The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is one of the most popular crossover SUVs for sale in the U.S., and for good reason. It’s versatile, holds up to five passengers, and carries with it Toyota’s reputation for durability.
It’s available with front- or all-wheel drive. Power comes from a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 203 horsepower, and it’s reasonably quick, with smooth shifts handled by an 8-speed automatic. A hybrid version uses its electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery and an electronic continuously variable transmission to power the rear wheels while its gas engine powers the front wheels, making it all-wheel drive.
With 8.6 inches of ground clearance, the RAV4 can go off-roading, but the simple all-wheel-drive system on the LE and XLE models is intended for inclement weather, not trails. These models lack a two-speed transfer case.
The Adventure model has a more sophisticated system as standard equipment, with modes for specific types of terrain, including Trail. It employs brake-based torque-vectoring for better cornering on the road and more tenacity in the dirt. The system, which is optional on the Limited, cuts about 2 mpg off the RAV4’s EPA gas mileage ratings.
Front-wheel-drive RAV4s are EPA-rated at 26/34/29 miles per gallon, better than rivals; while the LE and XLE with basic all-wheel drive get 26/33/29 mpg. The Adventure and Limited with their more complex AWD system are rated at 24 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined.
If it’s fuel economy that’s most important, the all-wheel-drive RAV4 Hybrid delivers a strong 41/37/39 mpg, easily topping the 34-mpg average of its closest competitor, the Nissan Rogue Hybrid.
The 2019 RAV4 hasn’t been crash-tested yet, but we’re impressed by the standard active safety equipment, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. Blind-spot monitors are optional on the base LE and standard on the rest.
The RAV4 lineup includes LE, XLE, XLE Premium, XSE, Adventure and Limited trims. The Hybrid comes in three of those models, LE, XSE and Limited.
The LE, at around $26,500, comes standard with cloth upholstery, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth, a USB port, and a 4.2-inch TFT screen between its gauges for trip computer functions, and 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps. The Hybrid LE costs just $800 more.
The XLE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof, blind-spot monitors, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, and four USB ports.
The XLE Premium adds 19-inch alloy wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, a power tailgate, and an 8-way power driver’s seat. The Hybrid XSE is equipped like the XLE Premium but with 18-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension.
The all-wheel-drive Adventure features more rugged styling. Heated and cooled front seats are optional.
The Limited adds driver’s seat memory, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, and a rearview mirror that uses a camera and a display to depict an uncluttered view. This model offers the most options, such as heated and cooled front seats, hands-free power liftgate, and JBL sound system.
A Hybrid Limited can cost nearly $40,000.
Every RAV4 also includes two years of scheduled maintenance.
The RAV looks like an off-road SUV, like a little brother trying to be like its tough big brother the 4Runner. The fender flares go without paint on most models. The twin-tiered trapezoidal grille, low roofline, high beltline and thick rear pillars give it a substantial look. It’s more SUV than crossover, and a welcome departure from the RAV4’s recent past.
The Adventure wears a simulated skid plate in front, and can have its roof painted white.
The Hybrid has slightly different front-end styling, and the XSE uses shiny black trim in place of unpainted plastic in some spots.
The LE looks like the bargain it is, with its small steel wheels and hubcaps, while other models roll with handsome 17- and 19-inch alloy wheels.
The lines of the cabin are also angular, with a wide and busy dash and tablet-like touchscreen (either 7.0 or 8.0 inches) perched over climate vents. There’s a wide pocket for small things like phones and notebooks on the passenger side of the dash. The car-like center console is high and has lots of storage space.
The doors of the higher models are covered in soft synthetic leather with contrasting stitching, but the lower LE and XLE have hard plastic door panels. The Adventure and Hybrid use color-coordinated panels, stitching, and upholstery. The Adventure’s orange trim looks like an REI jacket, while the shiny black in the Hybrid XSE looks like it’s dressed for a night on the town.
The RAV4 used to be smaller, and is still called a compact though it seems huge when it’s parked beside a first-generation model. It has somewhat less interior space than rivals such as the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, with available synthetic leather that feels totally real. A power driver’s seat doesn’t come on the LE, but is available. The passenger seat isn’t available with height adjustment, and offers less head room than rivals.
In the rear, the bench seat sits lower for better space, but the RAV4’s doors need to swing open more widely to make it easier for loading passengers and items such as car seats.
Cargo-wise, the RAV4 isn’t far behind rivals. There’s 37 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 57 cubic feet behind the front. A power liftgate is standard on most models.
About three-quarters of RAV4s will have the 2.5-liter engine making a healthy 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, mated to a quick 8-speed automatic transmission. This engine is responsive and blessed with ample acceleration around town, while its two-lane passing power is good for a compact crossover.
Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel-drive versions have one of two systems. LE and XLE models use a conventional system that quietly sends power from the front wheels to the rear when wheels begin to slip. Adventure and Limited have the more complex system that helps the RAV4 feel more confident on a curvy road. With that system the RAV4 handles well, but even the front-wheel-drive RAV4 has well-weighted steering and an agile feel. The RAV4’s stiff structure and supple suspension help it absorb bumps well, too.
With 219 horsepower, the Hybrid makes more power than the non-hybrid. It gets that extra 16 horsepower from an electric motor driven by a nickel metal-hydride battery pack squeezed under the rear seat. Under very light acceleration, the Hybrid can reach 40 mph on electric power alone, before the gas engine kicks on with a gentle rumble.
In the LE and Limited Hybrid, the ride and handling is equal to that of the non-hybrid models. The Hybrid XSE has a slightly stiffer suspension that’s still comfortable.
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 presents a completely new look this year, and it’s strikingly different under the skin, too. It handles open roads and city streets equally well, and offers excellent value from base to top-end Hybrid models.