By Matt Degen - Updated Date: 12/28/2012
The RAV4 is the crossover SUV that takes credit for starting the segment back in 1995. Nearly two decades later, crossover SUVs have exploded in popularity because of their versatility, fuel economy and car-like handling. 2013 marks the fourth generation for the revamped RAV4. With it, Toyota's smallest SUV receives a much-needed styling update, new technology and more miles per gallon of gasoline. Class-leading interior room remains. Buying the newest RAV4 is now a simpler affair with fewer choices: just three trims, one engine and one transmission. An all-electric version with the old body style remains for sale in California. The RAV4 can't quite match the comfort of archrival Honda CR-V or the driving dynamics of the Ford Escape, but it remains a well-rounded SUV with a history of reliability and good resale value.You'll Like This Car If...
If a smaller, well-equipped SUV with seating for five and good fuel economy is on your to-buy list, it's hard to ignore the RAV4. Sharp looks, competitive pricing and a strong reliability history further bolster its appeal. Those seeking an all-electric SUV will only find it in the 2013 RAV4 EV.You May Not Like This Car If...
The new RAV4 doesn't have the most powerful engine, the best fuel economy, or the lowest price in this segment. More power can be had in the Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, while the Mazda CX-5 has a lower starting price and a higher fuel-economy rating.What's New for 2013
The RAV4 receives fresh styling inside and out, a standard 6-speed automatic transmission, rearview camera and touchscreen control center, and safety technology such as blind-spot monitoring. Gone are the 3rd-row seat and impressively powerful V6 engine available in past models. 2013 RAV4 EV models are unchanged from their 2012 debut models.Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2013 Toyota RAV4 feels well-balanced in just about every way. With a 0-60 mph time under nine seconds, off-the-line acceleration is adequate for getting up to speed on freeways without fear of being rear-ended by a semi-truck. Steering feel and overall comfort are good for this class of vehicle. In addition to the normal driving mode, the RAV4 now features a "Sport" mode that quickens throttle response and sharpens the steering response. The "Eco" mode, conversely, mutes throttle response in an effort to be more miserly with fuel, but we found ourselves quickly turning it off since it made acceleration feel laggardly. The RAV4 EV, meanwhile, is one mean green machine. With peak torque of 273 lb-ft from its electric motor, the RAV4 EV is surprisingly quick. In sport mode it can zip to 60 mph in seven seconds. In ordinary driving the RAV4 EV felt comfortable and composed. Its EPA-rated range is 103 miles.Favorite Features
Once a safety feature reserved for luxury vehicles, this option is now available in the RAV4 to warn you when drivers enter the side area of your vehicle that you can't see. Additionally, the system has Rear Cross Traffic Alert to warn you when other vehicles are approaching as you back up.
CAVERNOUS CARGO CAPACITY
Toyota's team has again worked their interior design magic to create even more room in the RAV4. Cargo volume behind the front seats has increased to a class-leading 73.4 cubic feet, and with rear seats that fold flat, all that real estate is easy to fill and use.
Now coming only as a 2-row, 5-passenger affair, the 2013 RAV4's interior appears two steps ahead of the last model. Even base LE trims have contrasting colors, always a good antidote for blandness. The only piece out of step is faux carbon-fiber cladding around the door stills and gearshift lever. Leather is no longer an option in top models, which now receive a leather-like material called Softex that's also in the RAV4 EV. We found the driver's seat comfortable even in base models with cloth, and especially so in the Limited trim with Softex and added lumbar support. The ability to drive in Eco or Sport mode is nice to have, but accessing the buttons low in the dash is awkward while driving. Rear legroom has decreased, but is still good. One-pull folding rear seats are easy to operate.Exterior
One of the biggest aspects of the RAV4's 2013 redesign is something that's missing: the spare tire that has resided on the rear of these SUVs ever since they were tiny 2-door runabouts in the mid-1990s. That isn't the only relevant change at the RAV4's posterior. The compact SUV now has a rear door that swings up instead of out, which makes it easier to access and helps shield you from rain as you load groceries. Top-line Limited models feature a power liftgate that can be adjusted to raise to a customized height. The limited-production RAV4 EV retains a modified body from the last-generation RAV4.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2013 RAV4 is available in three trims: LE, XLE and Limited. Base LE models come nicely equipped with 6-speed automatic transmission, 6.1-inch touchscreen display, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and an AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers and auxiliary/USB inputs. XLE trims add a power moonroof, 17-inch allow wheels, dual-zone climate control, and front seats with extra bolstering and French stitching. Limited models are highlighted by a power liftgate, Softex leather-like seating (heated in front), 18-inch wheels, leather-trimmed steering wheel, and push-button starting. RAV4 EVs are loaded with features like dual-zone climate control, navigation display and Toyota's Entune smartphone-enabled system. 2013 RAV4s have eight airbags (six for the EV), antilock brakes, stability control, and traction control.Notable Optional Equipment
All trims of the RAV4 can be had with all-wheel drive, which enhances traction in wet weather and on dirt roads. Other options vary by trim level and include a navigation system with Toyota's Entune telematics system that includes voice recognition and various apps for everything from making reservations to finding sports scores, JBL premium audio system with 11 speakers, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. For the RAV4 EV model, a Level 2, Leviton 240-volt home charging system is available.Under the Hood
The 2013 RAV4 is powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 176 horsepower, enough to get the SUV up to speed in a decent – but not the quickest – manner. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. Fuel economy has improved to up to 31 mpg/highway, and the 2013 RAV4 will eagerly tow up to 1,500 pounds. The limited-production RAV4 EV has an AC induction motor, lithium-ion battery, and single-speed automatic transmission. All RAV4 EV models are front-wheel drive and not rated for towing. Charging can take over 40 hours on a standard 120-volt outlet, but decrease to as low as five hours on a 40-amp, 240-volt outlet.
176 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
172 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/31 mpg (front-wheel drive), 22/29 mpg (all-wheel drive)
AC induction motor
273 lb-ft torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 78/74 mpg equivalent
Range on a full charge: 103 miles
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price for the 2013 Toyota RAV4 starts just over $24,000. A top-of-the-line Limited edition with all-wheel drive and options can reach around $30,000. The RAV4 EV costs just over $50,000 before incentives. At its starting price, the new RAV4 is in line with the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, two of its strongest competitors. Other Asian compact SUVs, such as the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, and Nissan Rogue, start at lower prices. On the other hand, because of the RAV4's simpler trim level and minimum of extra add-ons, you don't have to worry about reaching the mid- to high-$30,000 prices that can come with other loaded vehicles in this segment. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the new Toyota RAV4. In terms of resale price, we predict that the RAV4 will retain its value well in the years to come.