A few years ago, I went shopping for the best compact SUV on the market. I had my requirements which included things like cost, fuel economy, brand reliability, engine and horsepower. And then, of course, it had to look good and have a few bells and whistles.
The Toyota RAV4 made it to my short list and I was particularly excited because I was trading in my Toyota Avalon Hybrid which had been purchased after I traded in my Toyota Camry Hybrid. I wanted an SUV but I loved not only the fuel efficiency of a hybrid but I also just love the way hybrids drive. (They have a lot of torque which makes them feel very zippy).
But, alas, that year’s Toyota RAV4 Hybrid didn’t make it to my short short list for a couple of reasons. The fuel economy wasn’t was good as I had seen in my hybrid sedans and it felt rather cheap inside. It was a small SUV geared toward a market that either didn’t have a need or desire for a few extra luxuries.
Finally, in 2019, Toyota got it right with the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
Back in April, I toured the Washington Auto Show on Media Day to get a sneak preview of what I’d be showing to the public and amidst the huge Toyota display, I was drawn to the RAV4 on display. It was the XSE trim level – one that tends to have all of the luxury while still maintaining sportiness. It looked cool on the outside but it had yet to pass the interior test.
When I sat inside, I carefully examined all of the materials used, looking for any sign of cheapness. I looked for the extras I want and need and found them – wireless charging, heated seats, Apple CarPlay. The last test was to take it for a drive.
I spent a week behind the wheel of the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE AWD SUV. That’s a mouthful, right? And if you’re looking for a compact SUV, I think you’re going to like what I have to say.
Why you’ll like the Hybrid version of the Toyota RAV4
If you’ve never owned a hybrid, you’d probably be initially drawn to the fuel economy. With a combination electric and gasoline engine (no plug-in required), you’ll typically see fuel economy of 41 city / 38 highway (note that all gasoline engines usually have an opposite ratio with better fuel economy on the highway). For the week I spent in the Toyota RAV4, I averaged about 38 mpg with more highway driving. And when I kicked it into sport mode, my fuel economy dropped down to 33 mpg but, man, was it fun!
Once you learn to love the fuel economy, you’ll also love the driving. It has a quiet engine (although I found the transition from gas to electric to be a little rougher than I’d like), regenerative braking, and amazing torque. While the acceleration is good with 219 hp, the real fun comes from the torque which allows it to maneuver rapidly while driving.
Everything You Need in a Compact SUV
You want fuel economy? Clearly, the hybrid has that covered. You want comfort? These seats were some of the most comfortable I’ve spent time in. You want space? There’s tons of leg room behind the front row
And the cargo space offers a healthy 37.5 cubic feet in the rear and 69.8 cubic feet with the second row folded flat. Compared to my compact SUV, that’s quite a few inches more (insert joke here about inches mattering).
Now that the basics are covered by the RAV4, you need to hear the differentiators.
Toyota RAV4 Offers Plenty of Driver Extras
Although passenger comfort and amenities are something I look at for every vehicle, I’m ultimately focused on the driver’s experience. The driving is smooth and the handling is very responsive. But where this vehicle excels is with all the extras it provides.
Let’s start with the gear shifter. It’s normal enough. But behind it, you’ll find a Qi wireless charging pad (which is quickly becoming a must-have luxury item for me). And next to the electronic parking brake, you’ll find the Brake Hold, a feature that, when engaged, keeps the brakes automatically engaged when you come to a complete stop.
That means that you can stop at a traffic light and then take your foot off the brake and still remain still. To re-engage, simply press on the gas to go. I loved this feature.
When you’re behind the wheel, you can decide if you’re a digital girl or an analog dude when it comes to your speedometer settings. I thought this was a nice feature to be able to change (you can also change from mile to km for that last minute road trip to Canada).
(In case you’re wondering, I prefer the digital read out).
Here’s another thoughtful feature that is designed for driver convenience but also offers an improvement in safety. When using the backup camera, you have the ability to toggle from a regular camera view to a wide angle view, which captures much of your periphery.
Totally by accident, I discovered that the RAV4 has Toyota’s first camera-based digital rearview mirror. If you are looking to increase your visibility, especially when you have kids’ heads or giant rolls of paper towels in the back, a quick flip of the switch gives you a full digital view of the rear.
In addition to these extras, I also enjoyed options like a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, Apple CarPlay, premium JBL sound, and all of the safety features of the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 and the option safety features as part of the Technology package.
How to Price your Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
It helps to know what you’re looking for before you go to the dealer. So I always use the Build & Price tools online. For this vehicle, I ended up choosing the same trim level and optional equipment and ended up with an MSRP of $37,405. You can, of course, choose what’s important to you. And once you know exactly what you want, make sure to look for and bargain for the best deal.
Video Review of the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
This is a definitely a car that’s better seen than written about. So if you’re interested, take a look at my video tour where I show you some of the options I loved as well as my few (very minor) issues.