2019 Toyota RAV4 white driving

2020 Toyota RAV4 Road Test and Review

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 is the bestselling non-pickup truck in the market. The 2019 redesign of the reliable 5-passenger crossover brought a more muscular stance and stronger lines, but didn’t do much to increase space inside. But there’s a reason this compact crossover has been a dominant force in the segment longer than almost anything else: It’s a comfortable cruiser with excellent reliability ratings and a solid mix of standard features. There’s plenty to like about even the most basic RAV4 trim. Though earlier RAV4s were a bit spartan and truck-like, that has changed significantly in today's model. Every RAV4 also comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) package, which brings a pre-collision system, lane departure alerts, radar cruise control, and other valuable systems. Toyota has also added a new TRD Off-Road model to the lineup.

  1. Exterior
  2. Interior
  3. Infotainment
  4. Powertrains
  5. Driving impression
  6. Safety & Driver Aids
  7. Interior & Cargo Space
  8. Fuel Economy & Towing
  9. Trim Levels
  10. Pricing & Value
Exterior

Exterior

Toyota designers made the fifth-generation RAV4 the most aggressive and bold of the breed. The previous version of the vehicle was sleeker and appeared more compact, but for this iteration, the designers pulled some thinking from the Tacoma midsize pickup and the 4Runner SUV to give the vehicle more gravitas. While many current compact crossovers have a sameness to them, the RAV4 doesn’t blend in. The most distinctive feature is the front end with a relatively long overhang wearing a big, bold Toyota grille. It definitely bears a family resemblance to its Toyota siblings. The base LE model has steel wheels with wheel covers but the rest of the line is equipped with 17-inch or 19-inch allow wheels depending on grade. Low-profile black-painted roof rails are standard on all trims with the exception of the off-road-oriented Adventure trim, which gets a unique roof rail treatment. The Adventure trim can also be had with a two-tone exterior color, and it features black RAV4 and Adventure badging.

Interior

Interior

Toyota made extra effort to add luxury and style to the RAV4’s interior. It provides very pleasant accommodations for five, with more than a hint of upscale motoring. The RAV4 could easily pass for a luxury-brand interior when in the Limited trim. At the wheel, we found it to offer a good driving position, broad sightlines, and intuitive control operation. While many other similar vehicles are opting for pushbutton gear selection for the automatic transmission, the RAV4’s gearshift selector literally stands tall. The center console is equipped with a convenient small storage area, and we appreciated the convenience of the side-by-side cupholders. Dual-zone climate control is standard in all but the basic LE model. Fabric-covered seats are standard in the LE and XLE trims, while upper-level versions have SofTex faux leather-covered seats. The 60/40 split-reclining rear seat with center armrest and cup holders folds flat for cargo-loading.

Infotainment

Infotainment

Befitting a model with so many variants, the 2020 RAV4 features a baffling array of infotainment offerings. Depending upon the trim level, buyers have the choice of 7- and 8-inch Toyota Entune infotainment systems. And for 2020, Android Auto smartphone integration is also available (in addition to Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa). The LE and XLE grades now feature standard SiriusXM with a three-month trial, which was already standard on the higher grades. During our test drive, we found that the Entune system worked intuitively and without drama. The base-level infotainment system offers six speakers, a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, auxiliary port, USB media port, plus four additional USB charging ports on XLE and XLE Premium models. Additional expenditures will get you more capable systems. For example, the JBL with a Clari-Fi 11-speaker system (800 watts total power, including a subwoofer with 200 total watts) is housed behind an 8-inch touchscreen. Embedded navigation is also available on uplevel models.

Powertrains

Powertrains

The Toyota RAV4 crossover offers two powertrains — the highly popular gasoline-powered version, and a hybrid version that is rapidly gaining adherents. A plug-in hybrid will join the mix for the 2021 model year. The conventional RAV4s are powered by a 2.5-liter 203-horsepower naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine that offers a 184 lb-ft of peak torque. The engine drives either the front or all wheels via a direct-shift 8-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid powertrain uses an altered 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine delivering 176 horsepower in tandem with electric motors to drive front and rear wheels. The new hybrid system is standard on all RAV4 HV grades, and it increases total torque to the rear wheels by 30 percent compared to the previous system. The battery pack is nickel-metal hydride, and total system horsepower is 219.

