Used 2013 Toyota RAV4 SUV
- Roomy interior for both people and cargo
- strikes a good balance between ride comfort and sure-footed handling.
- No engine upgrade option
- usefulness of available Entune system is diminished by cumbersome setup process.
Used 2013 Toyota RAV4 SUV for Sale
Edmunds' Expert Review
The long-awaited redesign of the Toyota RAV4 is well executed, as this compact crossover SUV now has the performance, features and cabin accommodations to keep up with the leaders in this class. Although it's still not a standout in any one area, Toyota's entry is worth a look.
In just half a decade, crossover SUVs have become the go-to choice among car buyers. It's no accident; the full-size SUV craze of the late '90s and early 2000s addicted most American drivers to cavernous cargo spaces, elevated driving positions and eye-watering gasoline bills. The Toyota RAV4 was among the first models to downsize that addiction into a manageable package.
With the redesigned 2013 Toyota RAV4, the fourth generation of the popular crossover, the automaker has given and also taken away. Notably, the RAV4 no longer offers an optional V6. Although the burly six-cylinder could catapult the mild grocery getter to 60 mph in quick fashion, Toyota reports that the vast majority of buyers didn't want to pay the premium for it and stuck with the base four-cylinder engine. For 2013, the RAV4 comes with a four-cylinder only. Toyota's compact crossover also dispenses with a third-row seat, another option that the automaker says few shoppers deemed important.
The 2013 Toyota RAV4 does, however, get a six-speed transmission to replace the old four-speed automatic. It improves fuel economy and makes the crossover more responsive during merging and passing maneuvers.
Further, the RAV's styling is more sculpted and aggressive this year. Its physical dimensions have barely changed, though, as the old RAV4 already had plenty of interior room. One major upgrade is the debut of a roof-hinged liftgate, which replaces the old side-hinged gate that swung out to the right and hindered curbside loading. Even better, the spare tire is now housed under the cargo floor, rather than on the tailgate, so the latter isn't as heavy as in years past.
Compact crossover SUVs are quickly replacing midsize sedans as the family car of choice, so this redesign of the 2013 Toyota RAV4 could not have come soon enough. The small crossover class is full of interesting choices, including the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and Mazda CX-5. Compared to these models, the RAV4 strikes us as middle-of-the road: It has no major faults but also doesn't stand out for its style, performance or interior accommodations. But with its ample cargo capacity, improved fuel economy and agreeable ride quality, the new RAV4 is definitely one to try.
Trim levels & features
The 2013 Toyota RAV4 is a five-passenger compact crossover offered in three main trim levels: LE, XLE and Limited. The LE comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, power folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split and reclining second-row seat, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with 6-inch touchscreen, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The XLE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated side mirrors, roof rails, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control and sportier front seats. An optional package further adds a navigation system, Toyota's Entune smartphone integration system, satellite radio, HD radio and voice controls.
The top-level Limited comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a height-adjustable power liftgate, keyless entry/ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat with memory settings, heated front seats and premium synthetic leather upholstery. The navigation system with Entune is available and can be bundled with a premium 11-speaker JBL audio system.
Performance & mpg
The 2013 Toyota RAV4 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard, and the RAV4 is available with either front- or all-wheel drive.
In Edmunds testing, an all-wheel-drive Toyota RAV4 needed 9.1 seconds to hit 60 mph, an average time for this segment. The front-drive RAV4 returns an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway/26 combined, which is very good for a small crossover. The all-wheel-drive model, meanwhile, achieves 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, whiplash-reducing front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags come standard on every 2013 Toyota RAV4. A driver knee airbag is also standard. Blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert systems are optional on the Limited trim.
In Edmunds brake testing, the RAV4 stopped from 60 mph in 127 feet, which is just a tad longer than average. Regarding Insurance Institute For Highway Safety crash tests, the new RAV4 earned a top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The RAV earned a Poor rating (the lowest) in the agency's new small-overlap frontal-offset crash test (in which a smaller portion of the vehicle's front bumper strikes a barrier). Several competing small SUVs also received a low rating in this test. The government gave the Toyota four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for total frontal protection and five stars for total side crash protection.
Although we miss the old RAV4's V6, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder is adequately powerful for most tasks and returns good fuel economy for this class. The new six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but if you tend to drive assertively, you'll find it slow to downshift in passing situations. Additionally, when climbing steady mountain grades, we've observed that the transmission has a tendency to hunt between gears (rather than picking one gear and sticking with it). Both of these issues are a consequence of Toyota's efforts to tune the drivetrain for maximum gas mileage.
The 2013 Toyota RAV4 handles better than before and feels more substantial, refined and comfortable when cruising down the highway. A potential exception is the Limited model, which can get jittery on rough or broken pavement due to its big 18-inch wheels. In spite of that, the cabin remains very quiet, making Toyota's crossover a good option for families with young children who sleep in the car.
