The best of all worlds: A compact hybrid SUV
As a southern Californian who loves the outdoors, surfing, and road tripping with my dogs, it’s rather odd that I have somehow survived this long without an SUV. I have resisted for years because SUVs take more gas and are generally not very fuel-efficient. My family and I are quite content to zip around day to day in our two hybrid Toyota Priuses. We do keep an old station wagon in the back for taking the dogs to the beach, camping, and other activities when we need more space than a Prius offers. But a compact SUV? Nowhere on our radar…until…a few hybrid models started appearing on the road. Naturally, the RAV 4 Hybrid deserved our interest, given our own experience with Toyota’s proven reliability, and our love for the Prius.
Forget That it’s a Hybrid
I know what you’re thinking, I hear it all the time. “I would drive a hybrid, but aren’t they slow and short on power, speed, acceleration?” I say this to you, my dear hybrid-resistant friends: Go test drive a Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid. Drive it just like you would any other compact SUV. Feel the torque and power in Sport mode. Listen to the quiet difference of ECO mode. Go ahead, accelerate on to the freeway, you got this! You don’t have to drive any differently. You might even forget it’s a hybrid altogether, were it not for the quiet engine and excellent MPG registering on the dash. And even better, if you’re in heavy traffic, the braking will only help increase your range.
Priced from $27,000 to about $37,000, the RAV4 Hybrid is also outfitted with some of the best RAV4 features, so you’re not short on amenities, either.
A Seamless Transition From a Toyota Prius Hybrid
Moving from a Prius to the RAV 4 compact SUV was easy. For the driver, most of the controls are in the same place. The engine ON/OFF button is right where I’d expect it. The hands-free steering wheel buttons are in the same places, making several functions simple to control without your hands ever leaving the wheel. Display screen, climate control (including seat warmers), audio system, voice-command navigation – all these features were easily reached and nothing took any effort to search for. And a bonus – the speedometer and power/charge gage sit right in front of the steering wheel, even better placement for driver viewing ease.
The most significant difference was the gear shifter itself. Standard hybrid vehicles have Park, Neutral, Drive, and Reverse, with the shifter on the dash. In the RAV4 Hybrid, the shifter is put back in the traditional spot – between the seats. Why? Because there’s more to it! In Drive, you have the option to shift into Sport Mode and gears. This is where the AWD off-roading power kicks in. And it’s FUN!
Really, a Fuel Efficient SUV?
So let’s get real here, who doesn’t want to save money on fuel and still drive a sporty SUV? The 2018 RAV 4 (non-hybrid) gets about 25 MPG. That’s great for some, but for those of us already in hybrids, we won’t look at anything – SUV or otherwise – averaging less than 30 MPG. The RAV 4 Hybrid hits the mark, with a combined average of 32 MPG (34 city and 30 highway). Add to that the intelligent AWD and Sport mode, and you’ve got a powerful sporty SUV that’s also fuel-efficient.
Who the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is for:
- Prius drivers considering a move up to an SUV for more space/flexibility
- SUV Drivers looking to reduce their environmental impact without sacrificing space
- Singles or couples with an active and sporty lifestyle – cycling, surfing, camping, etc.
- Dog-owners (even big dogs!)
- Small active families who don’t need a large SUV
- Moms who like to sneak away and do some off-roading without worrying about getting stuck or running out of gas in the middle of nowhere
Cargo Cover – Yay, Nay or Stash Away?
The RAV 4 cargo hold is roomy in both floor space and height. This makes it equally suitable for big groceries or big dogs! The back seat can fold down in part or whole, making it easy to load and transport things like surfboards or bicycles. But for other uses, like stashing backpacks or storing luggage on a road trip, having a cargo cover is a definite must. I don’t think twice about it, mine stays in the car and I use it to keep anything in that space out of view. However, some people are of the mind to do away with a cargo cover altogether – it just gets in the way and ends up left behind in the garage. What say you?
Either way, there’s good news with the Toyota RAV 4 (both standard and hybrid versions). Toyota has built space into the cargo floor to store the cargo cover when not in use! This keeps it neatly stashed away when unneeded, yet always with the car rather than sitting back home in the garage. My only issue with this cargo cover storage nook in the 2018 RAV 4 Hybrid is that it creates a bump in the floor space. When all the seats are down, you can’t really lay anything flat (like oneself, as I discovered when I tried to sleep in the car instead of a tent). After watching this video of the 2019 RAV 4, it looks like they have worked it out to fit flat under the floor, bump-free! So things just keep getting better.
What I Loved:
- Getting above 30 MPG in an SUV, yay!
- Tight turn radius and front/rear parking sonar made pulling in and out of parking spaces easy
- USB charge ports and dedicated nook for phone
- The depth of the cargo hold means dogs can’t jump over into the back seat, but still have window views
- In the model I drove (Limited), the panoramic power moonroof was a dream and comes as standard packaging
- SPORT drive mode – makes driving a hybrid fun on any terrain!
- Exterior paint finish that magically repelled dirt and dust
What You Need to Know
There are great deals out there right now for the 2018 Toyota RAV 4 Hybrids still on the lot! So what if the year has changed by a digit, it will still be a brand new car.
The original sticker MSRP for the RAV 4 Hybrid Limited AWD SUV is $34,030. Add-ons: Advanced Technology Package – $1435. Foot-Activated Liftgate – $150, Carpet floor/cargo mats – $224, Roof Rack Cross Bars – $315, Rear Bumper and Door Sill Protectors – $338. With Delivery and Handling Fees, the grand total came to $37,487.00.
What We Listened to In the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SUV
2018 produced some great music, and we loved listening to some of the year’s best on the JBL sound system in the RAV4 Hybrid. Here’s just a sample of some of our favorites!
Disclosure: The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was provided for my test drive; all opinions are my own.