Driving impression

Driving impression

Driving the Toyota RAV4 is a delight because of its combination of elevated driver’s position, excellent 360-degree visibility, and reasonably short overall length. It fits well in urban traffic and tight parking spots, yet is comfortable on freeways and interstates at speed. Some car-enthusiast sites are lukewarm about the RAV4’s handling, but their expectations are simply wrong. Most RAV4 drivers want a comfortable, quiet, easy-to-maneuver vehicle versus a vehicle that will turn in 1.0g on the skidpad. With the standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, the vehicle accelerates well, but the more powerful hybrid with additional low-end torque (off the line “pulling power”) is even better. Brakes are easy to apply and modulate, and steering is appropriate in a vehicle where the driver is seeking assistance rather than tuning in to tire feedback. Singles, couples, and families with young children will all find the RAV4 a worthy conveyance.

Safety & Driver Aids

Safety & Driver Aids

The Toyota RAV4 features a comprehensive standard safety package called Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0). Among the electronic driver and safety aids, it includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and automatic high beam operation. Lane Tracing Assist helps keep the vehicle in the center of the intended lane as it goes through corners, and Road Sign Assist helps keep you aware of speed limits and road conditions. The final, and perhaps most valuable, TSS feature is Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that can be a boon on the highway and in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Additional safety systems, like Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and a Rear Cross-Traffic Braking system are standard on higher trim level RAV4s, including the new RAV4 TRD Off-Road. Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automated Braking is also available.

Interior & Cargo Space

Interior & Cargo Space

Among 5-passenger crossovers the Toyota RAV4 is right about average in the amount of interior space it offers, and that’s not surprising since it is often the benchmark other manufacturers use to set their sights. With the rear rows of seats up for use, it has 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That compares to 37.5 cubic feet in the Ford Escape and 39.3 cubic feet in the Nissan Rogue. Toyota doesn’t provide a figure for cargo space with the rear seat folded, but our inspection indicates it is very similar to that of the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Santa Fe or any of the other popular vehicles in the segment. The liftgate is easy to open and shut, and we appreciated the power operation available standard on the XLE, Adventure and Limited trims. We found the RAV4’s interior to be both comfortable and accommodating, and we’re particularly impressed with the looks of the Limited version.

Fuel Economy & Towing

Fuel Economy & Towing

In the context of the compact utility segment, the Toyota RAV4 delivers excellent fuel economy (non-hybrid version) or truly outstanding fuel economy (RAV4 Hybrid.) The base front-drive RAV4 with turns in an EPA-rated 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway/30 mpg combined. In comparison, a front-wheel-drive Honda CR-V with automatic transmission will offer 26 mpg city/32 mpg highway/28 mpg combined and the Nissan Rogue 26 mpg city/33 mpg highway/29 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive RAV4 Hybrid delivers an EPA-rated 41 mpg city/37 mpg highway/39 mpg combined. When you consider the improved drivability over the already very nice standard version, the RAV4 Hybrid looks better and better. The RAV4 Adventure grade is rated to tow a 3,500 trailer, while other models are limited to 1,500 pounds.

Trim Levels

Trim Levels

For 2020 the standard RAV4 vehicle lineup has six trim configurations – LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure Grade, TRD Off-Road and Limited. Front-drive and all-wheel-drive versions are available on all but the AWD-only Adventure Grade. The RAV4 Hybrid is available in LE, XLE, XSE and Limited trims, and all of those vehicles are all-wheel-drive. In total it can present a rather intimidating array of choices when you get to the purchase process. One way to think of it is this: a base model the LE gets you the bulk of what the RAV4 delivers. The XLE, XLE Premium and Limited trims give you escalating levels of luxury, and the Adventure Grade and TRD Off-Road are for those who seek to drive off the beaten path…or any path at all. Most typical buyers will probably find their sweet spot of price=value in the XLE or XLE Premium trims. The AWD Hybrid Limited version with its sweet interior is a luxury crossover equivalent for less than $37,000.

Pricing & Value

Pricing & Value

As we said at the outset the Toyota RAV4 is a sales champ. Toyota sells a lot of them, and that means the company can afford to build several versions, including at least one that might be well-suited to you. Generally, we shy away from the lowest-priced versions of most models, but in the RAV4’s case, we believe there is a lot of value in the LE. It has Toyota Safety Sense, the standard engine, and automatic transmission, so it’s a livable vehicle at a base of $25,850 plus $1,200 delivery. An all-wheel-drive version will cost you $1,600 more. Many will find satisfaction in the mid-level XLE range at about $27-28,000. On the specialty front, the Adventure Grade has an MSRP of $32,995 and the TRD Off-Road has a suggested list of $35,180. Should you opt for the 2020 RAV4 Limited with all-wheel-drive you’ll pay a similar $35,780 or so depending upon your negotiation skills.