWD, continuously variable transmission

Output: 151 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 194 hp combined; 152 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Curb Weight: 3,925 lb

Fuel Economy: 34/30/32 mpg(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

Observed Fuel Economy: 28 mpg

Options: Convenience package including height adjustable power liftgate, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, Entune premium audio with integrated navigation and app suite ($1,905); tonneau cover ($90)

Pros: Efficiency, comfort, overall easy to live with

Cons: Polarizing looks, smallish size


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