Providing excellent cargo space, impressive fuel economy, a nicely appointed cabin and a quiet comfortable ride, the all-new 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a compact SUV that represents excellent value in a highly competitive segment.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid comes in XLE and Limited trim levels and is all-new for 2016. It takes the once ground-breaking and ever excellent-selling Toyota RAV4 formula to the next level by adding a fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain.
Offering comfortable seating for five in a familiar compact SUV format, the RAV4 Hybrid provides a fuel-sipping alternative for individuals and small-to-medium size families that want a hybrid alternative in the otherwise crowded compact crossover marketplace.
All RAV4 Hybrid models are all-wheel drive. A 2.5-liter gasoline engine and electric motor power the front wheels, while a second electric motor powers the rear wheels when extra traction is needed. Interestingly, the hybrid RAV4 variant is the most powerful and fuel efficient of all the RAV4 models.
The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid takes the contemporary flair of the gas-only model to the next level. The aggressive front fascia has a robotic feel about it, almost like it would come alive in one of the “Transformers” movies. The attractive headlights are drawn well back into the hood and pulled together toward the grille’s center, which is adorned by a large Toyota logo.
From the sides, a flowing motion starts at the front bumper rolls up through the windshield, takes a turn south and exits the rear of the vehicle at a fairly steep angle, especially for a compact crossover. A nicely proportioned rear spoiler finishes the line.
The refreshed RAV4 comes together in a visually pleasing manner. Small touches like the use of the shark-fin antenna, chrome fog light surrounds and new wheel designs add to its upscale luxury feel. The fact that the RAV4 Hybrid is only available in the RAV4’s premium trim levels adds to the compact crossover’s visual appeal, making it look like an inexpensive luxury compact crossover, because in many ways it is one. Sure, it doesn’t have the overall exterior finesse of the Lexus counterparts, but for all intents and purposes the RAV4 Hybrid is quite refined and entirely presentable.
The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid’s cabin is loaded with soft-touch plastics, high quality fabrics, leather and contrasting trim pieces that are assembled using the high standards that have made Toyota vehicles famous for longevity and easy maintenance. Standard equipment is abundant because the RAV4 Hybrid is only available in gas-only model’s top trim levels.
All RAV4 Hybrids are equipped with a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control and a smart key system with push-button start.
The RAV4 provides comfortable seating for five, although if three adults are in the rear seats you’ll want to limit trips to shorter treks around town. Three children, two adults or two child seats would also fit just fine without too much fuss. Plenty of family-friendly storage abounds, including eight cup holders, door panel storage pockets and a sunglass holder.
XLE models have fabric-trimmed manually adjustable seating and the Limited has Softex (leatherette) upholstery. The driver’s seat is eight-way power adjustable with memory settings, and both front seats are heated.
The open and airy feeling of the cabin is complemented by the RAV4 Hybrid’s high level of noise isolation. When the gas motor disengages, the low interior noise level of the all-new RAV4 Hybrid really shines. Conversations can be held at a near whisper level, something rarely found in the compact crossover segment.
Cargo space, while reduced by 3 cubic feet versus the gas-only RAV4, is quite excellent. The 35.6 cubic feet available with all the seats in place is a slightly more than 2016 Mazda CX-5 offers and the 70.6 cubic feet that you get with the rear seats folded beats the Mazda by more than 5 cubic feet. The cargo space is superior to just about every other compact crossover vehicle in the market. Two exceptions worth noting are the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, which offer maximum cargo capacity of 70.9 and 74.7 cubic feet, respectively.
The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors. The combined system output equates to 194 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque. The RAV4 Hybrid is an all-wheel drive vehicle, with one of the electric motors powering the rear wheels. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) works in conjunction with the all-wheel-drive system to send power either to the front or all four wheels, depending on the driving conditions.
Interestingly, the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid is the most powerful and fastest RAV4 that Toyota builds.
Zero to 60 mph arrives in 8.1 seconds, which is nearly a second faster than the gas-only model. While the time isn’t going to set any land speed records, the extra oomph from the hybrid power plant provides a better driving experience for enthusiasts. The refreshed model’s retuned suspension and speed-sensitive electric power steering aid in the overall driving dynamics. While there is still a slight amount of body roll, the RAV4 feels great on the road and is actually fun to drive.
Of course, what really sets the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid apart from the pack is the enhanced fuel economy. Rated at 34/31 mpg city/highway, the RAV4 Hybrid beats up on gas-only competitors and bests the Subaru VX Crosstrek Hybrid’s 30/34 mpg rating.
The RAV4 Hybrid’s top-trim exclusivity yields excellent standard features. The XLE model’s six-speaker Entune Audio system with navigation uses a 6.1-inch touch-screen display. An auxiliary audio jack, USB port, voice recognition and Bluetooth join with a large assortment of driving apps and an integrated backup camera system.
The Limited model’s premium audio system adds to the XLE’s excellent sounding and full-featured system by substituting a 7-inch touch screen.
Limited owners can purchase a brilliant-sounding 11-speaker JBL audio system. The JBL system is quite impressive, turning the RAV4 Hybrid’s cabin into a lightweight sound studio.
All RAV4 Hybrid models also include a 4.2-inch multi-information display that can include a wide range of information, including anything from warning messages to outside temperatures. The steering wheel is loaded with buttons to control the display and provide access to audio and voice command controls.
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid includes stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and eight air bags.
A tire pressure monitoring system is standard and lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) are included on the outboard second-row seats.
XLE models have an optional Convenience package that includes blind spot monitoring and front and rear parking sensors with rear cross traffic alert.
Limited models add plenty of standard active safety technology, including blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and Toyota’s Safety Sense system, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams and dynamic radar cruise control. An Advance Technology package is also available, which adds a top-view camera system.
While both trims have excellent safety features, the Limited model deserves recognition for offering just about every safety bell and whistle that you could want.
The base price for the all-wheel drive 2016 RAV4 XLE is $28,370. For comparison, a comparable 2016 RAV4 XLE starts at $27,670. While the hybrid powertrain makes the RAV4 a little unique, its pricing and trim levels keep the RAV4 fairly competitive in the compact SUV segment, regardless of whether or not you’re considering a hybrid.
It is important to note that opting for the hybrid power plant means ditching the base trim level altogether, which may be enough of a price difference to keep shoppers who are primarily interested in the money-saving aspects of the hybrid system away.
In fewer words, if you simply want to save money and love the RAV4’s basic formula, take a peek at the gas-only LE model, which starts at $24,350.
The feature-loaded all-wheel drive RAV4 Hybrid Limited starts at $33,610. The AWD gas-powered counterpart starts at $32,910. The price difference for the hybrid model is actually quite negligible, which is good news for consumers who want the extra power and performance along with better fuel economy.
Toyota is a recognized leader in hybrid technology, offering seven other hybrid vehicles in its 2016 lineup. The manufacturer’s Prius is almost synonymous with the word “hybrid,” and it makes perfect sense for Toyota to combine its compact SUV with the hybrid technology that the brand is famous for.
After spending some time driving the all-new RAV4 hybrid in the city, on winding mountainous country roads, on the highway and then on an autocross course, I can attest to the fact that Toyota did an excellent job building a comfortable and fun-to-drive compact SUV.
An added bonus is that it won’t break the bank at the gas pump or when the monthly payment is due.
While there are certainly plenty of other excellent and affordably priced compact SUVs available, the Toyota RAV4 is a proven vehicle with a strong record for decent resale and reliability. Moreover, if you do decide that the Toyota RAV4 is the vehicle for you, my vote is to go with the hybrid model. It’s quicker, more power and saves fuel at the same time. That’s a rare feat for any vehicle, never mind one with over 70 cubic feet of maximum cargo space.