Automotive

Review: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid offers surprisingly good efficiency

Review: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybri...
Not everyone will like how this compact crossover looks, but with this hybrid model, it has virtually no competition worth mentioning
Not everyone will like how this compact crossover looks, but with this hybrid model, it has virtually no competition worth mentioning
View 13 Images
The Toyota RAV4 is a top-seller in the compact crossover segment and is often credited with being the first crossover-SUV sold as a compact-sized vehicle
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The Toyota RAV4 is a top-seller in the compact crossover segment and is often credited with being the first crossover-SUV sold as a compact-sized vehicle
We averaged 31 mpg (7.6 l/100 km) in just over 200 miles (322 km) of driving in a highway-heavy mix and with a luggage carrier strapped on top of the roof rails
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We averaged 31 mpg (7.6 l/100 km) in just over 200 miles (322 km) of driving in a highway-heavy mix and with a luggage carrier strapped on top of the roof rails
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has an EPA rating of 33 mpg combined, with 34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway
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The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has an EPA rating of 33 mpg combined, with 34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway
The powertrain in the RAV4 is a relative no-brainer so far as Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive setup goes, it’s the same 2.5-liter engine, CVT, and electric motor/generators found in the Camry Hybrid and many others in the Toyota line
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The powertrain in the RAV4 is a relative no-brainer so far as Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive setup goes, it’s the same 2.5-liter engine, CVT, and electric motor/generators found in the Camry Hybrid and many others in the Toyota line
There is no driveshaft between front and rear axles with the rear axle being powered solely by an electric motor instead
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There is no driveshaft between front and rear axles with the rear axle being powered solely by an electric motor instead
Total system output is 194 horsepower (145 kW)
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Total system output is 194 horsepower (145 kW)
The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid is mostly front-wheel drive, engaging the electric rear drive only when it’s needed
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The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid is mostly front-wheel drive, engaging the electric rear drive only when it’s needed
This is one of the most driveable RAV4s available
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This is one of the most driveable RAV4s available
Not everyone will like how this compact crossover looks, but with this hybrid model, it has virtually no competition worth mentioning
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Not everyone will like how this compact crossover looks, but with this hybrid model, it has virtually no competition worth mentioning
A rear power liftgate is standard in the RAV4 Hybrid
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A rear power liftgate is standard in the RAV4 Hybrid
The 2.5 L four-cylinder engine under the hood powers the front wheels through the CVT
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The 2.5 L four-cylinder engine under the hood powers the front wheels through the CVT
Cargo space is a bit smaller than the non-hybrid RAV4 models, but still rings in at a solid 35.6 cubic feet
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Cargo space is a bit smaller than the non-hybrid RAV4 models, but still rings in at a solid 35.6 cubic feet
The up-lifted dashboard, with added utility tray, is perfect for gadgets and odds and ends, and the smart placement of pass-throughs for the wiring and plugs that accompany those gadgets is very ergonomic
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The up-lifted dashboard, with added utility tray, is perfect for gadgets and odds and ends, and the smart placement of pass-throughs for the wiring and plugs that accompany those gadgets is very ergonomic
View gallery - 13 images

Toyota has taken many of its best-selling vehicles and turned them into efficient hybrids. These have then grabbed significant sales shares. The latest electrified introduction is the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid, which rides in on a mid-cycle refresh for the crossover.

The Toyota RAV4 is a top-seller in the compact crossover segment and is often credited with being the first crossover-SUV sold as a compact-sized vehicle. The RAV4 has, frankly, been long overdue for the electrification treatment from Toyota, whose corporate name has become almost synonymous with the idea of gasoline-electric hybrids. Most assumed that when Toyota introduced a limited-run of battery-electric RAV4s a few years ago that the hybrid would soon follow. It took a while, but the wait might be worth it for many buyers as the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid is one of the best hybrids we've seen in a while.

The Toyota RAV4 is a top-seller in the compact crossover segment and is often credited with being the first crossover-SUV sold as a compact-sized vehicle
The Toyota RAV4 is a top-seller in the compact crossover segment and is often credited with being the first crossover-SUV sold as a compact-sized vehicle

The powertrain in the RAV4 is a relative no-brainer so far as Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive setup goes. It's the same 2.5-liter engine, continuously variable transmission (CVT), and electric motor/generators found in the Camry Hybrid and many others in the Toyota line, coupled with the all-wheel drive setup that debuted in the new Lexus NX 300h last year. In fact, the drivetrain in this new RAV4 Hybrid is virtually identical to that in the NX 300h. Which is a good thing.

The 2.5 L four-cylinder engine under the hood powers the front wheels through the CVT, as does a pair of motors designed to act as both propulsion and power generation during regenerative braking. The CVT does not, however, have a transfer case or physical connection to the rear wheels, so no driveshaft or other mechanicals normally associated with AWD are present to weigh down the RAV4 Hybrid.

Instead, a single electric motor resides on the rear axle and engages when requested. Total system output is 194 horsepower (145 kW). This means that most of the time, the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid is front-wheel drive, engaging the rear drive only when it's needed. It doesn't take an engineer to understand that removing the mechanical connections, clutches, and other power drags and weight-adds to the drivetrain is MENSA-level smart.

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has an EPA rating of 33 mpg combined, with 34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway (7.1/6.9/7.6 l/100 km). In our real world driving for about a week, we averaged 31 mpg (7.6 l/100 km) in just over 200 miles (322 km) of driving in a highway-heavy mix and with a luggage carrier strapped on top of the roof rails. That's more than just best-in-segment MPG returns, that's well beyond what even the closest competitor can claim.

