What do you get when you drop a Toyota RAV4 body on a Prius powertrain? The RAV4 Hybrid. And surprisingly, even though both RAV4 and Prius have been on the market for some time, it was not until this past year Toyota put the two together to form the newest gas/electric hybrid vehicle in its showroom.
RAV4 was a pioneer on the crossover utility vehicle segment and Prius paved the way for much hybrid development over the years, but Toyota had never built a RAV4 Hybrid until the 2016 model year. Even Ford had a compact crossover hybrid, but Toyota only put a hybrid powertrain in its Highlander crossover. Being so late to the game with the RAV4 Hybrid and with gas prices remaining low, will anyone even care?
The RAV4 is a very popular vehicle and a hybrid variant should prove to find approval from segment buyers. RAV4 was completely overhauled a few years ago and for 2016 all models get styling and content updates along with the new Hybrid model being added to the lineup. We recently tested the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid in XLE AWD trim and it was everything we expected – a cross between the RAV4 and the Prius.
I liked the hybrid operation in the RAV4 and the AWD system gave the vehicle more grip, while the electric component gave the vehicle a bit more zip over its gasoline-only sibling. If I had to find one quibble with the new crossover it would be the performance of the fuel-efficient tires as they make a bit more noise and bring a little more vibration into the vehicle.
At the heart of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system is a 2.5-liter Atkinson four-cylinder gas engine mated to a small high-torque electric motor. The two are joined in the transaxle and they bring a combined power rating of 194hp. A second electric motor drives the rear wheels for improved traction. The RAV4 Hybrid can operate in gas or electric modes or a combination of both. The vehicle can operate as an EV only up to speeds of 25 mph. Regenerative braking is employed so that energy can be captured during braking and directed back to the nickel-metal hydride hybrid battery pack.
Some of the new safety tech that debuted on the 2016 RAV4 includes Toyota Safety Sense with automated pre-collision braking. Also included is forward collision warning, automatic emergency brake, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, pedestrian pre-collision system, dynamic radar cruise control, blind spot mirror, and rear cross traffic alert. There is also the new Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan that gives a 360-degree view around the vehicle and alerts drivers to potential hazards or obstacles.
The interior is spacious and comfortable and very little room is given up in the Hybrid models to accommodate the battery pack in the rear. The cabin is quiet and our test model featured the Entune premium audio system with navigation and app suite, all available via the 7-inch high-resolution color touchscreen display. Siri Eyes Free has been added for 2016 and occupants will be entertained by the JBL premium audio system with 576-watts playing through 11 JBL Green Edge speakers.
Pricing for the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid begins at $28,730 with this tester arriving with a final sticker of $29,795. Fuel economy is rated at 34 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. Remember: the Hybrid Synergy Drive systems operate more on electric power around town and therefore get much better fuel economy in urban driving, not to mention greatly reduced emissions.
So will Toyota see acceptance of the new RAV4 Hybrid so long after introducing both RAV4 and Prius? Of course they will, and this is the version you will want to purchase if you spend most of your time urban/congested driving as the gas only model gets the same fuel economy on the highway as the hybrid. RAV4 began the crossover utility craze and Toyota looks to remain a leader in the segment with this newest member of its hybrid family!