2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review - Second Glances, Second Chances

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

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.
2019 toyota rav4 hybrid review second glances second chances

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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  • T hen T hen on Apr 15, 2020

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

  • Kosmo Kosmo on Apr 15, 2020

    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.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?
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