By on April 14, 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited AWD Fast Facts

2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine combined with electric motors (219 net system horsepower; 176 hp @ 5,700 rpm; 163 lb-ft 3,600-5,200 rpm)

Continuously-variable automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

41 city / 37 highway / 39 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)

5.8 city / 6.3 highway / 6.0 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $35,700 (U.S) / $42,090 (Canada)

As Tested: $40,833 (U.S.) / $44,285 (Canada)

Prices include $1,095 destination charge in the United States and $1,940 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

When I first drove the newest generation of Toyota’s popular RAV4, I was lukewarm on the hybrid model. I liked the previous-gen hybrid better. At the time, I wrote that the best new RAV4, in this reviewer’s opinion, is the Adventure trim.

I stand by that statement, but I also think, upon further reflection, that I was a bit too harsh on the hybrid.

A week’s worth of time with a vehicle will do that. Sometimes week-long loans expose flaws that aren’t apparent in the stage-managed environs of a press junket, and sometimes it’s the other way around.

This is an example of the latter.

I’m on record as liking the RAV’s looks, no matter what powertrain lurks underhood. Switching to a more aggressive, boxier look helps the RAV4 shed the soft-roader label. And while the RAV4 is still no hard-core off-roader, the beefy styling implies a toughness that is not always present in the crossover field.

The interior’s themes match the exterior, and only the tacked-on infotainment screen mars the look. Big knobs and logically laid-out buttons are useful.

[Get new and used Toyota RAV4 pricing here!]

Here’s what I wrote about the RAV4 Hybrid’s performance back on the launch drive:

“I took two turns in a hybrid – one in an XSE HV, and one in an XLE HV. The XSE has a sportier tune to its suspension (the hybrid suspension adds a rear stabilizer bar and loses the front shocks, but otherwise is the same as on non-hybrid models), and the difference is subtle but noticeable. That said, the hybrid drove much like the previous-gen model, with steering that’s a little artificial in feel but not too far in the wrong direction (it felt a little more natural than what’s on tap in the non-hybrid XLE) and a ride that can occasionally get a little too soft. The biggest difference is that it feels lighter on its feet under acceleration than before, although it still could use more oomph.”

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

I stand by my acceleration comments, although I had no drama during freeway merges. The ride wasn’t quite as soft in my press loaner vehicle – whether that has to do with the early builds we often drive on launches or simply a different evaluation upon my second test, I am not sure. For reference, the Hybrid doesn’t carry the same front shocks as the gas models.

This particular hybrid uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine paired with front and rear electric motors for a total system output of 219 horsepower. A continuously-variable automatic transmission gets that power to the all-wheel-drive system.

The more I drove the RAV4 hybrid, the more I liked it, although again, I’d still probably opt for the gas model in Adventure trim if I were trying to optimizing performance. However, the fuel-saving commuter will note the fuel economy numbers: 41 mpg city/37 mpg highway/39 mpg combined.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Crossovers are mostly bought for utility and comfort, and the RAV4 Hybrid shines in this area. It is freeway friendly, making long slogs a breeze, and there’s enough room for most folks.

Pricing is a bit of problem – laden with options, the Limited I drove cost $40K. The $35K starting point put it right up against the top-trim Honda CR-V Hybrid. Factoring in destination fees, the 2020 CR-V Hybrid I tested in Arizona was $37K, loaded to the gills. That undercut this RAV by $3K, although the comparison isn’t perfect, since the CR-V wasn’t available with a hybrid powertrain for 2019.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Standard features included Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driving aids (pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, lane-tracking assist, automatic high beams, and road-sign assist), start/stop tech, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, 18-inch wheels, power liftgate, fog lamps, premium audio, Bluetooth, navigation, Apple CarPlay, heated front seats, 5 USB ports (1 media, 4 charge), satellite radio, dual-zone climate control, and keyless entry and starting.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

A Weather Package ($1,015) added heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard rear seats, and rain-sensing wipers with de-icing. For $580, the audio/nav system goes even more upscale and adds in-car Wi-Fi. A $1,075 Advanced Tech Package adds a 360-degree camera, a bird’s-eye view camera, wireless cell-phone charging, and hands-free activation of the power liftgate, among other things. Four-hundred and fifteen bucks buys you adaptive headlights. The particular red paint of my test unit cost $395, while carpeted floor and cargo mats cost $269. A door edge guard was $140 and a door sill protector $199.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

With the $1,095 destination fee, the total out-the-door price was $40,833.

Toyota already had a winning formula with the RAV4 and its hybrid. All the brand really needed to do was not eff it up. Instead, the company made it better.

I’d still prefer a gasser RAV4 decked in Adventure trim. But I was possibly too harsh on the hybrid earlier.

I stand corrected.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC; Toyota]

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39 Comments on “2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review – Second Glances, Second Chances...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Amazing fuel economy, to be sure.

