Toyota RAV4 Buying Guide: Dealmakers & Dealbreakers
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Toyota RAV4 Buying Guide: Dealmakers & Dealbreakers

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The Toyota RAV4 blends on-road manners with intuitive infotainment and a spacious rear seat. (Source: Toyota

The Toyota RAV4 is one of the most recognizable names in the compact SUV/crossover market. It has grown through the years and evolved to be one of the more refined options in this segment as well. The RAV4 has a good reputation for reliability, easy-to-use infotainment, and is even available as a hybrid mode. The RAV4 also has plenty of rear seat space, making it a great option for carpooling. But is it the right crossover for you? Read on to learn more!


2017 Toyota RAV4 Fast Facts

Pricing: $24,910-$36,150
Seating: 5-passenger standard

Dealmakers

• Standard high-tech safety gear
• Spacious cabin
• Surprisingly spacious rear seats
• Responsive ride for the class
• Good reliability
• Impressive fuel economy
• Many standard features
• Improved, easy-to-use infotainment
• RAV4 Hybrid model
• Hands-free power liftgate

Dealbreakers

• Somewhat anonymous styling
• So-so acceleration
• Uninspired handling
• Poor rearward visibility
• No Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
• Seat comfort in LE and XLE are “meh”
• Hard to fit safety seats


Dealmakers: Toyota RAV4’s Top Lifestyle Features

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Many places for your coffee, keys, wallet, and phone make the RAV4 a great commuter car. (Source: Toyota)

The RAV4 is a smart choice among compact crossovers and SUVs. It stands out with a spacious cabin that offers a surprising amount of rear seat space. It also has plenty of standard features, improved infotainment, and is the only compact SUV to offer some serious safety hardware as standard equipment.

Dealmaker: Spacious Cabin

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The RAV4’s cabin provides plenty of headroom. (Source: Toyota)

Crossovers have overtaken sedans as the dominant form of daily transportation- this is in large part to the added space of the crossover/SUV layout. This layout results in a more spacious cabin in all areas. More headroom, more legroom, and more cargo room. The Toyota RAV4 has 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up, and 73.4 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded. This makes for a generally roomy vehicle, and even though this crop of crossovers are technically “compact,” it doesn’t feel like it in the RAV4.

Dealmaker: Surprisingly Spacious Rear Seats

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You may be surprised with just how much legroom you have in the back of the RAV4. (Source: Toyota)

There are many roomy crossovers in this segment, but surprisingly, not every one of them delivers a lot of rear seat space. The Ford Escape, for example, has a rather cramped back seat. The RAV4 is one the other end of the spectrum- with ample legroom for second row passengers. As U.S. News & World Report puts it, “Well-padded seats help make long drives enjoyable, while reclining rear seats add space and comfort.” Combined with the width of the vehicle and the ability for those rear seats to recline, you can actually comfortably fit three across in the rear seats.

Dealmaker: Improved, Easy-to-Use Infotainment

The RAV4 comes standard with a 6.1-inch touch screen infotainment system. At first glance, it might seem like a simple system, but in truth, it is pretty powerful, handles many functions, and even comes standard with a backup camera. The icons are easy to read and the fonts are large. You can use gestures like swipes to move through the screens, and the voice control understands complex commands. In short- the infotainment system gets the job done without any fuss. It never gets in the way or is ever obstructive, and that could be the best praise of all.

Dealmaker: Many Standard Features

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The RAV4 comes standard with some serious safety tech. (Source: Toyota)

The starting price of the RAV4 is nearly $25,000, and while that may feel steep, the RAV4 earns that price with a long list of standard features. It comes with a backup camera, large touch screen, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth hands free calling, USB port, and more. For what you get in the RAV4 standard, you will often have to option-up. The most notable is the following…

Dealmaker: Standard High Tech Safety Gear

The RAV4 comes standard with Safety Sense Package. This includes pre-collision detection and prevention, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and more. It also comes standard with hill start assist and and a backup camera. Offering this kind of safety technology standard is almost unheard of, and cements the RAV4 as an IIHS Top Safety Pick+.

Dealmaker: Hands-Free Power Liftgate

The Platinum trim of the Toyota RAV4 comes with a “hands-free” rear liftgate. If your hands are full and your key fob is in your pocket or purse, simply wave one leg under the rear bumper of the RAV4, and the vehicle senses this and deploys the power rear liftgate. It is height adjustable, so you won’t hit the roof of your garage.


Dealbreakers: Toyota RAV4’s Worst Lifestyle Features

It’s not all rosy with the RAV4. Some elements of the compact crossover are dealbreakers for some buyers. It could be the styling for some, comfort for others, or even its rearward visibility. Read on to learn where the RAV4 falls short.

