2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review
Pros & Cons
- Great fuel economy
- roomy interior for people and cargo
- composed ride quality
- well-sorted tech interface
- small price premium over non-hybrid version.
- Not especially sporty
- synthetic brake feel.
Edmunds' Expert Review
With all-wheel drive and hybrid-amplified fuel economy, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid occupies a niche among compact crossovers. Its combination of features, passenger space and everyday utility warrant a closer look if you're shopping for a small crossover.
Toyota has been a mainstay in the compact crossover SUV segment for a long time, having created it in the first place with the original RAV4 back in 1996. It's also been a leader in the hybrid field with its fuel-sipping Prius and Camry hybrids. Alas, we've had to wait until 2016 for Toyota to decide to finally marry the two together in the form of the new 2016 RAV4 Hybrid.
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid looks very similar to the regular RAV4. Most people won't know you're driving a hybrid.
It turns out that the RAV4 Hybrid is more than just the most fuel-efficient vehicle in its class. It's also the most fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive hybrid vehicle you can buy. Fitted with a hybrid powertrain borrowed from the Lexus NX 300h and Toyota Camry Hybrid, the RAV4 Hybrid delivers an EPA-estimated 33 mpg combined, which is 8 mpg more than a regular all-wheel-drive RAV4. Interestingly, it also accelerates from a standstill to 60 mph about a second quicker than its non-hybrid stablemate and provides nearly as much total cargo space.
Toyota has positioned the RAV4 Hybrid as a more premium model among RAV4s, and as such the hybrid is only offered in the highest two trim levels. Yet the hybrid powertrain itself commands very little additional outlay over the equivalent non-hybrid RAV4. The hybrid also benefits from the same updates the regular RAV4 gets this year, including subtly massaged exterior styling and a new suite of high-tech accident-avoidance technologies.
If you like the idea of a miserly small crossover but want to shop around, you'll quickly find the new RAV4 Hybrid is pretty much in a class by itself. The only other hybrid SUV in this price range is the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid. It does return similar fuel economy to the RAV4 Hybrid but it's considerably slower and not nearly as roomy on the inside. Toyota took its sweet time coming up with the RAV4 Hybrid, but it's worth the wait.
2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid models
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a five-passenger compact SUV available in XLE and Limited trim levels.
The XLE comes standard with 17-inch wheels, heated outside mirrors, a sunroof, roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seat, a 6.1-inch touchscreen interface (Entune), a remote power liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB port and a media player interface.
Stepping up to the Limited trim level nets you chrome exterior trim, LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, heated outside mirrors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, front and rear parking sensors, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), driver memory settings, adaptive cruise control, a 7-inch touchscreen with navigation, smartphone app integration and satellite ratio.
Toyota packs on the standard features for the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid. Leatherette upholstery is exclusive to the Limited trim level, though.
Optional for the XLE is the Entune Premium Audio package, which adds the bigger touchscreen, nav system and smartphone app integration. The XLE's Convenience package bundles those features with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors and the Safety Sense package. Limited models offer an optional Advanced Technology package that includes an 11-speaker JBL premium audio system with a top-down-view parking camera system.
Performance & mpg
The RAV4 Hybrid's powertrain consists of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motors front and rear, a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). In total, this pairing develops a combined system output of 194 horsepower. The RAV4 Hybrid is front-wheel drive in normal operation, but the powertrain automatically engages the electrically driven rear wheels when needed to provide enhanced traction in slippery conditions.
According to the EPA, the hybrid hardware allows the RAV4 Hybrid to deliver 33 mpg combined (34 city/31 highway).
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, full-length airbags, a driver knee airbag, a rearview camera and an integrated driver blind-spot mirror. A blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert are optional on the XLE and standard on the Limited.
The optional Toyota Safety Sense system (standard on the Limited) includes a forward collision warning system (with pedestrian detection), forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking, a lane-departure warning and intervention system and automatic high-beam headlight control.
Specific crash tests for the hybrid were not available as of this writing, but in government crash tests the regular RAV4 received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal protection and five stars for total side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the regular 2016 RAV4 the best possible rating of "Good" in the small- and moderate-overlap frontal-offset crash test as well as the side-impact and roof-strength tests. It also received a "Good" rating for the performance of its head restraints and seats, as well as the best possible rating of "Superior" for its available forward collision warning and mitigation system.
The RAV4's hybrid powertrain juices up more than just its acceleration and fuel economy. In the bargain it boosts refinement, since the transmission never has any shift shock. It's a smooth and torquey experience that splits the difference, performance-wise, between base four-cylinder crossovers and ones with upgraded V6 or turbocharged engines. The hybrid's thrust off the line won't blow your hair back, but it's noticeably more eager than non-hybrid RAV4s. The additional sound insulation and other refinements introduced to all RAV4s this year have also paid off, since this is a commendably quiet and refined vehicle.
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid isn't much fun to drive, but its fuel economy is excellent.
But it's not particularly sporty, since the additional weight of the hybrid parts is noticeable when you carve into a corner enthusiastically. In day-to-day driving, however, it feels composed and delivers good ride quality. The brakes — which blend the regenerative function of the hybrid hardware with the regular brakes — feel a bit synthetic and don't have the reassuring pedal response of traditional non-hybrid brakes.
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid's interior is a stylized mix of hard silver plastic and soft surfaces that's been around for a few years but is aging well. A few of the audio and climate controls feel slightly flimsy, however, and while the cupholder count is adequate, there aren't as many useful storage nooks and crannies as you'll find in the Honda CR-V. Still, it's a roomy cabin that looks good and works well. If you want genuine leather upholstery, you're out of luck, as the RAV4 comes only with cloth or leatherette.
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid loses just a few cubic feet of total cargo space because of its battery pack.
Although all of the RAV4's audio systems have Toyota's Entune branding, only models with the bigger 7-inch screen include the Entune suite of smartphone-connected services, among these Pandora streaming radio and a navigation app. Thankfully, the touchscreen interface itself has straightforward menus, large virtual buttons and faster responses for 2016. All conventional controls are also easy to use.
Rear passengers are presented with a low-mounted bottom cushion, but the upside is that space is abundant even for taller adults. We also like how the 60/40-split seatbacks provide a large amount of recline adjustment.
The RAV4 Hybrid's cargo area measures 35.6 cubic feet, which is ample, if smaller than the non-hybrid models, owing to the packaging of its large battery. Fold down the middle row and the capacity rises to 70.6 cubic feet, which is still right up there with the largest in its class. The power-operated and height-adjustable liftgate is especially convenient.