    But that screen… Goiter screens will eventually fade away, but right now, it just seems like laziness to not integrate them better.

    Someday in the future, goiter screens will be viewed like powered passive shoulder belts from the late 80s and early 90s – a bad idea that’s reflective of the times.

    • 0 avatar

      I think there’s something to be said for mounting the screen up high, so your eyes barely leave the road to look at it. I’ll give Toyota points for giving it trim and dimensions so that it continues the lines of the center stack, it doesn’t looked as tacked-on as many of these do.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        But this is offset by the fact that you have to focus on it even more to make sure you hit the right spot versus a physical button or knob.

      • 0 avatar

        What if you don’t want to look at it? There’s literally no essential information on my car’s screen for 95% of the time. That’s why I’m happy there’s an “off” button. Unless I travel to a new location and choose no to use the (better) navigation on my phone, the dash screen is just a colorful distraction, trying to lure my eyes off the road.

        What do you guys do on those screens while you drive, anyway?

      • 0 avatar

        I can tell you after driving a rented Pacifica and having a GPS on the dash right above the media screen there is very little difference in eye movement. Move the monolith down two inches and it could be integrated just fine. As is, they always look tacky. It would be a deal breaker for me.

  • avatar

    “the hybrid suspension adds a rear stabilizer bar and loses the front shocks”

    I don’t think I understand. Does it have no front shock absorbers (dampers)?

  • avatar

    If you think this one is too slow, then wait for the RAV4 Prime plug-in, which will have beefier electric motors and ~300 system horsepower.

    I’m very anxious to drive one of those once they’re out in volume and we can all go places again.

    • 0 avatar

      Will it have an inverter output? As an option at least, as decent wattage ones aren’t cheap.

      That’s a real killer app for plug in hybrids. Perhaps more obviously for pickups than cute-utes, but in dense cities even tradesmen, and certainly outdoorsy people, sometimes have to make do with the latter.

    • 0 avatar

      Fact is the standard Hybrid has more total power than the ICE only version.

  • avatar

    It has 3 motors, not 2. Two of them make up the E-CVT with the 3rd powering the rear wheels occasionally, for a few seconds at a time.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I’ve been researching these as my driving requirements went up 50% over the last 6 months. There is an issue with ridiculously conservative gas gauges that has prompted investigation, with fuel tank range being only 400miles or so based on the computer. Our 18 Sienna does the same thing , distance to empty less than 40 miles, but takes only 15 gallons (20 gallon tank iirc) to fill.
    It’s probably a cheap way to keep the fuel pump alive rather than buying a more robust fuel pump. Either way, if I pony up for a hybrid I want at least 500miles/tank.

  • avatar

    I got a 2020 LE hybrid last December. I’d to it all over again. I like it very much.
    My two biggest gripes are first, that there is no where to put the right foot or right knee when on cruise control due to the wide and high center console A little floor space to the right of the accelerator pedal would do wonders! (I’ve been looking around, and this is common in lots of other vehicles out there these days). Second the ride is brittle. Expansion joints, patches and manhole covers just crash right through causing anything loose to rattle, and this is with the wheel / tire set that has the most sidewall, the 225-65-17.
    Likes? Good power, quiet interior, and 40+ mpg so far. A few trips with zero elevation change and sub 65 mph speeds have been right around 50 mpg.

    • 0 avatar

      Tirerack lists different sizes for 2020 Camry LE hybrid, starting with 205/65-16. Perhaps its worth looking into a tire with even more sidewall and a higher comfort rating? Of course the offset might be lower mpg.

      • 0 avatar

        LOL , good idea. I looked into that, but I am also looking at a 245-65-17, which have a slightly larger diameter, in order to compensate for a consistent 2% error in the speedometer. 57mph indicated is 55 on two separate GPS devices as well as on radar road signs that display “your speed”. No 70 series tire does that. :(

        • 0 avatar

          That reading 2mph low is intentional, virtually every car purposely reads lower than actual speed and it isn’t percentage based. So 57 is really 55 but 25 is really 23 or maybe even 22 or 21.

          • 0 avatar

            I wouldn’t say that virtually all cars read low. Plenty of modern cars read right on, at typical highway speed within +/-1mph of GPS speed or those “you’re going this fast” radar signs, as @ttacgreg describes.

            In the past, plenty of cars read a few mph or more *fast,* fresh out of the factory, and I agree that it was usually intentional. I remember it being pretty common well into the 1980s. I can’t say I ever liked the idea, like you’re tricking yourself into not getting a speeding ticket somehow? Or like fuel gauges that point to E and tell you 2 miles to empty when the tank is still more than a quarter full (as @cimarron typeR describes). Some people set their clocks a few minutes fast so they won’t be late… I don’t do that one myself either.

