By on April 8, 2016

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Image: Toyota USA

After finishing a close third behind the plunging Ford Explorer and Chevrolet TrailBlazer in 2006, the Honda CR-V went on to claim the top spot among SUVs/crossovers in America in eight of the following nine years, including the last four consecutive years.

A victorious ending to 2016 appears less certain for the CR-V. In the last five months, the best-selling utility vehicle in America was the Toyota RAV4, sales of which rose 14 percent in the first-quarter of 2016 as CR-V volume slid 3 percent.

Incidentally, the last SUV to unseat the CR-V on a calendar year basis was the Ford Escape. Back in 2011, the Escape was available with a hybrid powertrain, an option not offered by rival small SUVs. Fast forward to 2016, and the vehicle most likely to unseat the CR-V — the surging RAV4 — is likewise available with a hybrid powertrain. A meaningless, low-volume variant meant to bolster an automaker’s green cred? Perhaps that was the case with the Escape in 2011, but there’s an entirely different story to tell with the RAV4 five years later. (Read More…)

By on March 1, 2016

2016 Totota RAV4 Hybrid Exterior-003

A few short weeks ago, I was inside a very purple 2016 RAV4 marveling that Toyota’s compact crossover nearly outsells the Mazda brand. My bottom line for that RAV4 read like this:

Why are the RAV4’s sales so high when there are more fun options out there? The reasons can be found in its strong value proposition, a soft ride about which journalists often complain, included scheduled maintenance and Toyota’s reputation for reliability.

The 2016 RAV4 isn’t going to light many souls on fire, but it gives the average CUV shopper more of what they obviously want.

Except fuel economy or performance.

That’s where the first full-hybrid compact crossover since Ford abandoned the Escape Hybrid five years ago comes in.

(Read More…)

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