2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid First Review
- RAV4 totally redesigned for 2019
- Hybrids go on sale March 2019
- Anticipated best-in-class 39 mpg combined fuel economy
- More horsepower than gas-powered RAV4
- Pricing starts at $28,745 (including $1,045 destination charge)
While the Toyota RAV is all-new from the ground up for 2019, the bigger story is how impressive the hybrid version is. It may prove to be the better choice for many RAV4 buyers, which aligns with the company’s goal is to increase the take rate for the hybrid from 11 to 25 percent. Because the 2019 RAV4 hybrid offers such a good mix of power, acceleration from a stop and fuel economy, that we expect its share to be higher than what Toyota anticipates.
It’s hard to ignore the appeal of technology that offers more power and better fuel economy. But the numbers say it all: on the fuel-economy side of the equation, Toyota estimates that the fuel economy numbers for the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid will be 41 mpg around town and 37 on the highway, and 39 mpg combined. Not only is that a huge step up from the 2018 RAV4’s numbers – 34 city/30 highway, 32 combined – but it is expected to be the best fuel economy in its class. That would also mean a potential range of nearly 600 miles on a single tank of gas.
The new RAV4 weighs less than the 2018 model, thanks to a new, lighter platform. In addition, there were significant changes in the hybrid system that increased efficiency and reduced weight, which led to the big mpg gains. Both gas and hybrid RAVs use a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust camshafts, but the hybrid pairs it with two electric motors. They’re now smaller and lighter, reducing friction. (Less friction = improved efficiency and fuel economy.) Updates to the transmission, an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT), reduce transmission losses by 25 percent compared to the outgoing model. The sealed nickel-metal hydride battery pack is smaller and more efficient, which reduces charging time, is small enough to reside under the rear seats instead of taking up space in the cargo area and improves fuel efficiency.
Not only is the RAV4 Hybrid more powerful than last year’s model, but it’s also more powerful than the gas-only 2019 RAV4. Last year’s hybrid system produced 194 net horsepower, from the use of a 150-horse gas engine plus two motors. This year mixes a 176-horsepower gas engine with 118 horsepower output from the electric motors, for 219 combined output. Add in the lighter weight of the Toyota New Global Architecture and the transmission and friction improvements, and not only does the Hybrid drivetrain have more power, but it makes better use of it, too.
Behind the Wheel
Switching to the all-new platform also brings new features, including a multi-link independent rear suspension. The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has better handling and reduced body roll compared to its predecessor. That makes the 2019 RAV4 feel sharper and more precise, a huge difference from the previous generation. The ride is still comfortable, but not as marshmallow soft as the previous one, although there is some road noise. This change modernizes the RAV4’s ride and handling, making it feel fresh and crisp without leaning too much toward the sporty side of the equation.
For those who want to lean a little sportier, there’s the Toyota RAV4 XSE HV. For Toyota’s model lineup, the XSE is traditionally the sportiest model in the line (see Camry and Corolla). It may seem odd, then, that the sportiest RAV4 is a hybrid, except that the XSE offers the combination of the most available power in the RAV4 lineup plus a sport-tuned suspension. This setup has firmer damping, a more aggressive spring rate and retuned shocks. The new suspension for 2019, plus the use of Sport Mode -- which changes steering response and throttle mapping, while making the CVT’s response more aggressive -- makes the XSE the most fun-to-drive RAV4. When the hybrid models go on sale in March 2019, there will be four models to choose from, and those who don’t want the sportier XSE can get the same suspension that’s in gas-powered RAV4s. Based on our time behind the wheel of the two hybrids we tested, both displayed excellent power off the line, thanks to robust low-end torque, and very good power for midrange passing, a big benefit when driving at freeway speeds.
Exterior and interior design
When it comes to exterior and interior styling, the hybrids and gas-only RAV4s were given essentially the same treatment. The designers moved away from the soft, rounded-edge look prevalent in the compact SUV segment, opting instead for sharp lines and geometric shapes. In addition to the new RAV’s taller stance, the RAV’s rugged grille was inspired by the front end of Toyota’s off-road trucks, with a hint of 4Runner influence in there as well. Another styling feature that separates the RAV4 from the rest of the compact SUV lineup: The RAV4 hybrid XSE is available with a black roof and four paint colors. The RAV4 LE HV comes standard with 17-inch wheels, but three different 18-wheel designs are available for the XLE, XSE and Limited.
