By on July 16, 2018

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

2018 Toyota RAV4 SE Hybrid

2.5-liter four-cylinder/electric motor generators, front and rear (194 system horsepower; 152 lb-ft @ 4,400 (four-cylinder))

Continuously variable automatic, all-wheel drive

34 city / 30 highway / 32 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

6.9 city, 7.8 highway, 7.3 combined. (NRCan Rating, L100km)

Base Price: $32,185 (U.S) / $38,995 (Canada)

As Tested: $34,580 (U.S.) / $40,937 (Canada)

Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $1,915 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

I may be an avowed sedan stan, but I do get the appeal of crossovers. Especially small ones. Credit/blame me for being an urbanite, I guess, but I understand the appeal of a hatchback vehicle that can swallow cargo, be street-parked with ease, and has good visibility due to a tall ride height.

Sure, crossovers may not be my cup of tea. But I get why so many of my neighbors drive one.

Which is to say, I liked the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid more than I expected I would.

That’s in part because the RAV4 seems to stand for “generic yet reliable and popular crossover.” Odd, angular styling hasn’t helped it stand out much from the crowd.

Crossovers are meant to convey people and cargo about town with ease, and that’s the RAV4’s specialty. Looks aside, it blends because it’s supposed to.

Anonymity doesn’t necessarily mean boredom, however. I was surprised at how well-weighted and accurate the electric power-assisted rack and pinion steering was. I expected numbness – after all, this is a people-mover, first and foremost – but there was actual feel. There was also just enough sprightliness while cutting through the concrete jungle. There’s a Sport mode if you want to delude yourself into thinking you’re driving a tall FT-86.

The hybrid system pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor and mates it to a continuously-variable automatic transmission. All-wheel drive underpins it all.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Total system horsepower is 194, and the four-cylinder pumps out 152 lb-ft of torque (I’ve asked Toyota for full-system torque, and have been told the automaker does not publish full-system torque figures). These numbers won’t blow your mind, but there’s enough gusto to keep you happy while commuting, despite a nearly two-ton curb weight.

It be heavy, but it’s short enough to easily fit into tight urban parking spaces, and its size makes it ideal for diving into gaps in traffic.

Inside, you’re confronted with a cabin that has a logical control layout but little pizzazz. The infotainment system, like most Toyota units, is outdated. A swath of soft-touch material across the dash does little to relieve the omnipresent black color, nor does it fully bring the materials upscale – they feel price-point appropriate, but there’s also way too much plastic. At least there are real honest-to-goodness radio and climate knobs. Since this is a hybrid, you get a gauge that keeps you up to date on the hybrid system in place of a tach.

[Get new and used Toyota RAV4 Hybrid pricing here!]

Adults fit well in the front seat and rear-seat room isn’t punishing.

There are four available trims – LE, XLE, SE, and Limited. My SE tester, being second-fiddle to the Limited, came standard with Toyota Safety Sense (pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control). Other standard features include LED headlights and taillights, power liftgate, power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, Entune, touch-screen infotainment, rearview camera, Bluetooth, keyless entry and push-button start, USB port, satellite radio, and heated front seats.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Options included premium audio, navigation, and 50-state emissions as part of a package that ran $1,310. A tonneau cover added $90 to the total.

Factor in $995 for D and D, carry the one, multiply by two, drop the extra five, and divide by seven, and you get a total of $34,580 on a vehicle that based at $32,185. That does feel a bit dear for a small SUV, even one that has fuel-economy numbers of 34 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 32 combined.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

So you pay a pretty penny, but you get a fuel-efficient urban runabout that’s not totally boring to drive and carries people and cargo in comfort, with a cabin that’s just nice enough along with being user-friendly. The RAV4 Hybrid isn’t a particularly exciting vehicle, but it does the job well, and that’s more than can be said for many vehicles on the market.

While I might be content with a RAV4 that doesn’t have a hybrid powertrain, the extra fuel economy will be worth the higher sticker to some. Either way, you’re getting a small SUV that does a lot of things well, even if it’s not always pleasant to look it.

I suppose trading looks for a can-do attitude isn’t the worst thing in the world.

[Images: © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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28 Comments on “2018 Toyota RAV4 SE Hybrid Review – A Fine Urban Runabout...”


  • avatar
    4drSedan

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m old fashioned but going into debt to the tune of 34+ thousand for this seems really excessive.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      You can get into a Buick Envision 2.0T with torque vectoring AWD, tri-zone climate, hands free lift gate…for that much. And get a 4 year, 50,000 mile warranty.