Dealbreaker: Somewhat Anonymous Styling

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The RAV4 may not stand out in a crowd. (Source: Toyota)

The Tucson’s corporate cousin, the Kia Sportage, has far more head-turning styling, and costs less. If you are looking to catch attention from the neighbors with your new purchase, you might not get the same result with the Tucson. While the Tucson’s styling is certainly handsome, it is rather anonymous, and might blend into the crowd at PTA night. If you are looking for a vehicle with more edgy styling, look to the Sportage or Cherokee.

Dealbreaker: Poor Rearward Visibility

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The large rear pillar hurts driver visibility. (Source: Toyota)

The RAV4 has something of a “wedge” design, and lacks any really large windows between the C- and D-pillars (the space between the rear doors and rear hatch). This means rearward visibility is somewhat lacking. The RAV4 makes up for it with its long list of standard safety features, but it would be a lot cheaper to have better visibility and NOT need those features.

Dealbreaker: Seat Comfort in LE and XLE Are “Meh”

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Seat comfort in the RAV4 is questionable. (Source: Toyota)

We noted that the RAV4 is quite spacious for a crossover, but space is only one part of the equation when it comes to interior comfort. The other is the actual comfort of the seats. While the rear seats are very comfortable, the front seats actually lack the support needed to be truly comfortable on long trips. If you drive the RAV4 around town, you’ll be fine, but if your commute approaches an hour each way, you may find yourself shifting around in your seat.

Dealbreaker: No Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

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The RAV4 has solid infotainment but lacks Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. (Source: Toyota)

The RAV4 has a strong infotainment setup, but there is one glaring omission- no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Toyota has stated that it finds the third party support for Siri EyesFree and other connected apps, such as Yelp or Pandora, but still no dice on CarPlay. This system (and Android Auto) are already proving popular with the tech-savvy, especially considering you don’t need a navigation system if you use your maps app. If you are more loyal to your smartphone’s OS over a brand of car, there are other options out there for you– like the Escape, CR-V, and more.


Dealmaker: Lots of Standard Features

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A split-fold rear bench is among the standard features on the RAV4. (Source: Toyota)

The RAV4 has one of the higher starting prices in this segment, but what you get speaks for itself. In addition to a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a built in backup camera. Speaking of safety- the RAV4 is the only compact crossover to offer some of the best safety tech as standard.

Trims Offered

LE: (MSRP: $24,910)
• Halogen daytime running lights w/ auto on-off
• Front and rear skid plates
• Backup camera
• Toyota Safety Sense P
• 6.1-inch Entune touchscreen infotainment system

XLE: (MSRP $28,320, includes everything from LE, plus)
• 17-inch alloy wheels
• Fog lights
• Power moonroof
• Power rear liftgate
• Dual automatic climate control

SE: (MSRP $31,385, includes everything from XLE, plus)
• LED projector beam headlights
• 18-inch Sport alloy wheels
• Unique “Sport” design lower front fascia
• Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters
• Blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert

Limited: (MSRP $33,230, includes everything from SE, plus)
• Chrome outside mirrors, power folding w/ integrated turn signals
• Frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror w/ HomeLink
• Entune 7-inch touch screen system w/ App Suite
• Leather-trimmed shifter
• Driver seat memory

Platinum: (MSRP $36,150/strong>, includes everything from Limited, plus)
• Hands-free rear power liftgate
• 360-degree camera
• Heated steering wheel
• Push-button start
• JBL Premium audio system

Hybrid Trims Offered

XLE Hybrid: (MSRP: $29,030)
• 17-inch five-spoke wheels
• Halogen daytime running lights
• Heated/powered outside mirrors with blind-spot mirrors and integrated turn signals
• Acoustic noise-reducing front windshield
• 6-inch touchscreen w/ backup camera

SE Hybrid: (MSRP: $32,185)
• 18-inch 5-spoke wheels
• Height-adjustable power liftgate
• SofTex power front drivers seat and manual passenger seat
• Heated front seats
• LED headlights

Limited Hybrid: (MSRP: $34,030)
• Front and rear parking sensors
• Chrome outside door handles
• Frameless auto-dimming rear view mirror w/ HomeLink
• 7-inch touchscreen navigation system
• Leather-trimmed shift-lever w/ accents


Dealmaker: Driving Commentary

The RAV4 delivers decent, but not stellar acceleration, which should make it perfectly adequate for getting around town. You can only get it with a four-cylinder engine, which means the Hybrid model’s addition of a rear electric motor helps it be the more capable of the two setups, with a higher tow rating of the two, but it does have some setbacks.

Handling: No-Fuss Commuting

The RAV4 benefits from the car-based platform with composed handling, which will make it enjoyable to drive around town. The all-wheel drive model helps navigate all manner of weather, though we wouldn’t recommend taking it off road on any serious trails. For that sort of driving, we’d recommend the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. But for most driving situations, the RAV4 will be a great handler, with strong brakes for emergency situations.

