The new-car market has plenty of hybrids and compact crossover SUVs, but if you want a compact SUV that's also a hybrid, you've got just one choice: the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. (Its one and only competitor, the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, was discontinued after 2016.)
Fortunately, your only choice is a good one. Toyota has lots of hybrid experience under its belt, and the RAV4 Hybrid benefits. It delivers a significant fuel economy bump over the standard RAV4 (reviewed separately), with stronger acceleration to boot. Its hybrid all-wheel-drive system (which uses an electric motor to drive the rear axle) works well in the snow, and the battery pack has a minimal effect on cargo space. We wouldn't be surprised if Toyota's competition is slow to bring its own hybrid SUVs to the market, because Toyota has this one pretty well sewn up.
Current Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Toyota sells the RAV4 Hybrid in two trim levels, XLE and Limited, which correspond to the top two trim levels of the conventionally powered RAV4. The XLE has a healthy dose of luxury features, including dual-zone automatic climate control and a power liftgate. The Limited ups the ante with synthetic leather, heated front seats, a power driver seat with memory function, and navigation. Toyota's Safety Sense package — which bundles collision detection with automatic braking, lane departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams — is standard on both models. Unfortunately, genuine leather isn't.
The RAV4 Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, which delivers power to the front wheels. The RAV4 Hybrid normally operates in front-wheel-drive mode, but when extra traction is needed, an electric motor powers the rear wheels. (Its operation is similar to the all-wheel-drive systems used in other crossover SUVs, but the power is delivered electrically rather than mechanically.) Total system output is 194 hp. The EPA estimates the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid's fuel economy at 33 mpg combined, a significant 8 mpg improvement over the conventionally powered all-wheel-drive Toyota RAV4.
Compared to the standard RAV4, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid accelerates more quickly, and since the hybrid drivetrain uses a continuously variable automatic transmission, power flow is smooth and free of jarring gearshifts. Driving excitement is not the RAV4 Hybrid's forte, and you can feel the extra weight of the hybrid battery when cornering. Braking is also a bit strange because the RAV4 Hybrid blends regular braking with regenerative braking (in which the electric motors serve as generators, recharging the battery and creating resistance that slows the vehicle). Still, the ride is comfortable, well composed and commendably quiet.
Hybrid vehicles generally lose a bit of interior space to accommodate the battery, but Toyota has kept the losses in check. The RAV4 Hybrid offers 35.6 cubic feet of luggage space with all seats in place and 70.6 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down compared to the 38.4 and 78.4 cubic feet offered in the regular RAV4. For the most part, we like the RAV4 Hybrid's cabin, though the design looks a bit dated. The back seat's bottom cushion is mounted low, which takes some getting used to, but the upside is added headroom, and the adjustable backrests are an additional bonus.
Used Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Models
Toyota introduced the RAV4 Hybrid for the 2016 model year. For 2017, Toyota added forward collision warning with automatic braking, lane departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams as standard equipment.
Read the most recent 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Toyota RAV4 Hybrid page.