      “Compared with the Compact SUV segment average, RAV4 buyers are more often women, skew a little older, and earn less in terms of annual household income. J.D. Power research data show that 54% of RAV4 buyers are women (compared with 51% for the segment), with a median age of 59 (vs. 56 segment average) and a median household income of $79,833 (vs. $89,505).

      RAV4 buyers more often identify themselves as practical buyers (39% vs. 30% segment average), and, not surprisingly, 62% disagree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (vs. 38%). Perhaps a reflection of Toyota’s addition of a RAV4 Hybrid in 2016, 62% agree that they are willing to pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (vs. 56%).” J.D. Power

      • 0 avatar

        You mean you can get a Chinese car for the same amount of money as one made in Canada?

        Doesn’t sound like a great deal.

      • 0 avatar
        syncro87

        I’d consider the Envision if it had, oh, say $15k cash on the hood. It would take a lot to get me to plunk down any significant amount of cash on one of those.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        The snarky, arbitrary, and capricious part of me wants to ask; “If we used US tax dollars to bail out GM; why is NEW GM selling Mexican, South Korean, and Chinese- built vehicles in the US of A? Foreign manufacturing HAS NOT led to lower prices; in fact Volvo and BMW are in SC and Mercedes is in AL but NEW GM has to import non-American built vehicles? What’s up with that?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Having driven both, my opinion is that there is zero reason to buy a gas RAV4 instead of a gas CR-V. The CR-V’s interior feels $10k more upscale, the suspension tuning is better, the 1.5T is torquier, and there are more gizmos available.

    The only reason to buy the RAV4 is the hybrid powertrain. And I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before the Accord Hybrid’s powertrain gets brought over.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      I’m hoping Honda makes a more conventional parallel hybrid powertrain built around the 1.5T. The weirdo series direct drive system is cool on paper but I just prefer a more linear relationship with engine speeds.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The port-injected 2.5 + 6spd is frankly not a bad reason over the DI 1.5T turbo + CVT if longer-term ownership is expected. That’s an appliance-grade reason, but these are appliance-grade vehicles. Otherwise, yes, the RAV4 redesign cannot come soon enough.

    • 0 avatar
      civicjohn

      agreed, dal,

      I can walk out the door today (I know this because I was at my dealer for an oil change) for an EX-L Touring for $32k…leather, everything. Every time I go in for service, this guy I’ve known for 10+ years always comes over and tells me how cheaply I can get a new car, so this time I said how much for a loaded CR-V, he came back with $32k and that was without me even trying to get a better deal. We went over to a model in the showroom, it was freaking loaded for a mini CUV, and I read this review on Monday?

      No way in heck would I throw down for the Toyota. YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I’d say as long as the Hybrid RAV-4 is available there is no reason to consider a CR-V. I wouldn’t hold your breath for the Accord system to go into the CR-V. Based on the architecture of their two motor system it is probably too wide to fit in the narrower engine bay.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    The hybrid system pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor and mates it to a continuously-variable automatic transmission.

    No it does not. The Rav 4 uses a version of Toyota’s Powersplit e-CVT that contains two motors to create the variable ratios. In this there is a 3 motor out back to drive the rear wheels with power the e-CVT has harvested from the ICE.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I had one of these as a rental within the last two months. It was a hybrid as well. Seamless hybrid system, decent power to get around but not much more than adequate. Interior packaging is very nice, at least in terms of layout. Very roomy, spacious.

