2019 Toyota RAV4 Review - Half a Million Buyers Can't Be Wrong

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2019 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD

2.5-liter inline four, DOHC (203 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 184 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
25 city/33 highway/28 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
9.2 city/7.1 highway/8.3 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)29.4 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $35,945 US / $42,661 CAD
As Tested: $39,034 US/ $42,661 CAD
Prices include $1,045 destination charge in the United States and $1,971 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2019 toyota rav4 review half a million buyers can t be wrong

Well, maybe the crowd can’t always be trusted. Over the last two hundred-plus years, there have been more than a few instances where our plurality voting system has yielded suboptimal victors in statewide and nationwide elections alike.

I’ve promised before that I’d stay away from politics here, so I’m not getting any more specific than that. I’m sure I’d piss off someone who doesn’t feel like hearing my thoughts on Franklin Pierce.

Anyhow, in 2019 Toyota pushed nearly half a million of these compact crossovers out the doors, making the 2019 Toyota RAV4 the fourth best-selling passenger vehicle in America — and if you exclude half-ton pickups from each of the Detroit Three, the best selling vehicle, period. But why?

While your author would love it should practical minivans once again become available from every mainstream automaker and start stealing the sales crown from the scourge of crossovers, that’s nearly as likely as a return to carburetors for induction. This is our reality for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid crossovers are king.

Arguably, Toyota was the pioneer in this category with the first-generation RAV4. This newest fifth-generation has taken some styling cues from more butch members of the extended Toyota family, with angles and creases across every surface to distinguish this car from prior models. I wouldn’t call it pretty, but the newest RAV4 at least isn’t as boring-looking as some of the competition.

[Get Toyota RAV4 pricing here!]

One styling note — I typically despise overly large wheels, as they often degrade ride quality while increasing road noise. I was pleasantly surprised with the 19-inch alloys fitted to this Limited-trim tester, as they didn’t seem to affect either the ride or noise. And they look quite fetching, too. Maybe it’s silly, but I do think they make the car look that much better. I don’t look forward to replacing 19-inch tires, however.

For the most part, the driving experience of the RAV4 is excellent. Steering is nicely weighted, and harsh pavement imperfections are dispatched with little noise or cabin disruption. Wind noise is hushed. My only complaint comes from the 2.5-liter engine, which gets surprisingly thrashy as the tachometer swings north. In most driving, the engine is quiet enough, but when passing or pulling onto the interstate, it’s best to pause your conversations for a moment.

Otherwise, living with the RAV4 is as pleasant as can be. The interior is spacious — wedging a random third kid between my too-tall tweens was a simple affair that didn’t lead to tears. While I’d personally prefer a slightly longer lower cushion on the heated front seats, most will find them plenty comfortable. Primary HVAC controls are handled intuitively by two large, easy-to-grip knobs, and the touchscreen, while of the hated iPad-glued-to-dash variety, was more responsive than some I’ve sampled in prior-year Toyota models.

I love the two-tier dashboard, revealing a small tray both left of the steering wheel and above the glove compartment. It’s just enough space to hold the passenger’s cell phone (mine will be in the optional wireless charging tray ahead of the shifter) and a pair of sunglasses, but not too large to gather too much assorted crap like the extra napkins my wife likes to hoard in the glovebox.

The RAV4 is now fitted standard with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of safety features – TSS 2.0 for short – which offers pedestrian detection with pre-collision warnings, full-speed active cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams. The full-speed active cruise is a godsend for stop-and-go traffic; just a tap of the cruise button or the throttle pedal when stationary, and the RAV4 will begin moving forward as traffic allows.

I’ll admit one thing: though I’ve logged countless hundreds of thousands of miles behind the wheel over the years, I’ll occasionally struggle with one simple task – parking. Blame a decade of driving a two-seat roadster or something, but occasionally I’ll be flummoxed by a narrow parking spot at the supermarket. It seems I always park just a touch too close on the passenger side, causing my bride to squeeze out of her door. Other times, I brush the sidewall of a tire against a curb. With nineteen-inch polished wheels like those fitted to this RAV4, a curb can prove seriously hazardous. The Advanced Technology package fitted to my tester includes my favorite feature on any car: a birds-eye view camera for parking. Press a button at low speeds, and I can quickly gauge how close I am to disaster – or an argument with my bride.

The price of my tester ain’t cheap, at a hair under forty thousand US dollars delivered. One could even get into some entry-level luxury crossovers for a similar figure. But it’s hard to beat the Toyota RAV4 for features, value, and comfort – which is the same calculation hundreds of thousands of buyers make every year.

[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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2 of 105 comments
  • MartyToo MartyToo on Jan 24, 2020

    Yes. If you want a V6 go have one. Milage issues have killed them in many vehicles. They exist as do V-8's. We all know this. If you see a better engine buy it.

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Jan 25, 2020

    Like the Jeep Gladiator, I don't understand the pricing on this thing. My friend's daughter just got a Rav4 that stickered for about $40K, and I didn't drive or ride in it, but sitting in it, I thought it was about a $30K vehicle, and then I saw the sticker. I don't see anything on it that takes it up to the $40K price level. I can think of a ton of other vehicles I would be happier with and they all cost less or about the same. You could buy any of a number of larger, more powerful CUV/SUV's for $40K. The Gladiator my friend test drove was over $50K, and we both thought it was just insanely overpriced. FCA or whatever it's called now must make a ton of money on them.

  • MaintenanceCosts I saw my first IS500 out in the wild today (a dark-grey-on-black example) and it struck me that it was much more AMG-like than this product. (Great-looking and -sounding car.)
  • ToolGuy https://youtu.be/Jd0io1zktqI
  • Art Vandelay Props for trying something different. EVs should work well in this sort of race. The similar series running ICE run short distances like that
  • ToolGuy Well they wet the track down using sea water - from the South Pacific Ocean. Oceans may have a large amount of water, but it isn't infinite, is it? No, it isn't. So if this sport really takes off, what will happen when the ocean is drained? (And once you put the water on the dirt, how does it ever get back to the ocean?)
  • Bobbysirhan Some friends of mine were dazzled by a CUE demo that circulated on YouTube before this car reached the market. I was bewildered why anyone wanted a car as durable and dependable as their cellphones, but to each their own. One of them did actually show up with an XTS V-sport when the car first came out. He showed people CUE in my driveway, but I don't recall him offering demonstration rides to the assembled imported luxury car drivers. In the months that followed, I never saw or heard about the Cadillac again. He went back to driving his Yukon Denali until I moved away a year or two later.