Great gas mileage isn’t the only luxury.
City dwellers face many challenges with car ownership. Gas stations are rate where real estate is expensive, but plug-in hybrids are impractical to charge if you park on the street. So the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is an ideal vehicle for that urban resident – it actually gets better mileage in stop and go traffic, and is rated to get 34 MPG in the city and 31MPG on the highway. But good gas mileage isn’t at the expense of space; it has the room to take you out of the city on an adventure.
About that fuel economy
The way the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid gets its fuel economy, explained Toyota spokesperson Corey Proffitt, is that “most, if not all, hybrids optimize fuel economy in urban settings with higher traffic and stop and go situations. Much of this is as a result of the engineering efforts to reduce drag from stopping with regenerative braking. Braking actually serves to power the electric motor which then runs in the low speed situations, decoupling the combustion motor, thereby saving fuel. In addition, during stops the combustion engine will also decouple, running only with the electric motor.” So instead of your engine gurgling or spewing fumes when you stop at a light, it is actually silent and charging the hybrid battery.
Who the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is for
- Drivers who want a more sustainable, fuel efficient small-sized SUV
- City dwellers without a driveway or garage who can’t charge a plug-in hybrid
- Suburban or country dwellers who need great performance combined with superior gas mileage
- Small families or couples who want an SUV but don’t need a third row
- Bikers or kayakers who want to easily bring their gear
- Budget conscious buyers who want the latest safety and technology with some luxury touches but who don’t want to pay top dollar; the model we drove is priced about $36,000
- Post menopausal women who don’t require a cooled seat option (there isn’t one available)
Loaded with nice features, and with safety
The RAV4 hybrid is only available at the top of the RAV4 trim lines; that means that the two models, the Limited, which drove, and the XLE, come with many features and luxuries standard.
The RAV4 Limited Hybrid, like all RAV4s, comes standard with Toyota’s Star Safety System, which has traction control, stability control, brake force distribution (which keeps the car stable in a sudden braking situation) brake assist (which anticipates a need to brake and starts to brake before you do) and smart stop (brings the car to a complete stop if someone crosses in front of your car or traffic ahead of you suddenly comes to a stop).
The Limited model I drove gave me a very safe and secure feel. The car includes: All wheel drive, Blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert; Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection; Lane departure alert with steering assist; Automatic high beams; and Dynamic radar cruise control (aka adaptive cruise control). There is also front and rear parking sonar, so if you are one of those city drivers, street parking is much easier. The semi-autonomous features like the pre-collision system and lane departure alert include both audio and visual warnings, but are not intrusive.
Hello, Miss Navi: delighted that she really gets me!
Pairing a phone with Bluetooth is easy and using the navigation system is a snap. The voice activated nav understood my voice commands immediately; I felt a bond with the system, which seemed to ‘get me.’ No screaming at the disembodied voice in frustration when it tries to direct you to Arkansas when you clearly said an address in New Jersey. The nav also has easy to follow directions; you get a warning 2 miles in advance about an upcoming exit, and which side of the road, another prompt at a mile and at the half mile, plus an audio cue for the imminent turn or exit.
The dashboard also lets you know when a turn is coming up, and even provides the name of the road. The only thing missing was the speed limit on the seven inch touchscreen.
Three drive modes let you shift from ‘Eco’ to ‘fun’
The RAV4 has three drive modes: Eco (which adjusts engine performance and air conditioning for efficiency), sport (a little more power; great for merging onto the highway) and EV (you can go .6 miles at less than 25 miles per hour on the electric engine; useful if your kid borrows the car and leaves you on fumes).
Luxury touches you don’t expect in a small mid-priced SUV
Although the Toyota is not a luxury car – for that, you have to look to its more elegant sister brand, Lexus – it incorporates some of the more refined extras that luxury drivers demand. Its a very quiet car (mostly because the hybrid engine is so silent, you only know the vehicle is on when the dashboard lights up) and has a power moonroof, roof rails, and heated seats, all included. The power liftgate can be adjusted so if you have a low garage door, or are vertically challenged, the gate isn’t too high. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather, but the seats are a faux leather called Softex.
What I loved
- Heated front seats
- Great gas mileage in an SUV with all wheel drive
- Simple navigation system
- Buttons for twirling the dial on the Sirius XM radio stations; also steering wheel controls
- Large power moonroof
What you need to know
- Base price: $33,610; price for the model I drove, with advanced technology package and roof rack, $36,609
- Get 33 mpg combined: 34 in the city, 31 on the highway. Yes: Better gas mileage in the city!
- Takes regular gas
- Not yet rated for government safety
- Only 1 USB port; (in the front) there are also 3 12 volt power outlets throughout the vehicle.
Note: Toyota provided the RAV4 Hybrid for review purposes. Opinions expressed are my own.