          • 0 avatar

            Good info, thanks, I’ll check that out. Ultimately the OEM tire size is preferable. Thing is my former 03 Vitara, 00 Corolla, and current ’16 Prius are all spot on. Not a big deal.

  • avatar

    A very good car, and for those of us who would prefer a less boxy design or more premium interior, there’s the upcoming Toyota Venza/Harrier that was just announced yesterday in the home market.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s uglier than it has to be, maybe just to differentiate it from the previous version and the CR-V.
      Too bad the price is so high. It’s likely to be very dependable, easy to live with and very easy on the fuel consumption.

  • avatar

    The LImited has a fascinating feature no other trim level does, which is annoying since they all have GPS and periodically report data back to Toyota regardless. That is if you run the built in navigation system, it learns the terrain and the routes you drive, and drains the drive battery down where it knows there will be ample opportunity to fill the battery again without running the gas motor to do it. I routinely drive a seven mile 2000 foot descent, the battery always fills up by halfway down, and then the gas motor spins up to control the speed. I have always wished I could drain the battery at the top of that grade.

    • 0 avatar

      This is very bold for them to include that feature.

      As a technical achievement it’s nothing special, though that’s not to say it didn’t take a lot of effort to develop it.

      I use the word bold because it could reduce the battery life if the algorithm overdoes the discharge-charge cycle for that proverbial big hill near the owner’s house. Run too many batteries too far up and down too many times could mean more warranty claims.

    • 0 avatar

      Good to hear Toyota is finally incorporating GPS to maximize efficiency. Starting in 2013 all Ford hybrids have used the built in GPS, that is there even if you don’t have navigation, to maximize efficiency. They have what is called EV+ mode. The vehicle learns where it frequently cold soaks and when you get near that location it will switch into EV mode so that the traction battery is at the target min SOC when you reach your destination. It will also stop the engine from coming on to provide heat during that time.

      This is done because the high idle needed for a cold start produces more energy than is needed to propel the car and they don’t want to do engine shut down until the target min operating temp has been achieved. So EV+ mode maximizes the storage capacity for that excess cold start energy.

      They also all have the option to enable eco cruise that loosens up the target range and maximizes the efficiency on grades.

  • avatar

    Looks very nice. I had sticker shock until it processed this was the Limited, so yes 28 it costs more. Ipad dash looks like 2.99 on sale at FiveBelow, two tone choice of different color material on the rest of the stack is most curious to me. I doubt anyone sees what I see but even so, it just looks a little off. I’m too lazy to look at dimensions but I wonder if its up to the footprint of the first or second Explorer yet.

  • avatar

    I’m sure a fine car. I drive an old Corolla. I get the Toyota thing.

    With that said, when this new RAV first appeared, I was very drawn to its looks. Maybe just such a contrast from the old one.

    But I’m already now of the opinion that the styling on this thing is already outdated. It now just has too much going on. Trying to hard. Something.

    And the odd thing is I actually think the new Camry and Avalon have grown on me. So it isn’t a Toyota styling thing.

    I’m sure the people who buy these don’t care.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    So, how much is a equivalent size and equipment Lexus? This thing is getting awfully close.

    • 0 avatar

      The NX is not far off this price point, but it’s also still based on the previous-generation RAV4, with a bit less power and older tech. The next one was expected for 2021 but who knows what the virus has done to that schedule.

  • avatar

    “I’d still prefer a gasser RAV4 decked in Adventure trim.”

    You’re like the only person I’ve heard of that prefers the Adventure to the hybrid.

    • 0 avatar

      because he’s the only one that will probably take it off-road

      I’ll be the Adventure is actually less expensive to own over time due to lack of batteries and electric motors at the rear – can you imagine taking the hybrid to the beach or desert – wondering what the sand will do to those motors, not to mention what off-roading might do

      the hybrid is a good suburban alt to a minivan but I’d take the Adventure too, because it can also tow at I believe more than twice the rate, something like 1500 v 3500 lbs and has higher ground clearance in addition to less complexity and things to go wrong as I keep my cars for 15-20 years

      • 0 avatar

        Not sure the electric motors are any more vulnerable to sand (or mud or any other kind of dirt) than gasoline (or diesel) only drivetrains.

        Now, if they’re open to the air then it wouldn’t be the first time a car manufacturer has done something really dumb with new technology…

    • 0 avatar

      Adventure? C’mon, Toyota, just go ahead and add that last ‘r’ so we can start talking about old Desotos.

  • avatar

    In my Newport Beach area, where homes start at 3M and go way up from there, the Rav4 Hybrid is the only inexpensive car that is popular. The secret is the great looks combined with the hybrid.

  • avatar
    T hen

    The gas tank issue limits the range to under 400 miles. Dealer pretends they haven’t heard of the issue!

  • avatar

    Does this new hybrid lose the fully flat-folding rear seat like the last version?

    IMO, every single CUV review should speak to this issue. A deal killer for my needs.

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