Drivetrain: Just-Average Acceleration

The RAV4 comes standard with a four cylinder engine, which provides adequate acceleration. As Edmunds puts it, “It handles as well as most competitors and only trails the turbocharged entries in the class when it comes to acceleration.” If you actually plan on using the RAV4 for driving up dirt roads that might get muddy, the non-hybrid RAV4 is the way to go. Its AWD system is mechanical, while the RAV4 Hybrid’s AWD system combines front-wheel drive with an electric motor for the rear wheels. It sends power to all four wheels, but will not put down as much traction as the non-Hybrid AWD model.

Performance Specs

• Engine: 2.4-liter inline 4
• Output: 176 horsepower / 172 lb-ft of torque
• Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
• Drivetrain: FWD / AWD
• Towing: 1,500 lbs.
• FWD Fuel economy: 23/30/26 (city/highway/combined)
• AWD Fuel economy: 22/29/25 (city/highway/combined)

• Hybrid Engine: 2.5-liter inline-4 / electric motor
• Output: 194 horsepower / 152 lb-ft of torque
• Transmission: TBD
• Drivetrain: AWD
• Towing: 1,750 lbs.
• Fuel economy: 34/30/32 (city/highway/combined)


Dealmaker: Among the Safest

There are two major safety organizations that test road cars and publish scores. They are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). NHTSA scores vehicles out of five stars, while the IIHS scores on a scale of Poor, Marginal, Acceptable, and Good. Additionally, the IIHS offers “Top Safety Pick” recommendations, as well as “Top Safety Pick +” for vehicles with advanced crash avoidance and mitigation features.

The IIHS also affixes a crash avoidance technology rating for vehicles. Top Safety Pick+ vehicles have “Superior” crash avoidance ratings, mid-range scores are “Advanced,” and the minimum crash prevention tech is considered “Basic.” If a vehicle is not a Top Safety Pick+, we’ll include any subsequent crash prevention technology.

Crash Test Safety: Five Stars

The Toyota RAV4 earns a 5 Star overall crash test rating from NHTSA, putting it at the forefront of the safest vehicles from a crash test standpoint.

Crossover NHTSA Overall Crash Results
Toyota RAV4 5 Star
Subaru Forester 5 Star
Ford Escape 5 Star
Hyundai Tucson 5 Star
Kia Sportage 5 Star
Nissan Rogue 4 Star
Jeep Cherokee 4 Star
Honda CR-V N/A
Mazda CX-5 N/A
’18 Chevrolet Equinox N/A
’18 GMC Terrain N/A

The RAV4 is joined by the Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, and Kia Sportage as 5 Star crash-test vehicles. Right behind that lead pack is the Nissan Rogue and Jeep Cherokee as 4 Star crash test vehicles. The Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, and 2018 GMC Terrain are all so new that they have not been tested by NHTSA. When these vehicles have been tested, we will update our safety tables accordingly.

IIHS Test Results

Crossover IIHS Results/Awards
Toyota RAV4 Top Safety Pick+
Nissan Rogue Top Safety Pick+
Subaru Forester Top Safety Pick+
Hyundai Tucson Top Safety Pick (Superior)
Kia Sportage Top Safety Pick (Superior)
Jeep Cherokee None (Superior)
Ford Escape None (Basic)
Honda CR-V N/A
Mazda CX-5 N/A
’18 Chevrolet Equinox N/A
’18 GMC Terrain N/A

The Toyota RAV4 is joined by the Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester as the only vehicles that earns a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS. The Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage don’t earn the “+,” but are still Top Safety Pick vehicles, and both have “Superior”-level crash avoidance technology. The Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, 2018 Chevrolet Equinox, and 2018 GMC Terrain are all so new that they have not been tested by NHTSA. When these vehicles have been tested, we will update our safety tables accordingly.

The Toyota RAV4 comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense-P, which features the top safety tech (more on that below). It also comes standard with a full complement of front and side impact airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, backup camera, and LATCH child seat anchoring system.

Safety Tech: Top Tech Standard

The Toyota RAV4 is the only compact crossover to come standard with modern high-tech crash avoidance equipment. Toyota Safety Sense-P includes forward collision warning and avoidance with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control. This makes it the undisputed safest compact crossover on the market, and an incredible value to boot.

Reliability: Better Than Most

The Toyota RAV4 earns four out of five bubbles, or “Better Than Most,” in J.D. Power Predicted Reliability Scores. This score is given if Vehicle Dependability Studies are not available for that vehicle.