The 2.5 L four-cylinder engine under the hood powers the front wheels through the CVT
The 2.5 L four-cylinder engine under the hood powers the front wheels through the CVT

This is also one of the most driveable RAV4s available. The standard gasoline RAV4 is, in general, a bit sluggish, a little drab in the chassis, and just generally not all that engaging to drive. It's good enough for most and emphasizes fuel efficiency and five-seat versatility over fun. Something of a Toyota hallmark, so that's no surprise. The RAV4 Hybrid, however, has far more low-end torque output, so it accelerates much more quickly than its gasoline counterpart, doing the 0-60 mph (0-92 km/h) sprint a full second faster.

This does not make the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid perfect, though. The hybrid model is available only in the two topmost trims for the crossover, the XLE and Limited models. That makes it comparatively expensive to a lower-tier trim (entry-level or mid-tier) RAV4.

In cost comparison with the same trims (which have roughly the same content) in those gasoline models, however, the RAV4 Hybrid does not command much of a "hybrid premium" on the window sticker considering the huge fuel savings gained. The hybrid model runs about $2,100 US over its gasoline-only model, but gives 8 mpg more in combined fuel economy.

The up-lifted dashboard, with added utility tray, is perfect for gadgets and odds and ends, and the smart placement of pass-throughs for the wiring and plugs that accompany those gadgets is very ergonomic
The up-lifted dashboard, with added utility tray, is perfect for gadgets and odds and ends, and the smart placement of pass-throughs for the wiring and plugs that accompany those gadgets is very ergonomic

In the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid's interior, things are much the same as they are with the other RAV4s in the line. The interior's design is about three years old and was considered unusually upscale and forward-thinking when it hit the market in 2013 and is now aging well with a definite contemporary appeal.

The up-lifted dashboard, with added utility tray, are perfect for gadgets and odds and ends, and the smart placement of pass-throughs for the wiring and plugs that accompany those gadgets is very ergonomic. Seating is good and comfortable, including in the rear with room for most average adults.

Cargo space is a bit smaller than the non-hybrid RAV4 models, but still rings in at a solid 35.6 cubic feet (1,008 liters) and the split-fold rear seating is retained, so volume can be increased 70.6 cu ft (1,999 liters). A power operated and height-adjustable rear liftgate is standard equipment and the flat and low loading floor is a bonus.

In all, everything about the new RAV4 Hybrid is adding points to the plus side for the little crossover. Not everyone will like how this compact crossover looks, but with this hybrid model, it has virtually no competition worth mentioning.

Product Page: 2016 Toyota RAV4

View gallery - 13 images
6 comments
DavidBaxter
This is where Tesla we come in. All electric and better. Not some confusing junk.
AMCarter3
What is NOT included in this and other reviews on the new RAV4 Hybrid is the impact the batteries have on internal cargo space. The flat floor of the gas RAV4 is no longer flat in the Hybrid model. The interior floor of the Hybrid slopes UP to accommodate the batteries stored under the floor. This shallow ridge cuts across the middle of the cargo space and severely compromises what you can put into the car. From my perspective, while I really wanted to like the car, I could not use the car for camping, kayaking, etc. because it will not hold my gear. Very poor design.
JuMo
"That's more than just best-in-segment MPG returns, that's well beyond what even the closest competitor can claim." Errr... apart from pretty much every other crossover! My 2010 Nissan Qashqai+2 get's a constant 43mpg without even trying, potentially a lot more if I chose to drive efficiently. The RAV4 looks a lovely car, but what's the point in all that technology if there's no real gain in mpg? Possibly a lower carbon footprint, but that depends where you get your electricity from when charging. Would be interesting to know whether Hybrid + lower mpg = actual environmental gain or not (many other factors to take into account like battery life and battery carbon footprint).
TheSplund
Not being from the US, how many miles is it going to take to repay the $2,100 premium? Also, how is this as an AWD/4WD vehicle? I own a 4.2 and know it's fairly competant (though not really an off-roader) but this looks just like a tall estate car.
MarkHeuchert
I bought the Rav4, so I'm certainly biased. But compared to the CRV and Outback, it really is more fun to drive. With nearly 200 HP, its HP/Weight ratio is best in class, even with its batteries. Having rear-wheel drive when you want it makes for fun driving. I got the limited, so the adaptive cruise control is great, as is the lane assist. The upgraded JBL sound system is also nice, as is the Softex (it is easy to clean, eco-friendly and doesn't get so hot). I didn't get it so much for the mpg, but for the tech inside. It's very quiet (it has extra insulation) and if the taxi driver in Denver wasn't lying, the batteries could last over 400k miles. The only con: Entune is not as good as CarPlay. Yes, the Tesla X is much better, but 3x the price.
KeenanH
I don't understand why most of the people writing reviews for Hybrid cars always comparing it to the wrong petrol powered counterpart. This person is comparing a FWD XLE to the AWD-i XLE model. Albeit it is not 100% mechanically AWD, it is still an AWD vehicle and should be compared to an AWD petrol RAV4. RAV4 XLE FWD 24/31 $26270 $2100 difference and 8 MPG increase (to hybrid) RAV4 XLE AWD 22/29 $27670 $700 difference and 12 MPG increase (to hybrid) RAV4 XLE Hybrid AWD-i 34/31 $28370 The Hybrid model is a big increase of 12 MPG and only a price difference of $700. 12 MPG doesn't sound like a lot but that is more than 150% increase in MPG from the petrol AWD to the Hybrid AWD-i.