2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Well-rounded, fuel-efficient, and easy to live with


Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer



Positives: Truly comfortable for everyday use, fuel efficient, easy to drive, tons of equipment and features, spacious for a small crossover.
Negatives: Not particularly engaging to drive, a bit noisy when you step on the gas, strange interior styling.
Bottom Line: The RAV4 Hybrid is an excellent family crossover. It's comfy, fuel efficient, practical, and reasonably affordable. The crossover combines the efficiency of a hybrid powertrain with Toyota's well-known reliability reputation and the RAV4's practical and easy-to-use packaging. If you don't plan on doing very much spirited driving, this is a smart choice.
The Toyota RAV4 has been winning people's hearts for decades now. It basically started the crossover segment and now is as common as mixed nuts at a Super Bowl party. You see these things everywhere, and the hybrid version adds a little spice to the vehicle's otherwise bland recipe. We drove the RAV4 Hybrid previously, but we wanted to make sure the 2018 model is still the segment stalwart that we've come to know. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

6.7

 

The RAV4 isn’t a sporty vehicle. It’s soft and comfy on the road. It’s suited for the family man or woman who needs a smooth riding vehicle that can avoid potholes when necessary. At this, the RAV4 Hybrid does well, but you won’t be raving about how it drives.

Ride Quality: The soft suspension does a good job of soaking up bumps and cracks, but it could have been smoother. Still, there isn’t much to complain about from a ride perspective.

Acceleration: The RAV4 Hybrid does a decent job off the line, but it’s no speed demon. Zero to 60 mph is achieved in about eight seconds.

Braking: The brakes could use more power and the soft suspension causes significant nose dive during heavy braking. It stops, but not as well as some competitors.

Steering: The electric power steering is responsive and reasonably precise, but there’s virtually no road feel. You can place the vehicle, but a little more heft in the steering would be welcomed.

Handling: The RAV4 isn’t very flickable on a twisty road. There’s a lot of body roll and understeer. That said, it’s easy to tell where the vehicle’s limits are, which means it’s easy to anticipate and control.

Technology

7.2

 

The test vehicle that we drove came with the optional, upgraded infotainment system. It’s good, but other automakers offer more features and a more up to date interface. It’s time for Toyota to update its Entune infotainment system.

Infotainment System: The 7-inch screen is big and bright enough, but the user interface looks a little dated at this point. The system lacks some features found on other cars. With that said, it did function fine and operate smoothly.

Controls: The touchscreen is responsive and easy to use and the buttons and knobs to either side of the screen make navigating around the system pretty easy.

Styling

6.2

 

Not the most beautiful crossover on the market, the RAV4 Hybrid is attractive enough to not turn people away. It sports non-polarizing styling that appeals to a wide variety of people without exciting many. It’s good looking but not eye-catching or beautiful.

Front: The front presents headlights that blend in with the character lines of the CUV. The split grille stretches across the front of the car in somewhat of a frown, giving this car neither an aggressive nor excited look.

Rear: The rear features wraparound taillights and horizontal character lines across the liftgate. There are also a few badges to add to the look, but it’s pretty uninspiring.

Profile: From the side, you see the RAV4’s aerodynamic CUV shape. It’s not a bad looking vehicle from this angle and mimics others in its segment.

Cabin: The interior of the RAV4 Hybrid is nothing special. It’s busy and there are several storage shelves and cubbies that are oddly placed. There’s also a lot of hard plastics and cheaper materials.

Comfort

7.2

 

Toyota may have used a lot of hard plastics on the dash and doors of the RAV4’s cabin, but the seats, steering wheel, and arm rests are very comfy, indeed. Ergonomically, most of the cabin is correct with the exception of the placement of a few storage bins.

Front Seats: The SofTex trimmed power adjustable seats offer good cushioning and decent bolstering. The seats are comfortable even after many hours in the vehicle.

Rear Seats: The rear seats offer similar levels of support as the front and generous leg, hip, and headroom. Three people would be a little tight, but it is doable.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The RAV4 is very quiet except when you put your foot down. The four-pot engine makes a lot of noise when you really get on it.

Visibility: You can easily see all your surroundings in the RAV4. No pillars are too thick and blind spots are at a minimum.

Climate: The dual zone climate controls worked quickly to get the cabin to the correct temperature, and the heated seats were powerful, too.

Safety

8.2

 

The RAV4 Hybrid being a family crossover means that it has to be a safe vehicle and Toyota certainly delivers. It comes up just a little bit short in IIHS ratings from the highest honor, but otherwise performs very well from a safety standpoint.

IIHS Rating: The RAV4 achieved a Top Safety Pick rating for the 2018 model year. The model received a poor rating for the passenger side small overlap front crash test, keeping it from getting top honors.

NHTSA Rating: The RAV4 received an overall rating of five stars from the NHTSA. The only thing to note was the four-star rating on the front crash test.

Standard Tech: There is quite a lot of safety tech standard on the RAV4. Here’s what comes with the vehicle: pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, dynamic radar cruise control, vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, smart stop tech, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and lower anchor tether for children seats.

Optional Tech: No optional safety equipment.

Storage/Cargo

7

 

The RAV4 does a good job with storage inside the cabin, but the placement of the storage shelves and bins seems to be somewhat haphazard and oddly laid out. That said, all spaces offer good space and you’ll likely never be wanting for much more storage.

Storage Space: The cup holders are spaced apart and there are some storage bins in front of the shifter that can be hard to reach. The shelf on the passenger side dash is nice but a little odd. The under armrest storage is decently sized and easy to use.

Cargo Room: The RAV4 Hybrid offers 35 cubic feet of cargo room with all the seats in place. Fold down the seats and space expands to 70.6 cubic feet. This is enough to beat some of the competition, but The Honda CR-V offers more room.

Fuel Economy

8.4

 

The biggest benefit of the hybrid powertrain is improved fuel economy, and the RAV4 Hybrid doesn’t disappoint. It’s not Prius efficient, but it delivers good fuel economy numbers for a vehicle this size. In order to get the most out of this hybrid power plant, you should drive it in the city to utilize the battery power.

Observed: 31.3 mpg.

Distance Driven: 245 miles.

Driving Factors: We primarily drove a mix of city and highway miles. We covered more highway miles than city.

Audio

8.8

 

Our test vehicle came with Toyota’s Entune Premium JBL Audio system with 11 speakers. The sound system offers rich and full-bodied sound throughout the cabin. It’s a top-notch audio system and one of the better ones out there at this price point.



Final Thoughts

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid should be near the top of your list if you’re looking for a crossover for your family. It’s a practical and efficient package that’s predictable and likable. While the non-hybrid version of the RAV4 is commendable as well, the RAV4 Hybrid takes things up a notch. It’s everything that the standard RAV4 is with the added efficiency and power of a competent hybrid powertrain. If you want a vehicle that sips gas and offers more capability and a higher ride height than a sedan or wagon, the RAV4 Hybrid should be on your list of possibilities.

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