Tiebreakers: Comparing the RAV4 to the Competition

2017 nissan rogue, nissan rogue, nissan rogue price, nissan rogue for sale

The Nissan Rogue is the only other compact SUV that offers a hybrid model. (Source: Nissan)

The RAV4 offers some things that the competition cannot offer, like the standard high-tech safety features. For every other model, you have to pay to get those features, but for every other model, there are things that either the RAV4 does not offer, or does better than the RAV4. Read on to learn how the RAV4 stacks up to the competition.

Ford Escape (MSRP $23,750-$31,000)

The Escape is one of the performance-oriented and upscale options. It has sharp handling, strong turbocharged engines, and an upscale cabin. It also has great SYNC3 infotainment technology. But its cabin lacks the storage options.

Ford Escape vs Toyota RAV4:
• Tight handling and strong engines (RAV4 numb handling)
• Impressive SYNC3 infotainment (Toyota has no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto)
• Strong fuel economy on certain engines (RAV4 offers hybrid model)

Learn more about the Ford Escape here.

Jeep Cherokee (MSRP $23,595-$37,695)

The Cherokee is the only compact SUV that offers true off-road capabilities, and its available V6 is strong (though the base I4 is underwhelming). The Cherokee also has impressive cabin quality, and some of the best infotainment in the segment, in the form of Uconnect.

Jeep Cherokee vs Toyota RAV4:
• High-quality cabin (Upmarket trims have as good a cabin)
• Outstanding infotainment (RAV4 lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto)
• Potent V6 and impressive Off-Road capability (RAV4 can’t go where Trailhawk can)

Learn more about the Jeep Cherokee here.

Nissan Rogue (MSRP $$23,820-$31,310)

The Rogue pushes the definition of “compact,” with three rows of seating, tons of cargo space, and plenty of cabin space for occupants. The Rogue also has a smooth ride, and is one of the few options in this segment with a hybrid variant.

Nissan Rogue vs Toyota RAV4:
• Only three-row compact crossover
• Large cargo area (RAV4 has decent cargo area)
• Rogue Hybrid Option (RAV4 Hybrid rival)

Learn more about the Nissan Rogue here.

Subaru Forester (MSRP $22,595-$34,295)

The Forester is one of the most affordable options in the compact SUV segment. And you get a lot for that low starting price. It has standard all-wheel drive, some of the most cargo space and passenger space in the class, and outstanding visibility. You can also get the fantastic EyeSight safety technology system.

Subaru Forester vs Toyota RAV4:
• Low starting price (RAV4 can get pricey)
• Large, upright cargo area (RAV4 so-so cargo space)
• Standard all-wheel drive (Subaru only to offer standard AWD)

Learn more about the Subaru Forester here.


Should I Buy a Toyota RAV4?

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The RAV4’s standard safety features make it one of the most compelling compact SUVs. (Source: Toyota)

The RAV4 has its competition cut out for it, as rival compact crossovers boast some important areas of expertise. But the RAV4 isn’t without its strong suits. Based on buyer priorities, check out the following lead compact SUVs of various buyer concerns.

So Which to Buy?

• If you love upscale cabins: Escape, Cherokee

• If you actually enjoy fun driving: Escape, CX-5

• If you require cargo space: Forester, Rogue

• If you want second row cabin space: RAV4, Rogue

• If you want the latest safety and infotainment tech: Escape, Cherokee

• If you want to go off road: Cherokee, Forester

• • If you want the best fuel economy: RAV4 Hybrid, Rogue Hybrid

• If you’re on a tight budget: Forester

Dealmakers vs. Dealbreakers Final Tally

Dealmaker: Standard high-tech safety gear
Dealmaker: Spacious cabin with plenty of rear legroom
Dealmaker: Responsive ride for the class
Dealmaker: Good reliability
Dealmaker: Impressive fuel economy
Dealmaker: Many standard features
Dealmaker: Improved, easy-to-use infotainment
Dealmaker: RAV4 Hybrid model
Dealmaker: Hands-free power liftgate

Dealbreaker: Somewhat anonymous styling
Dealbreaker: So-so acceleration
Dealbreaker: Uninspired handling
Dealbreaker: Poor rearward visibility
Dealbreaker: No Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Dealbreaker: Seat comfort in LE and XLE are lacking

Final Tally: +3
Market Average: TBD

While it might blend into the rest of the pack on styling, the RAV4 stands out by being the only entrant in the compact SUV segment to offer forward collision avoidance and other high-tech safety gear as standard equipment. This is an impressive feat, and complements an SUV with plenty of cabin space– especially for rear seat passengers. The RAV4 is a vehicle with trade-offs however, as it has great fuel economy, but lackluster acceleration and handling. It also has solid infotainment, but that infotainment lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Still, it has strong reliability numbers, making it one of the more sensible options in this segment.

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