More demanding drivers will likely find the 2013 RAV4 less enjoyable to drive than the Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5. It lacks the responsive steering and sure-footed suspension tuning that make those models feel decidedly more carlike. Should you need to venture off the beaten path, however, the Toyota RAV4's available all-wheel-drive system quickly applies power where it's needed for optimum traction and actually gives it a decent amount of off-road ability.
The 2013 Toyota RAV4 features a new interior design that shares motifs with the current Camry and Avalon. Pronounced angles and lines form a more streamlined and modern-looking dash. Quality has improved, too, and some of the materials are nicer than what you'll find in the Camry. Overall, though, the RAV's design and materials are average for the compact crossover class. The cupholder count is adequate in the Toyota RAV4, but there aren't as many useful storage slots as in the CR-V.
The RAV4's optional navigation system includes Entune, a suite of smartphone-connected services that includes the Bing search engine, Pandora streaming radio and real-time traffic, sports and stock information. Getting started with Entune can be a hassle, though, since you have to install an app on your phone and register for an account, plus you always need an active data connection to use it. The touchscreen interface has straightforward menus, but it's sometimes unresponsive to user touch. On the upside, all the conventional controls in the 2013 RAV4 are easy to use.
Rear-seat passenger comfort in the 2013 Toyota RAV4 is hampered slightly by a low-mounted backseat, but space is nevertheless abundant enough for even taller adults. We also like how the seat reclines to an impressive degree.
The cargo bay measures 38.4 cubic feet and opens up to a generous 73.3 cubes when the second row is folded: one of the largest capacities in the class. There's also a payoff for that low-mounted rear seat: a very flat floor and low load-in height, both of which help minimize the strain of loading large items or even a couple of large dogs. The RAV4 finally gains a roof-hinged liftgate for 2014; it's power-operated and height-adjustable on the Limited.
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Much of Scottsdale, Arizona, is still beautiful, wild desert country with huge cacti, craggy mountains and starry night skies, but we ignore all that and make a beeline for Target in the redesigned 2013 Toyota RAV4.
It's easy to find, of course. This Phoenix suburb has at least five such stores, according to the navigation system in Toyota's compact crossover. We pull off a sweet parking job in a lot crowded with holiday shoppers, and after we're done stimulating the economy, the RAV4's rear cross traffic alert system helps us avoid flattening another consumer slowly wheeling a plasma TV to his vehicle.
Acceleration is just average as we merge back onto the Loop 101 freeway, but in most other respects, the 2013 Toyota RAV4 has made the trip convenient, comfortable and enjoyable. This supreme ease of use is exactly what's drawing everyone to compact crossover SUVs in the first place and that's what this RAV4 was designed to do.
It's a New Era
Lately, though, Toyota hasn't been selling its small crossover to as many of us as it would like. The outgoing third-generation RAV4 has been on sale since 2006, while its main rival, the Honda CR-V, has been revamped twice since then. Plenty has changed in those seven years, too, as customers now expect their compact utility vehicles to look and feel like sedans on the inside.
Actual interior room has never been a problem in the RAV4, so Toyota hasn't changed the dimensions much in this redesign. The wheelbase remains 104.7 inches, and overall length increases by an inch to 179.9, though the 2013 model looks shorter because the spare tire no longer hangs off the tailgate. Overall height drops by an inch, and the RAV is half an inch wider. Its footprint is nearly identical to the CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, while the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is slightly larger. Even with a donut spare under its cargo floor, the 2013 Toyota RAV4 leads the class in cargo capacity with 73 cubic feet.
The real change is in the ambiance. Whereas the old RAV4 felt like economy transportation, this one has enough crisp lines, stitched surfaces and contrasting colors to appeal to the hipsters we saw shopping in the stationery aisle. Many of the materials are nicer than what you'll find in the Camry.
Take a Seat
Toyota has also tried to make the seating position feel more like the Camry's — we're sitting a half-inch lower than before and there's another inch of seat-track travel. The driver seat is comfortably firm and has road trip potential. If there's anything to complain about, it's storage: The RAV4 has fewer cubbies and slots than the CR-V.
Legroom is plentiful in the backseat, which reclines but no longer adjusts fore/aft. There's no pressing need for that anymore, since Toyota has eliminated the optional third row, which it says only 5 percent of customers bought.
The rear seats fold almost flat, and though there's no easy-peasy auto-fold option, Toyota has added its own nifty convenience — a height-adjustable power liftgate that's standard on top-of-the-line Limited models. Setting the height is complicated enough to require the owner's manual, but once done, it's a boon for shorter owners who park in undersized garages.
Good-Bye, Mr. Hyde. Hello, Mr. MPG
The previous Toyota RAV4 had a crazy side, and it came in the form of an optional 269-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 mounted transversely in the nose. It was too much engine for the chassis and wreaked havoc on the handling, but it also delivered the otherwise mild-mannered grocery-getter to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds.