    Mine must have been a base model hybrid. Cloth seats, no sunroof. I would think mid $20’s as appropriate pricing but guessing closer to $30 even in base trim for hybrid. My only gripe, granted I had the base model, is the interior is down-right low rent. Clearly some penny pinching inside. So, cheap looking, feeling, but entirely functional, fairly comfortable.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      You must not have seen the mid 2000s Toyota interior. Sit in a 2005 or 2006 Avalon and the new Rav4’s interior will look like a McLaren.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The interior doesn’t get much better as you go up the ladder. Everything that is hard nasty plastic on the base trim is hard nasty plastic on the Limited. The existing soft touch points get upgraded to imitation leather, but that’s about it. In fairness, I think that’s a carryover from when the compact crossover class were sprightly little upstart runts that all had cheap interiors rather than the Accord-class replacements they’ve become, but Toyota has been slow to upgrade the furnishings.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        I have test driven a few Toyotas in the last 5 years or so. Interiors have always been a let downs. Although, I recall the Sienna was decent with the exception of the horrid grey color of the leather. I would say that my experience with Honda Interiors in the last several years (2011 Odyssey, 2017 Accord) was no better really. Fairly low-rent interiors. Clearly Toyota and Honda are resting on their laurels in certain areas. If you never look at anything other than Toyota, Honda, then I guess you don’t know what you are missing and I think they are counting on that to a certain extent.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Toyota and Honda seem to be coming out of it. 2008+ has been pretty bad for the two automakers that used to embarrass everyone else on interior refinement.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    These vehicles are their own excuse. $34K. Good grief.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Drove a family member’s 2014 RAV4 a few weeks ago, about 150 miles round trip on a mix of mountain two-lanes. It’s an old autojourno and enthusiast trope to dismiss a vehicle as utterly and completely forgettable from behind the wheel, where you walk away from it without remembering anything about the driving experience, but that RAV is frankly the living embodiment of it.

    I had passengers, some finicky and easily upset, so I drove it conservatively. Acceleration? Adequate. Brakes? Adequate. Ride? Adequate. Steering? Adequate. Seat comfort? Adequate. Noise control? Adequate. Roominess & utility? Exceptional. Irritants? None, as long as you don’t start interacting with the interior plastics. Probable reliability? Probably doesn’t get any better. The hybrid only adds to the utilitarian strengths.

    It’s a fantastic commuter commodity. I also never want to drive it again and am happy to have a 4Runner and sedan instead of this unlovable middle ground.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      That about sums up my in-law’s 2013 Limited, although theirs had a surprisingly stiff and crashy ride, something that was amended for the mid-cycle refresh IIRC. I’ve griped about this before but the way the glovebox handle broke by 60k (common problem) and how amazingly crappy the design and plastic bit is that broke was downright offensive coming from a Toyota. It felt and looked like late 90s GM.

      But the interior room and packaging is indeed good, even though the rear bench is quite stiff to sit on for more than a half hour at a time IMO.

  • avatar
    Car Guy

    I would gladly sacrifice some cargo room with a Corolla HB and save $10,000. $35K is insanity.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    So it’s an urban runabout but not an urbane one.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Maybe its just me, but I don’t see RAV or CRV as being small in any way. They may *used* to be but CHR and HRV are closer to the reasonable small category in my view.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The first two gens of RAV4 were subcompact, sure, and the C-HR is about the same size as the early RAV4 (even the four-door), but the CR-V didn’t grow at all from 1997-2016, except for getting 1.5″ wider. And when it did get bigger in the fifth gen, it only gained 2″ of OAL (1.5″ of which was between the wheels) and another 1.5″ of width, and gained back the inch or so of height it had lost over the past four gens. The HR-V as we know it is smaller in every dimension even than the first-gen CR-V.

  • avatar
    ernest

    From She-who-will-actually-drive-one. Wife loves them, Toyota is a plus because our local dealer is fabulous- Lexus service has nothing on them (Vancouver Toyota in Vancouver, Wa). When time comes to replace her Camry, it’s just a question of which Toyota gets put into the garage. She’s seen pics of the new Rav4, and that’s a likely winner. As with many spouses, if she’s happy, I’m good. It’s not a question of need, just a preference on her part of what she’d like to drive. If the money doesn’t work, the Camry will do fine.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    “fuel-economy numbers of 34 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 32 combined”

    Is this what owners are getting in the real world? It doesn’t make sense.

    My 9-year old Escape Hybrid, with AWD and a 9-year old battery, is getting 35mpg US this summer. Just today I was highway cruising at 55mph /90kph, with the a/c going, and was getting over 36mpg. Level road, no wind. This is over 43mpg Imperial.

    I would think the Rav4 Hybrid should do better than the Escape.

    However, safe bets are that the Escape has even more hard plastic inside and eats up gas savings on repairs, many times over.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Real world gas mileage can be 40 according to motor trends 1st drive, so theres that,and the fact that there are Prii running around nearing 200k miles.
    Not a bad city car for folks who have crappy roads and weather.

  • avatar
    Dodge440391SG

    You went and tested a high-line hybrid Rav4, loaded with crap, and groused about the 34K price ? What the devil is “D and D” ? Maybe they should make you pay for vehicles you test.


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