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Compact SUV Comparison: 2015 Toyota RAV4

By Allyson Harwood on May 8, 2015 11:35 AM

Roomy, comfortable and reliable, it's no wonder the Toyota RAV4 is Toyota's best-selling SUV. Even though the RAV4 is only offered with one engine and one transmission, there are three trim levels and a wide range of options that make it easy to get the configuration you're looking for. Of the compact sport/utilities in this group, only the Honda CR-V outsells Toyota's stalwart, and of this group, the RAV4 boasts the second-lowest price as tested.

Our evaluation vehicle was an all-wheel-drive RAV4 XLE, considered the midlevel model in the line. This gave the Toyota an appealing mix of features, including the company's Entune navigation, audio and app system; backup camera; moonroof; and dual-zone climate control. The intuitive Entune system contains a lot of functionality in a fairly compact system, making it easy to safely change audio sources, use navigation and access smartphone apps while on the road.

However, there were some things that were not a part of the XLE's slate of creature comforts. The RAV4 was the only one in the group that used a key-operated start instead of pushbutton, and its seats were cloth, but more important than that, the liftgate didn't have a power release to make it easier to close the cargo area after loading groceries or sports equipment, and that door is relatively heavy. On the XLE, the power liftgate release costs an extra $400.

2015 Toyota RAV4 at a Glance
2015 Toyota RAV4 Bar Graph

The RAV4's strong suit isn't in the world of sporty, enthusiastic jaunts on a stretch of curving two-lane road. Instead, where the RAV4 does its best work is on the highway, where its fairly compliant ride made commuter trips in traffic and longer stretches on the open road more enjoyable. Its 2.5-liter I4 and 6-speed automatic created enough power to get the SUV up to speed when merging onto the freeway, and was adequate around town. It may not breathe fire, but the RAV4's conservative powertrain helps it attain fuel economy of 22 mpg around town and 29 mpg on the highway with all-wheel drive, numbers that get even better with front-wheel-drive models.

Of the six contenders in our group, the RAV4 shined in two areas, both of which are absolutely essential for most compact SUV buyers: cargo volume and rear-seat legroom. KBB's editorial team was universally impressed by the generous legroom offered in the second row. In this category, it's near the top of its class. What also stood out was the commodious cargo area afforded by the RAV4. Its 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space was by far the largest cargo area of the six SUVs we tested.

When it came to our evaluation of the RAV4 after several hundred miles behind the wheel, we found the driving experience placed it squarely in the middle of the pack, but the RAV4 is a compelling vehicle nonetheless. Factoring in the cornerstone features you'll find with a Toyota, namely reliability, quality and a strong resale value, plus the pure functionality of this compact SUV, the RAV4 offers an attractive all-around package.

Here's how the Toyota RAV4 stacks up against the competition:

Toyota RAV4 vs. Honda CR-V

Of the six SUVs in this group, the RAV4 and CR-V are arguably the closest to one another on paper, each with a frugal four-cylinder engine under the hood, special attention made to carrying large amounts of gear and a fairly new infotainment system in the dash. While Toyota's infotainment system offers more intuitive controls and the cargo area is larger, the CR-V has more personality and is a lot more fun to drive. More 2015 Honda CR-V

Toyota RAV4 vs. Jeep Cherokee

The Jeep Cherokee is loaded with character and somewhat polarizing style, while the RAV4 is the safe, middle-of-the-road choice. If you want to have a weekend adventure that involves a dirt trail, the Cherokee is your choice, but it doesn't have the same feeling of solid reliability as the Toyota. More 2015 Jeep Cherokee

Toyota RAV4 vs. Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage has a higher as-tested price than the RAV4, but that doesn't change the Kia's penchant for offering a generous amount of value for the money. In addition, unlike the RAV4, the Sportage reflects a willingness to take chances, and it pays off. There are two engines, including a spicy turbocharged engine, and forward-looking styling that stands out in a very crowded segment. The interior quality is sneaking up to Toyota levels and the UVO system is quite good. More 2015 Kia Sportage

Toyota RAV4 vs. Mazda CX-5

Mazda's sporty nature is well-reflected in the CX-5, where steering response and handling make this the most fun to drive in the twists and turns. However, the CX-5 doesn't offer the cargo space or the legroom of the RAV4. More 2016 Mazda CX-5

Toyota RAV4 vs. Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

The Outlander Sport is the sneaky, quiet competitor in the bunch, with a nicely responsive engine and a quirky cabin that offers a lot of neat features -- once you figure out how to use them. When it comes to quality and ease of use, Toyota's interior is the better of the two, but the Outlander Sport is peppy and serves as the likeable underdog. More 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

More Compact SUVs

Build and price your own 2015 Toyota RAV4, read our full review or check out our Compact SUV Buyer's Guide to see even more options in the segment.

 

Home , CR-V , RAV4 , Cherokee , CX-5 , Sportage , Outlander Sport , NEXT PAGE

 

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