The Toyota RAV4 interior has gone above and far beyond what the previous RAV4 offered. It now has arguably the nicest-looking interiors in its class. The cabin looks and feels more upscale, with plenty of soft-touch materials on the dash and center armrest. The center stack is dominated by a crisp, bright 8-inch screen (7-inch on base LE models), which serves as the control center for audio, navigation, Apple CarPlay and available apps. If you prefer hard buttons to control these features, they are included on either side of the screen, with grippy volume and tuning knobs sit at the bottom. Temperature knobs, also with a patterned grip surround, flank the climate control buttons just below the air vents. Dual-zone climate control and rear seat vents are standard. Available two-tone SofTex seats give the RAV4 interior a touch of style without sacrificing durability, and the seats are comfortable, even on extended drives – but a passenger-side power seat isn’t available. There have been some changes to the interior dimensions; the front row is just a touch tighter, while rear-seat head- and legroom have increased and there’s more shoulder room in both rows. Thanks to the battery pack’s new design, cargo volume is expected to be comparable to that of the non-hybrid RAV4.
Toyota is known for offering a lot of safety, and in the case of the RAV4, much of it comes standard. All RAV4s come with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes such features as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. This last feature also can detect people on bicycles during the day. The Star Safety System includes electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, enhanced stability control, and traction control, and eight airbags are standard. A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert is optional on the base LE and standard on the XLE and Limited.
The interior offers more convenience and tech than it did in the past, starting with the Entune 3.0 infotainment system. This includes features such as Apple CarPlay (no Android Auto), Amazon Alexa, Bluetooth phone capability and music streaming, Siri Eyes Free, a 6-speaker audio system, and a 7-inch touch screen. Upgrades include an 8-inch screen, five USB ports, and an available 11-speaker, 800-watt JBL audio system. This excellent audio provides clear, rich sound with terrific separation, and truly stands out from the rest of the audio options. Other new features include a panoramic glass moonroof, Qi wireless smartphone charger, and heated and ventilated seats. A digital rearview mirror is standard on XSE and Limited Hybrids.
Bonus Content: 2019 Toyota RAV4 First Review (non-hybrid model)
Price and Value
Whether you choose the LE, XLE, XSE or Limited, you get the quickest powertrain, the most power, and the best fuel economy, for a price that’s only $800 more than an AWD-equipped gas model (all-wheel drive is standard with hybrids), a price difference you could make up for in fuel savings in a couple of years. In addition, pricing for the RAV4 LE HV is $925 less than the 2018 hybrid, for a vehicle that contains many more amenities and features, plus better fuel economy. Between the added power, the off-the-line response, the excellent fuel economy – an estimated 41/37/39 mpg combined compared to 32 combined mpg last year – and the low cost of entry, the hybrid is easy to recommend.
Listed below are some of the key highlights that come standard with each trim level. Some features, including the overhead 360-degree view camera, Qi smartphone charger, heated steering wheel, and cooled seats are only offered in additional packages.
2019 Toyota RAV4 LE Hybrid
Starting Price: $27,700 (plus $1,045 destination charge)
17-inch alloy wheels
LED headlights and taillights
Automatic high beams
Power mirrors, windows, door locks
4.2-inch driver multi-information display
Fabric seats, manual driver- and passenger-set adjustment
Tilt/telescoping steering wheels with stereo controls
Remote keyless entry
Dual-zone climate control
-Siri Eyes Free
-Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, music streaming
Toyota Safety Sense 2.0
-Adaptive cruise control
-Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, plus daytime cyclist detection
-Lane departure warning with steering assist
-Road sign assist
-Lane tracing assist
Star Safety System
-Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control
-Electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist
2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE Hybrid
Starting Price: $29,500 (plus $1,045 destination charge)
Auto on/off headlights
LED projector headlights
Heated side mirrors
Tilt and slide moonroof
Intermittent windshield wipers
Dual-zone climate control
Smart Key system, pushbutton start
Sliding extensions for sunvisors
Five USB ports
Blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert
2019 Toyota RAV4 XSE Hybrid
Starting Price: $33,700 (plus $1,045 destination charge)
Adds 18-inch 5-spoke black sport alloy wheels
Two-tone body color
Height-adjustable power liftgate
Dual-zone climate control with dust and pollen filter
Rearview camera with dynamic guidelines
SofTex seats with blue stitching
Heated front seats
Leather steering wheel, shift lever
Blue accented interior
Digital rearview mirror
Cargo area storage net
Entune 3.0 Audio Plus
2019 Toyota RAV4 Limited Hybrid
Starting Price: $35,700 (plus $1,045 destination charge)
Adds 18-inch 5-spoke chrome wheels
Chrome door handles
Blue ambient lighting
Entune 3.0 Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation