2016 Toyota RAV4

Starting MSRP: $24,350 - $32,910

Estimated MPG: 24 city / 31 hwy

2016 Toyota RAV4 Review

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 distinguishes itself as a particularly well-rounded choice among compact SUVs. The RAV4 is credited with launching the small crossover segment in the 1990s, and the current model is a top seller for Toyota, offering vast cargo space, balanced performance and excellent crash test scores.

By Jim Sharifi
Last Updated 10/18/2016

The Toyota RAV4 is a compact SUV that’s offered in four trims: LE, XLE, SE and Limited. A four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard on all models, and buyers have the choice of front- or all-wheel drive.

For 2016, the RAV4 gets updated interior and exterior styling, and the newly available SE model features a sport-tuned suspension and trim-specific exterior styling elements. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid also debuts and is covered in a separate review. Finally, a suite of available driver assistance features is bundled into a new Toyota Safety Sense package, which comes standard on the RAV4 Limited and is available on XLE and SE trims.

Exterior

Exterior
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An angular design helps the Toyota RAV4 distinguish itself from competing compact SUVs. From the front, two slim headlights are connected by an extremely narrow upper grille that features a prominent Toyota badge. Along the sides, a clean profile is accented by large cutouts for the wheels and a gradually rising beltline.

The base RAV4 LE comes with 17-inch steel wheels, roof rails, rear privacy glass and a liftgate spoiler. Higher trims bring in a moonroof, fog lights, 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels and a power liftgate. LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights are also included on the SE and Limited trims.

Interior

Interior
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The RAV4’s interior design is straightforward, modern and spacious. There are plenty of hard plastics throughout the cabin, but they’re nicely textured. In addition, padded surfaces are strategically placed on most touchpoints, including the doors, center armrest and dash. Our test RAV4 SE included attractive contrast stitching across the lower portion of the dash, which provides some visual enhancement, particularly around the start button and the center stack.

Passenger space is ample in both rows, and the RAV4’s 60/40 split-folding rear seats also recline to enhance passenger comfort. The RAV4 does not have as many small-item storage cubbies as competitors like the Honda CR-V, but cargo space is definitely a highlight. There’s 38.4 cubic feet of space behind the second row, which expands to 73.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. That’s slightly more overall space than you’ll get with the CR-V, but not quite as much as the 2016 Subaru Forester offers.

Comfort-enhancing features like dual-zone automatic climate control become standard on the RAV4 XLE, while higher trims bring in leatherette or leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver’s seat.

Performance

Performance
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One engine is offered with the 2016 Toyota RAV4: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard and all-wheel drive is optional.

The front-wheel drive RAV4 gets an EPA-estimated 23/30 mpg city/highway. All-wheel drive models have slightly lower estimates of 22/29 mpg. Those ratings are pretty good for the class, though the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Mazda CX-5 all use a bit less fuel.

While some competitors offer more powerful engine options, we found the 2016 RAV4’s 176 horsepower perfectly acceptable during our week of testing. The four-cylinder engine is more than sufficient around town, and the combination of composed handling and good forward visibility helps the RAV4 feel particularly maneuverable. Highway passing maneuvers required a little more planning than we’d like, which may be because the transmission is a little slow to downshift when called on for more power. Fortunately, Sport and Eco drive modes are available and alter throttle response accordingly.

The ride is generally comfortable, though our test RAV4 SE felt a little unsettled over uneven pavement. We’d expect models with smaller wheels and the standard suspension to have a more compliant ride.

Technology

Technology
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The base RAV4 comes with a competitive set of tech features, including a USB port, Bluetooth and an Entune audio system with a 6.1-inch touch screen. Higher trims add features like navigation, satellite radio, HD Radio and an upgraded Entune system with a larger 7-inch touch screen.

Our test RAV4 came with the upgraded infotainment system, navigation and an 11-speaker JBL audio system. The touch screen may lack visual flair, but Toyota’s Entune system has straightforward menus and responds quickly to user inputs. Pairing a smartphone was effortless, and the screen itself is flanked by buttons on either side for access to most primary functions.

Safety

Safety
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The 2016 RAV4 comes standard with a rearview camera, while blind spot monitoring, a 360-degree camera system and front and rear parking sensors are available. The Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assistance technologies is also offered on certain trims. It brings in forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2016 RAV4 a top five-star rating for its overall performance in crash tests.

The RAV4 also performed well in tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), earning a Top Safety Pick+ designation for its top score of Good in five crashworthiness categories. When equipped with Toyota Safety Sense, the RAV4 also earns a top Superior rating from the IIHS for front crash prevention.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The 2016 Toyota RAV4 starts at $24,350 plus an $885 destination charge, which is slightly more than the starting prices of a number of direct competitors in the class. The XLE and SE start at $26,270 and $29,265, respectively while the top Limited trim carries a suggested base price of $31,510. All-wheel drive is a $1,400 option, regardless of trim level.

Our test RAV4 SE came with all-wheel drive and a $3,030 Advanced Technology package that brought in a number of desirable features, including a JBL audio system, navigation and the suite of driver assistance technologies. After destination, our test SUV carried an MSRP of $34,595.

We think the RAV4 XLE represents the best value in the lineup, as it brings in desirable features like an upgraded infotainment system, dual-zone automatic climate control and a moonroof for about $1,900 more than the base model. If you choose to add all-wheel drive and an available convenience package that includes Toyota Safety Sense, the RAV4 XLE should carry a suggested price of just under $31,000.

Overall

Overall
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The 2016 RAV4 should check off a lot of boxes for the majority of compact SUV shoppers. It may not be as family friendly as the CR-V or as sporty as the CX-5, but an ergonomic interior, great cargo space and well-rounded performance are among its highlights. There’s a level of assurance for buyers who prioritize safety, too, thanks to the RAV4’s exceptional crash test scores and available Toyota Safety Sense package.