For 2013, the V6 is gone. The take rate had dropped from 35 percent at the beginning of the model cycle to just 15 percent in 2012, Toyota officials tell us. More importantly, fuel economy takes priority now. Last year's 2.5-liter four-cylinder is the sole engine on the 2013 RAV4; a hybrid version might show up later.
The 2.5-liter is rated at 176 hp at 6,000 rpm and 172 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm. Instead of the old four-speed automatic transmission, though, it teams up with the Camry's six-speed automatic. This transmission has two overdrive gears, and its torque converter is locked up more of the time, which helps mpg.
The result is a 24 city/31 highway/26 combined mpg rating for front-wheel-drive 2013 Toyota RAV4s — up from 22/28/24 on the 2012 model. Our all-wheel-drive tester comes in 22 city/29 highway/25 combined, which improves on the previous 21/27/24 rating. That's right in line with the ratings on the CR-V and the Escape with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, but short of the CX-5's 28 mpg combined rating.
We miss the V6, but the four-cylinder is refined and adequately powerful. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and right at the 6,200-rpm redline under full throttle. A Sport mode calls up slightly more aggressive throttle response and shift points, and provides rev-matched downshifts. Toyota says the front-drive 2013 RAV4 will hit 60 mph in 8.9 seconds, which would give it an edge over the CR-V and CX-5 but not the 2.0-liter turbo-equipped Escape or Santa Fe Sport.
Handling Is Better, Too
Our RAV4 has Toyota's new AWD system (a $1,400 option), which is more than just a winter weather aid when you're in Sport mode. There's an electromagnetic coupling mounted just ahead of the rear differential, and it's able to use steering angle and yaw rate data to transfer torque rearward and minimize understeer around the few tight turns along our route.
The 2013 Toyota RAV4 also features many of the chassis-strengthening measures employed on the 2012 Camry. The front end is stiffer than before, and ditching the external spare tire has made it easier to control pitch. The suspension remains the same with struts in front and double-wishbones out back, but spring and damper rates are revised.
This doesn't add up to Mazda-style athleticism, but the 2013 RAV4 is well balanced and impressively stable going down the freeway. Its electric-assist power steering is more precise than before and the wheel naturally returns to center without feeling gummy. In Sport mode, power assist is dialed back 20 percent. Braking hardware hasn't changed much in this redesign, though the engineers shortened the pedal stroke.
Ride quality is a mixed bag. Even on Arizona's smooth pavement, our RAV4 Limited has a jittery ride on its 235/55R18 Bridgestone Dueler H/T 687 all-season, low-rolling resistance tires. Then, we drive a couple XLE models with 225/65R17 Michelin and Dunlop tires. Those tires give the RAV4 the kind of compliance you'd expect from a crossover SUV.
So Buy the XLE?
Based on customer feedback, Toyota has trimmed the options list for the 2013 Toyota RAV4. You still have three trim levels — now LE, XLE and Limited — but they come with more standard equipment. Not only does this make your life simpler, it makes the RAV4 more attractive for leasing, officials tell us, as the excessive options on older models made it tough to set residual values.
As expected, LE models ($24,145) have everything you need, including a standard back-up camera, Bluetooth and a USB input.
Upgrading to the XLE model ($25,135) provides dual-zone automatic climate control, something current owners really wanted, says Josh Hoffmann, Toyota's national marketing manager for crossover SUVs, "because they rarely drive alone." In addition, you get nicer cloth upholstery and access to the optional navigation system with the Entune app-based smartphone integration ($1,030). Although the RAV4 has a higher starting price than the CR-V, CX-5 or Escape, Toyota is hoping the XLE model will hit a sweet spot (and account for 40 percent of RAV4 volume) as it provides access to these particular amenities at a lower price point than the rival crossovers.
The main reason to step up to the Limited is because you want simulated leather upholstery (SofTex), a power driver seat, a keyless ignition and the power liftgate. Nav remains optional, and you can combine it with a premium JBL sound package. A blind spot monitor with the rear cross traffic alerts is a $500 option.
The Art of Being Ordinary
Crossover SUVs are quickly replacing midsize sedans as the default family car. This is easy to understand, given that these compact utilities offer similar passenger room and features in a package that fits better in most people's garages and makes it easier to transport all-terrain strollers and large dogs. Now many of them are just as comfortable to drive to work as a sedan and capable of returning similar fuel mileage.
The 2013 RAV4 is one of these compelling arguments against midsize sedan ownership. A careful redesign by Toyota has resulted in a vehicle that excels at being ordinary and checks most of the boxes you're likely to have on your list. It may not hold a serious advantage over its top rival, the CR-V, but the 2013 Toyota RAV4 competes on the same level. Game on, Honda.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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Should I lease or buy a 2013 Toyota RAV4?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.